WESTERN PRODUCER — Farmers who want to take to social media should remember to just be themselves.
That was one of the main takeaways from a social media panel discussion at Manitoba Ag Days held last month in Brandon.
The discussion featured three Canadian farmers with some pretty serious social media game.
Manitoba dairy farmer Amy Smith sees Instagram as her go-to platform and goes by “that.farming.mama_.” She posts about life in agriculture from a female perspective.
John Kowalchuk is an Alberta grain farmer who prefers X (formerly Twitter) for his posts. He attributes his large following to “bad jokes and sunset pictures featuring farm equipment.”
Andy Pasztor is a farmer from Tillsonburg, Ont. Known for posting squeaky-clean pictures of his (mostly John Deere) farm equipment, he became associated with the hashtag #andyclean on Twitter. He since turned that hashtag into his own brand of soap.
All three panellists seemed to agree that prospective social media users should be fearless and true to themselves, but Pasztor added a caveat.
“Whatever is pressing you, don’t be afraid to speak it. But also remember, don’t tweet when you’re drunk. There are people who are out there who are watching you, who may impact you in the future.”
Kowalchuk had some sage advice in the form of a pithy aphorism.
“Don’t compare your Monday mornings to someone else’s Saturday nights,” he said, drawing on a hypothetical example to make his point.
“You might see some guy out there where everything’s running smooth on his combine, while I’m out here banging away on my combine, whether the pulley went, or wherever. But you’re comparing one of the tougher times in your life to all this peaches and cream. But it’s not reality.”
One of the hurdles people often face when thinking about making a social media post is self-consciousness and feeling awkward about the whole process.
The panellists had simple advice for overcoming the embarrassment.
“Just got to do what’s comfortable for you,” said Pasztor.
“Don’t be uncomfortable being yourself on film.”
However, he also acknowledged that he still feels a little silly during the creative process.
“When I make a video, I’ll try to do it when my dad or my brother are not around because that’s super embarrassing.”
However, at 42, Pasztor sees his embarrassment as a generational thing and points out that younger social media content producers seem to have no problem.
“They’re always walking around with a camera. It seems very common now.”
Kowalchuk said eventually, the awkwardness goes away.
“Just keep doing it more and more. If you do something enough times you’ll get better at it and you feel more comfortable.”
Farmers are always thinking about return on investment. And if time is money, many wonder how to turn a social media hobby into something that pays the bills.
Smith was recently approached by Claas, which asked if it could partner with her to develop content for the equipment manufacturer.
“I assume it was because I tagged them in reels throughout the last few years. I like to tag the equipment brands in my posts,” she said.
“They wanted kind of a day in the life of me as a woman in ag, as a dairy farmer and as a mom, during corn silage. So I created a reel for them and a story series. It was a really cool opportunity.”
Pasztor said he never really got into social media for the money. It was always mainly about making connections. However, his Andyclean brand soap did arise from a hashtag, so monetization sort of fell into his lap.
Kowalchuk said he doesn’t really think about monetization much. For him, social media remains a hobby.
“I’ve been asked a few times, and I always just say, ‘if you want me to use your product, I take hoodies and trips to farm shows.’”
Of course, there’s the negative side of social media: the trolls. All of the panellists had experience with them, especially the two who prefer X, which is known for being a combative platform.
Kowalchuk said you have to take it in stride and always take the high road.
“You get it every once in a while for sure. If you choose to respond, try to be positive. So if someone was looking from the outside and they would say, ‘OK, this guy’s making sense.’ ”
Pasztor said it’s important to put things into perspective when someone attacks you on social media.
“It’s really easy to get really mad at a comment, but ask yourself what kind of person is going to take their time to put you down? Just don’t worry about people coming in and saying things. They’re probably living in their basement of their parents’ house.”
The panelists also offered a few suggestions about accounts to follow on social media.
Smith highlighted other women on Instagram for her recommendations.
“Red Egg Farms are a couple of women who just moved to P.E.I. and started their own dairy. Tales from Westport are two girls in Ontario from a dairy farm. And Southern Prairie Pig is another woman in ag.