Social Media Taking Root In Ag

Online social media including Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are making inroads in the agribusiness community, because they can help producers attract and serve customers, says marketing expert Tracy Irani, a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The technology may seem daunting, Irani said, but producers need to know that social media offer a new way to create and maintain relationships with people. That’s a basic task for any successful farming operation.

Irani will give a presentation today on the use of social media in consumer marketing at the International Citrus & Beverage Conference in Clearwater Beach. The presentation includes an overview of social media, case studies and tips on interacting with consumers online.

“What I hope to do is get some thoughts started,” Irani said. “We know, no matter what the issue is, the biggest challenge is getting people educated.”

Part of that involves showing farmers what they’re missing if they don’t use social media. For example, many farms that sell direct to consumers have websites. But they may be little more than electronic fliers, offering directions to the farm, lists of products and purchasing information.

By plugging into social media, producers can encourage users to share opinions, make requests and pose questions. This information can help farmers boost sales and increase efficiency.

Irani is development director for UF’s Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources. The “PIE Center,” as it’s called, includes a website that focuses on agribusiness issues, offering research-based information and solutions designed to raise awareness and informed decision making. It’s located at http://www.centerpie.com.

The center has been operating for about 18 months, she said.

“Response has been amazing,” Irani said. “Sometimes an idea is right for the times.”

Center personnel have collaborated on public opinion research with several organizations, and Irani said she expects this trend to continue.

John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau, said he is impressed with the quality of the center’s work. “Florida agriculture will benefit by having this type of resource available and we urge continued industrywide support for the work done by the PIE Center,” he said.

Irani is available for presentations. Contact her at 352-392-0502, ext. 225 or irani@ufl.edu.

Source: UF/IFAS news release

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