Sharing your ranching story in a blog can be an easy avenue to connect with your consumers, but there’s no doubt that doing so can be intimidating.
Sitting at a computer and opening your life to the world isn’t easy. Telling the world about your livelihood can make you feel even more vulnerable.
Then consider the time required to brainstorm and post, and the skill needed to craft a witty, thought-provoking message that the world might actually want to read, and it’s easy to grasp why you might be tempted to avoid it.
Yet, according to The Future Buzz, a marketing and media-focused website, over 900,000 blog posts are published on average each day. A growing number of ranchers, farm wives, students and agriculture professionals are among them.
For Kansas State University student, Brandi Buzzard, the catalyst was an anti-agriculture article in her campus newspaper. After being denied the opportunity to submit a rebuttal, Buzzard says she was faced with the choice of “doing nothing or thinking bigger.” She chose the latter and the rejected article eventually was published in a national cattle magazine.
“After that, I realized I could make a difference sharing information with our society about where their food comes from and how America’s farmers work hard every day to provide a safe, healthy and extremely affordable food supply,” she explains.
Buzzard has diligently served as an “agvocate” for the industry on Buzzard’s Beats since October 2009.
Ryan Goodman’s blogging journey also started in 2009. The Oklahoma State University student was looking for a way to stay connected with his family while working on a Wyoming ranch that summer.
“As I began to draw more followers, I saw the opportunity to share my experiences on the basics of ranch life and cattle production,” he says.
Along with occasionally blogging for different agriculture journals, Goodman, who now is a herdsman for a commercial Brangus ranch in Arkansas, maintains two blogs – Sitting in the Pasture and Ag Proud. He also created the Blogging For Agriculture Facebook page that connects ag bloggers online.
Anne Burkholder, an Ivy league graduate turned Nebraska feedlot owner and past National Beef Quality Assurance winner, says the motivation behind her Feedyard Foodie blog, which she initiated in May 2011, was to help consumers connect their food with a face.
Purpose, passion and will
While their rationales and levels of expertise vary, all three agree that to be a successful blogger, one needs purpose, passion and a willingness to test your boundaries.
Goodman offers these five tips to make posts passionate and read-worthy:
• Be real and authentic about your passion for agriculture.
• Show enthusiasm.
• Keep it simple, to the point and progress at your own pace.
• Provide a candid point of view; don’t sugarcoat it.
• Stick to your experience.
Burkholder concurs. “The lives of those of us involved in agriculture are so vastly different than the lives of our urban peers. So, speak from the heart and speak proactively and positively,” she says. “Acknowledge that the consumer has the right to know and do not judge her/him for not understanding. Take the responsibility to share your story in a positive way.”
Buzzard adds that research is important. “Don’t post about something you know absolutely nothing about; you need to read up on it and be able to answer several questions on the topic,” she says.
No rules to follow
If you choose to make the jump online, understand there are no set rules to follow. Each blogger takes a different approach and each blog has its own distinct personality.
Regardless of what you choose to write about, understand that not every piece will be a literary masterpiece. Buzzard explains, “Be yourself and always remember that somewhere out there, somebody agrees and appreciates your posts.”
And, in the instances when someone doesn’t agree with you – which is bound to happen – you must learn to deal with it and respond professionally; after all, it’s more than just your opinion you’re defending, it’s your business.
“I respond to every comment and encourage open, civilized dialogue,” Buzzard explains. “Advocacy is about providing sound information and creating dialogue; it’s not meant to be a self-satisfying endeavor.”
Sidebar: Getting started
There’s no doubt that online experience is helpful in starting a blog, but it’s by no means necessary.
Case in point is Nebraska feedlot owner Anne Burkholder. Feedyard Foodie was her leap into the world of technology; in fact, she labeled herself as “inexperienced in social media” before her blog launched in May 2011. But, with help and some hard work, she quickly got it off the ground. Within one week of the launch, Burkholder had received over 3,500 page hits and developed a loyal following on her Facebook page.
Similarly, most are surprised to learn that Ryan Goodman, herdsman at an Arkansas Brangus operation, most often tweets and posts to Facebook with just a flip phone. While most online posters use a smartphone or iPad to stay connected from the field, Goodman simply text-messages pictures and status updates to his accounts to keep his followers updated on his everyday ranch activities in real time.
And, while some might label Kansas State University graduate student Brandi Buzzard a social media pro, she’s actually blogging about U.S. industry hot topics from halfway across the world. For the past eight months, she’s interacted with her followers from Australia, where her husband, Hyatt Frobose, is serving a Fulbright Scholarship.
Any technology hurdle can be conquered if you dedicate the time necessary to succeed. Of course, time is always a limited commodity on the ranch, but Burkholder says you simply need to make communicating with your customers a priority.
“I make time because I feel it’s important. It’s just like I make time to offer good care to my animals, coach my kids’ sports team, and to be a good wife and mother. It’s all a matter of priorities and having the personal drive to be the best you can,” she says.