Andrew Campbell runs Fresh Air Media, a company focused on educating and informing people about agriculture, new media, technology, and how they Andrew Campbell(1)all fit together. He has spoken to groups across Canada about the often uncharted waters of social media in agriculture – and how there is real value in utilizing these tools. Andrew and his wife live west of London, Ontario, and are currently working through a succession plan to take over his family’s dairy and crop operation.

Between the time I write this and you read this, 120 MILLION minutes of video content will have been uploaded to YouTube, 14 BILLION photos will have been uploaded to Facebook, and another 14 BILLION tweets will have been posted to Twitter. 14 BILLION! These are numbers that are almost impossible to comprehend when we are talking about just a few short weeks. Stunning numbers aside, think for a moment about the commitment people need to make in order to generate this type of content. Half of the 800 million Facebook users log in EVERY DAY. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

What we are looking at is a true shift in how we gather and share information. No longer do we have to wait for the phone to ring to share news with a friend, or head down to the local coffee shop or bar to share stories. We can share them instantly with the people close to us, and equally as fast with complete strangers. It means we have the speed of both good and bad news juiced up on steroids.


Let’s start with the bad news, which for us begins early last year. As horse owners, you are all aware of EHV-1. If you are anyone else, you have now heard of horse herpes. Whether it was the fact the disease got a catchy name in horse herpes or the idea that you could tack on the word fatal in front of it, the news of EHV-1 spread fast. Just a decade ago, the outbreak would have made news in agriculture publications, and the odd national newspaper ensuring public health wasn’t at risk before they moved on. Today, while it started out as an internal industry issue, social media changed that. News of a fatal horse disease prompted urban audiences to either wonder about their own safety or fuel the discussion with jokes. This lead to misinformation being spread about horses (and the industry) that created a fear around the animal. There is no question: it hurt the horse business. It is a lesson in the fact that the power of social media is one of the greatest weaknesses; everyone gets a voice, whether they have something to say or not, or whether the information is factual or not.

But don’t jump off the social media band-wagon just yet, because there is a lot of good to go along with the bit of bad. We’ll go back to the fact that everyone using social media gets a voice. No money has to change hands and you, your farm, your business, and your services can all be promoted. As a user, you can also be connected with other horse enthusiasts around the world and collect information about new research, the latest nutrition data, disease outbreaks or unique and interesting stories from people that share in your value of horses.

As an industry, the benefit to social media is enormous. Today, there is no longer a choice about whether or not you use social media, but instead how you use it. Our world is full of people who will always have an opinion whether they deserve one or not. That means if you don’t speak up, someone will. Trust me and the EHV-1 outbreak - it won’t always be good.

So give social media a chance, and discover that while there are things to watch for, you’ll gather a whole new outlook on knowledge transfer in our new communication world.


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