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When Social Media Conflict Comes To The Farm

When we think of social media, the image that comes to mind is remote workers scattered in coffee shops across the world, working for virtual corporations — the last place that comes to mind is probably a dairy farm in Ohio. Earlier this year, social platforms became the tool in a public relations war between animal rights activists and dairy farmers, that’s when social media went to the farm.

Animal rights group Mercy for Animals released a video showing undercover footage depicting cruelty to animals on YouTube (note the video shows graphic violence towards animals and is extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant to watch.) While animal rights activists have typically been more likely to use technology and social media tools, that’s not what happened here.

Farmers who were outraged that it was an unfair representation of many farms, reached for their smartphones and began fighting back. They took to Twitter and Facebook and began responding. One farmer, Ray Lin, led the initiative by starting his own blog where he posts stories and pictures directly from the farm.

To help teach other farmers how to use technology wisely, he started the group AgChat, which has a Facebook page, Twitter Account, LinkedIn Group and Youtube Channel. The group will also be holding its first conference in Chicago at the end of August. The key message he’s trying to get out is that if the farmers don’t tell their side of the story, someone else would tell it for them.

The lesson to learn here is to be prepared for a social media crisis before it happens. If you have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube channel up and running before the catastrophe, you’ll be more prepared for a social media crisis. Have a rapid response team with a few key players in place, give them the power to get things done quickly.

A crisis is not the time send things out to the copywriter to lovingly craft a response that has to pass through marketing, legal, and the CEO’s office before it gets published. You need to be able to move quickly and decisively, and giving something that first person human voice, instead of a sanitized corporate one, usually makes you a little more sympathetic. Lastly, don’t be afraid to use Adwords and Press Releases to direct attention to your social media efforts, particularly in a time of crisis.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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