Editor's note: The following article is part of monthly columns series for the Progressive Dairyman Extra e-newsletter. This update is provided by Animal Agriculture Alliance Communications Director Sarah Hubbart. To submit a question or comment for Hubbart, leave a comment below or
to email the PD Web Editor Emily Caldwell.
Consider these statistics:
• If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest.
• A new member joins LinkedIn every second.
• The second largest search engine in the world is YouTube.
• 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations – only 14 percent trust advertisements.
• There are over 75 million more people playing Farmville than there are real farmers in the U.S.
(Click here to see the source.)
It is hard to argue with numbers like these! Social media is not a fad. It is a fundamental shift in the way that we communicate and share information.
In 2009, the Animal Agriculture Alliance launched the College Aggies Online network to help young people become confident agriculture advocates using social media tools. Members gain points for their university clubs by engaging in discussions, writing blog posts, uploading photos and videos to the CAO network, and participating in other outreach activities on their school campus.
At the end of the year, the points are tallied and the club with the most cumulative points receives a $1,000 scholarship, national recognition, and a trip for one representative to Washington, D.C. to the Alliance's annual Stakeholders Summit. Individual scholarships are also awarded.
Why the focus on online advocacy? For one thing, we know that those opposed to animal agriculture have been early adopters of these new tools to promote their agenda. The Humane Society of the United States has more than one million followers on Facebook. Other groups such as Mercy For Animals and Compassion Over Killing use social media to circulate so-called “undercover” videos that can impact what consumers think about agriculture.
Their spin, as we all know, is far from the truth. We need to be part of this conversation.
The College Aggies Online competition runs October through April. Casper College Agriculture Club in Wyoming formed the top-scoring club in 2012 with 2,245 total points. North Dakota State University's Collegiate FFA Club came in second place with 1,815 points and will receive $500. They were closely followed by the South Dakota State University's Collegiate 4-H Club, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College's Cattlemen's Club, Purdue University's Ag Task Force and the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Jessie McClellan of Casper College was also named the 2012 individual winner (pictured at right). She decided to get involved in College Aggies Online to better educate herself about the issues facing the industry.
"Although I feel I am heavily involved in agriculture, I didn't feel that I knew very much outside of my own experiences," she said. "I am now aware of some of the many challenges agriculture faces. Everything we do can be traced back to agriculture, and the general public needs to know and appreciate this. I want to help ensure that the importance of agriculture is known, and the CAO program is the perfect place to start."
Agriculture needs more young “agvocates” like Jessie to share the industry’s importance to their peers.
It’s easy for college students to get involved with College Aggies Online – and it certainly isn’t too late! The 2012 competition will launch this fall and is open to any college student with an interest in promoting agriculture. (In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the AgChat Foundation to learn more about how farmers and ranchers are using social media.)
To learn more about the competition, click here. Interested collegiate clubs can also contact
. Industry stakeholders interested in program sponsorship opportunities should contact Krissa or visit the Alliance's website. (And please follow the Alliance on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.)
Do you use social media? What are some of your favorite agricultural social media sites? PD
Jessie McClellan of Casper College was also named the 2012 individual winner of the College Aggies Online competition.
Animal Agriculture Alliance