Twitter: Are You Using it to Your AdvantagePosted in: Technology By Shaun Haney June 1 2011
Can sum up your thoughts in 140 characters?. Many of you may have probably heard of Twitter because its popularity has skyrocketed in the last few years. Some of you may have even registered for an account and just didn’t get it or thought is something for teenagers. However, you might be surprised to know that many farmers in Canada are using Twitter to “tweet”, sharing their thoughts, questions and ideas, in 140 characters or less.
Twitter is a way to have that two way discussion that enables collaboration, creates debate and builds understanding. With the great diversity in the Canadian agricultural industry, there is a vast amount of the untapped group knowledge that is available amongst the individual farmers. Think of twitter as a virtual coffee shop with participants from all over the world or your next-door neighbours. Here are some ways that you can use twitter to gain knowledge and begin to participate in this very valuable two-way discussion around agriculture.
Hashtags are the programming within Twitter that allows quick and easy search within tweets. For example, #corn will allow you to easily view all the latest tweets that contain #corn from across the world. The one disadvantage is that tweets that include just “corn” will not show up in the #corn search. Tweeters must have included the #corn hashtag. In Canadian agriculture, we use #ontag for Ontario agriculture topics and #westcdnag for Western Canada. This is a great way to see tweets that have been deemed specific to these topics because they include the hashtag. Other popular agricultural hashtags include #agchat, #agblog, and #plant11.
Follow the right people
Twitter is about having meaningful conversations with people that share common interests. Too many people who try twitter for the first time and don’t really know whom to follow in their area of interest. Its easy to find the Justin Bieber’s and Khloe Kardashian’s tweets but what about a soybean farmer in Manitoba or a fruit farmer in Ontario? If you follow people that allow you to engage on the topics you are interested in, you will immediately be drawn to the application.
Use lists to your advantage
Lists are a great way to organize Lists are a great way to organize interests for yourself and other people. Lists are very dynamic because they allow you to group people to view as a separate feed than your home feed. Secondly, you can see which tweeters have been put into the list which provides great insight into whom you should be following. The third advantage of lists is that they are public which allows you to follow someone else’s list. For example, I created a list of everyone on Twitter who is involved in Canadian agriculture. You can view this list at http://www.twitter.com/shaunhaney/ canadianagriculture-8 and follow it. The nice thing is that this list is not dependent on hashtags (#) but automatically includes the tweets of people I include in the list.
Too many people get hung up on the issue of the notorious status update. They think, “I have nothing interesting to share.” You and your farm are probably more interesting than you think but there is an easy way to get over this hesitation. Asking a question is always a better way to start a conversation or encourage engagement than just making blind statements into the twitter abyss. Twitter is a place that not only Canadian farmers but farmers from around the world can communicate within the virtual coffee shop to create real discussions around agriculture. Whether it is talking about agronomy, farm management, or agricultural policy, twitter provides farmers with the medium to grow and learn. It can also be very entertaining and fun. I would suggest that you give Twitter a try. I know several farmers who told me that they “didn’t get it” six months ago but now love it is a communication tool and tweet daily. The ability to seek feedback, share pictures or make a comments in real time is providing true value for farmers around the world.
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