Full marks to the Midlands branch of the Guild, under the leadership of Julie Mate, for organising the social media workshop in July at Kenilworth in Warwickshire, says broadcast journalist and Guild Member, David Addis.
“I’d had a 1½ hour drive up from Reading and others had travelled just as far to be there,” he says. “But it was well worth it for the 15 or so Members of the Guild who were treated to a detailed update on all aspects of social media, concentrating on the use of Twitter.”
Simon Haley (above) from Reading Agricultural Consultants and co-founder of #AgriChatUK on Twitter, set the scene and showed how farmers and others in the industry can exchange knowledge. He came up with some memorable quotes such as “Twitter allows you to dip into what opinion formers are thinking”, “Social media has no boundaries”, “Twitter is the electronic word of mouth”, and, best of all, “Social media is like toothpaste. Once it’s out of the tube you can’t get it back in.”
This was a theme picked up by the third speaker, Julie Robinson, from Roythornes Solicitors, who underlined the security issues and touched on the problems of individuals within a company using media such as Twitter to express personal views.
She also stressed that any workplace, even a farm, needs a social media policy with many workers (especially younger ones) using their smartphones whilst driving heavy machinery or doing the milking. But she favoured the softer approach to the dictatorial – encouraging people to be responsible, though she admitted it might be necessary to shut down Facebook on work computers, as otherwise people could waste too much time during working hours.
Julie also stressed the potential for social media to make a business ‘human’; but her examples also showed the risks attached to giving employees free-rein where rather too much personal information ends up on business websites and demeans rather than enhances the perception of those businesses.
Farmers Weekly’s Johann Tasker (above) explained how he carries his electronic office with him – an array of laptop, smartphones, video cameras, etc. He too came up with some good quotes (as you’d expect from a journalist) including “Twitter can be like a good party where there are a lot of people talking – too much noise to hear properly.”
He also gave some practical examples of how he gets stories from Twitter, such as calls for re-introducing stubble burning – an idea slammed as a very bad idea by the farm minister during a subsequent video interview with Johann.
Finally, he pondered the future of magazines such as Farmers Weekly where, as he pointed out, an older farmer was puzzled as to how his son knew all the content before the older man had read the magazine! In other words, with magazines now being constantly updated online, is their printed role to become an analytical forum?
“My own view is that The Economist has ploughed this furrow very successfully, so maybe it’s a route for others to follow,” says David. “As I drove home, I amused myself by thinking of all the Tweets, blogs and comments already flying round the electronic atmosphere following the meeting. I am sure they were positive.”
He offers a tip for those who like to use a laptop as well as a smartphone and are often on the move. The mobile service ‘EE’ (formed from Orange and T-Mobile) now has 4G in many places and other operators are also rolling out this superfast technology.
Link (“Tether” is the technical term) your iPhone to your laptop and it can be used as a modem. A data-only subscription is under £20 per month from EE for 3Gb of data and unlimited WiFi.
Social media enlightened Members of the Guild and guests in positive mood after the workshop presented by (front row from left) Simon Hayley, Julie Robinson of Roythornes and Johann Tasker. Pictured from left are machinery freelance Peter Hill; PR specialist Mike Bunney; photographer Ruth Downing; Sam Hine of Whisper.pr; Liz Snaith, PR practitioner; broadcast journalist David Addis; communications specialist Anne Chamberlain; Steve Mitchell of ASM PR; Sarah Palmer, Whisper.pr; Adrienne Mitchell, ASM PR (background); Helen Brothwell, EBLEX knowledge transfer communications manager; freelance Sara Gregson; Amanda Roelofs, DairyCo communications; and seminar organiser Julie Mate, marketing/communications specialist.