Paddock fertile ground for PR pioneers

The agricultural sector, where farmers spend day in day out working livestock and the land, may not be the most obvious place to kick-start a social media campaign.

But as landholders increasingly include smart phones into their must-have inventory (using phone apps to keep track of weather conditions and follow market prices while on the job) it was only a matter of time before farmers evolved from ‘Web 2.0’ users into active social media engagers.

In an effort to bolster support for a Free Trade Agreement with China, the public relations team at industry lobby group Dairy Australia last year encouraged farmers to take a selfie for the Twitter hashtag campaign #FTA4dairy.

Through the campaign, the voices of farmers, normally isolated by the tyranny of distance, joined as one in an effective lobbying pitch to ensure the Australian government held strong in negotiations with China, which at the time were a decade old.

The campaign was reported to have reached over 1.7 million people through twitter, which had Dairy Australia CEO Natalie Collard “overwhelmed and exhilarated” by the campaign’s success.

(The campaign was a national finalist for best social media campaign at the CommsCon awards this month.)

For an industry and demographic which has been slow to engage with the internet beyond Web 2.0 two-way interaction, the campaign was a powerful introduction to the interconnected benefits of social media.

While the amount of people ‘reached’ in this instance was minuscule compared to larger social media campaign success stories of note, it was an impressive first step by farmers into the social media paradigm.

On the farm, the voice of south Gippsland farmer Graeme Nicoll and his trusty dog is limited to an audience of dairy cattle. But as part of the twitter hashtag #fta4farmers, this image contributed to a powerful lobbying message in the first large scale social media campaign in the Australian farming sector. Twitter source: @hoddlecows

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