Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Power of Social Media

I find it kinda funny how people think that farmers don't  do anything after fall work is done and only  get busy when spring comes around. Hibernation is thought to be an inherited trait amongst us.

My schedule seems mundane at times by going to meetings at the local, state and national levels, being a husband and a father, the "C" squad basketball coach, and following the markets. I love to work in my shop and play with the toys in there, a necessary job to make sure the equipment works properly for limited breakdowns.

One other job that I have taken on is using the computer. I fondly remember a time when all communication was either by letter or a phone. Not many people had a fax machine and if you did it was considered a luxury.

I use my computer to watch the grain markets, budget, analyze data from my yield monitor, and of course...email. I was finishing college when the personal computer, the World Wide Web, and email were making their debut. Ebay was a great website with lots of neat toys to offer.

As for email, I thought it was stupid. Not many people other than students had email. The forms of communication that I liked in order of preference were face-to-face, telephone, and then a letter. I like the personal interaction and to see the person.

Today there are many options for communication with email being at the top of the list for me now. It is quick and you don't have to listen to elevator music while waiting for a reply (unless that genre of music is you.) It is relatively free and covers the globe at light speed.

I enjoy Facebook and the ability to see what friends are doing all over Idaho, the U.S., and the world. I can see their face and make a comment on their post if I want to. I have learned about achievements and heartache that sometimes I would not hear for months.

This weekend I started doing more work on finding people to visit while in Brazil and Argentina for my Eisenhower Fellowship. I had received a LinkedIn update from the Precision Ag group I belong to. I decided to bite the bullet and log in.

After posting in my group "I need help. I will be in Argentina and Brazil and need on the ground contacts" I received a reply from the administrator of the group who lives in Argentina. He put the word out to some of his friends and as of this writing I have at least six contacts in those countries, all of whom said they would be happy to meet.

Also on LinkedIn, I saw a picture of a friend from Monsanto. She ran the WILOT (Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow) program that I went through in 2002. I sent her a note regarding my Fellowship and the need for contacts and five minutes later I was talking to her on the phone. She gave me some names and sent an email out through her Monsanto network to people that have been to both countries.

A couple of week ago I met with a good friend, Jake Putnam, who works in the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation media relations group. I was needing his advice on how best to document my Eisenhower Fellowship journey. I was almost overwhelmed.

"The trick of maximizing your exposure on the web is to have as many links back to your name as possible" said Jake. For instance, he said one of the best things is to be in Wikipedia. This is the ultimate in exposure because your name goes to the "head of the class" in a search engine.

He also said "You will want to have pictures and video to document what you are doing and for others to gain a visual understanding of what you are experiencing." "You need to get a Flickr and YouTube account set up." Flickr is for pictures and YouTube is for video.

Jake also showed me the proper way of doing a "camera edit" for video with my point-and-shoot camera. The reason, to save time later on for posting it to the web. These little tips and pointers are great.

Right now I am "blogging" about my experiences and have put my thoughts on subjects out there. Paul Schrimpf, group editor for Meister Media and Precision Ag, gave me the advice to start blogging as a way to document my journey.

Going through the process of finding what type of social media is right for you is like being a connoisseur of wine, it has to be what you like. I prefer Facebook over LinkedIn because of its simplicity and who uses it. LinkedIn is business based and has many advantages over Facebook because of that.

Like finding contacts in Brazil and Argentina, deciding which social media outlet to use is important. I asked myself "What is it I want to do?" The answer is "I want a quick way of showing pictures and what I am doing, a way to make an album for pictures, a place for videos, and an outlet for experiences that I believe need more coverage." Hence Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and my blog.

On my journey I will have a computer, camera (for stills and video), and my Blackberry. These are the tools of the trade for anyone who plans on doing social media. I have included a quick YouTube video explaining the technology that you might enjoy. It gets somewhat technical in terminology, but I believe it is worth it.

Technology and the evolution of computers has made the world a smaller place. We can reach almost anybody almost anywhere at almost any time. I got to thinking on how daunting the task would be to find contacts in a country I have never been in and how much time it would take, even 20 years ago. In my life, the technology has had a positive effect.

Granted, doing this is time consuming and a person can get caught up in the fine details. However, I believe that the best thing that we can give to the world and those around us is our knowledge and experiences. Using social media will give those back home a way to follow me and to share in some of my experiences. However, I have yet to "tweet", but I am sure that is around the corner.

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