The agricultural trade associations, both state and local, are actively engaging the consuming public to gain a stronger and less passive foothold in social networking spaces. This is great to see since advocacy organizations that seek to disseminate misinformation about agriculture practices and production have long used the Web as an effective communications tool.
A couple of months back we wrote a news release to distribute at the 2009 Commodity Classic in Dallas that addressed the need for the entire ag community to step forward online, below is that release. The trend has not been reversed, but I am glad to see so many now engaged in the effort.
Dallas (Feb 26, 2009) - The new arena for issues affecting farmers and the agriculture industry is not the local dealership or off-season coffee shop, but online, and groups opposed to producer interests are seeking to dominate the discussion, said Randy Krotz, senior vice president of v-Fluence Interactive, a leading source for online analysis for America's agriculture industry.
"The new frontier in food is online, but what's disturbing is that farmers' adversaries, those opposed to the production agriculture industry, have undue influence in the debate," said Krotz, who has also served as marketing director for the National Corn Growers Association and is attending this week's Commodity Classic. "Because studies show Americans rely on online sources, including highly popular social-networking sites, more than radio, TV or newspapers combined, the ag industry and producer community must join the conversation and defend their interests."
Recognizing this trend, v-Fluence uses patent-pending analytics to monitor and measure what people find on the Internet when they turn to it for information, and helps companies influence that content where appropriate to support their objectives. v-Fluence analyzes the nature of online searches, blog postings, social-networking spaces, listservs, discussion boards and other kinds of content online, and has evaluated the online environment of such hot-button ag issues as the alleged health effects of high fructose corn syrup, animal welfare, ethanol feedstocks and tax credits and incentives. What is worrisome is that many people searching on these issues are being informed by an enormous and growing amount of online activity that does not serve the interests of the American farmer. For example:
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Negative comments about high fructose corn syrup in social and consumer-generated media channels have increased by more than 60 percent in the past year.
- More than three-quarters of what people find online when they search high fructose corn syrup is negative, most of it alleging negative health effects. And nearly that much - some 70 percent - of the content appeared since last July.
- When people search for information on beef, the majority of the content they find actively supports the grass-fed or organic variety. Organic pork and cage-free-egg producers also comprise a significant and growing portion of search results for pork and chicken.
- Blog postings on beef, pork and chicken similarly include an imbalanced perspective on animal care issues.
- There is more online search and content regarding ethanol today than ever before.
- Much of the online debate continues to center on the source utilized for ethanol production and its environmental impact.
"Issues that impact agriculture are being searched and discussed online in numbers like never before," said Krotz, who cited v-Fluence research showing that more than 10 million searches are conducted each month on agriculture industry- and farming-related topics.
"A relatively small number of anti-farming groups are gaining in influence," Krotz said. "The inter-connected nature of the Web means that this small group effectively coordinates the activities of nearly 400 groups that target food and ag issues, influencing policy, market conditions and consumers."
Companies, producers and related groups whose success is tied to the agriculture industry should get proactive and go online, using well defined, effective and widely established tactics that are now being used against them, Krotz said, for example:
- Analyzing search language to determine the words and phrases people use most when searching key topics;
- Publishing informative and updated information on the companies' own Web sites using tactics that light up and support your and your supporters' content;
- Engaging in effective pay-per-click advertisements with real conversion measurements that go beyond impressions and click-through rates.
"At a time when so much of the content is coming from interests opposed to traditional agriculture, it's critical for this community to make its voice heard," Krotz said.