The evolution of online Agvocacy

As I previously wrote, farmers in America have hit social media in a big way and are now helping their colleagues in Australia to use the medium to get their message across. The US agricultural industry started a movement called Agvocacy in an effort to promote farming and counter negative campaigns by environmental and animal rights groups.

The above video is an animated infographic showing how fact the movement has grown, while also providing good ideas to any other industries or companies looking to use social media as part of their marketing arsenal.

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Farmers beef up social media presence

ABC’s Landline program had an interesting story about farmers taking up social media to counter negative campaigns by animal liberation and environmental groups.

Australian beef farmers learned the power of social media first hand when it was used with great effect, alongside the 4 Corners program, to halt live cattle exports to Indonesia because of animal cruelty. The beef farmers are fighting back with the help of American rancher Troy Hadrick, who is part of a movement in the US called “Agvocacy”, where farmers explain their business to city people.

Interestingly Hadrick learned the power of social media when he made a YouTube video expressing his disgust that Australian winemaker Yellow Tail, which committed $100,000 a year for three years to the Humane Society of the United States, which he says is fiercely anti-farmer. On Landline, he tells Australian beef farmers he couldn’t figure out why a company that depends on agriculture for its livelihood was “giving money to an organisation over here that’s trying to put other farmers and ranchers out of business”.

“I encouraged all the people that were following us on Facebook to do the same thing and all the people that were following us on Twitter to do the same thing. And holy smokes, it was like releasing the hounds,” he said. He then made the above YouTube video, in which he pours the contents of a Yellowtail bottle on to the ground. It went viral and which made Yellow Tail reconsider their donation and admit they didn’t know the Humane Society used its funds for lobbying rather than directly helping animals.

After the program Landline held a live Twitter session with Hadrick, which featured more than 500 tweets, including farmers with their own examples of how they’re already using social media to enhance their business.

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Turning a customer service disaster into a win

It’s not often you see companies apologising when things go wrong. So when the CEO of a firm uses a promoted Tweets to link to a blog offering a mea culpa it’s worth taking a look at.

Airbnb is an online company that lets people rent extra space in their homes to overseas visitors, or lets people find unique places to stay anywhere in the world.  The San Francisco home of a “host” was allegedly trashed by someone staying there through the site, leading to the airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky to issue a belated apology and outline new security procedures.

Make what will from the apology, but I find this a very clever way to build trust and alert more people to your company. The first I’d ever heard of airbnb was the Tweet which said: “We screwed up and we’re sorry. Here’s how we’re making it right: Naturally I had a look, and now I’m pretty interested in their method of house swapping. Social media win!

There is the cynic in me who says this could be a clever way for a company to promote security procedures, even so does shows how being straight with the public when after a company has acted poorly can be a lot more useful than putting up shutters and trying to cover things up.

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Australian Interior Authority breaks its secrecy

A big question that has been doing the rounds of late has been who has been behind the Australian Interior Authority website?

This Orwellian concept provided an alarming, albeit vague look at an Australia where the government is in control of citizens’ basic rights.

The site, accompanied by billboards in capital cities, simply showed future government directives on citizens including “All pregnancies must be approved”, enforced curfews, no public assembly and the requirement for national ID cards. The intention seemed to be to  spook people into thinking that the rights we take for granted are tenuous.

Theories abounded as to who was behind the websites, the most popular being the gaming and tobacco industries which are both running “nanny state” themed campaigns against government legislation on gaming regulations and plain packaging of cigarettes. But it has turned out to be a clever viral campaign by the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra, to highlight how much our democratic way of life should be appreciated.

Sadly, the seemingly far-fetched draconian laws posted on the site are in place in other parts of the world today, which the Museum’s new site shows.

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People power on track

We’ve seen how social media runs with breaking news stories like a wave across the world. The days of journalists informing us of events hours after they happened are gone as even they turn to Twitter as stories unfold.

Now various organisations are seeking to harness this modern take on people power to provide instant and accurate information.

Real-time weather tracking using people to report the weather at their location isn’t new. But it has come into its own now that people have portable internet access. Now there are several mobile apps that allow people to report the weather as they see and feel it, to provide a wider, real-time picture. One of the most popular is Weddar, which ditches old fashioned weather bureau forecasts for personal descriptions that make a lot more sense.

Taking this kind of thinking to a whole new level is an Australian website called FluTracking, an online health surveillance system to detect epidemics of influenza. As the site’s instruction says, it is “looking for people who live in Australia and have easy access to email on a weekly basis. It doesn’t matter if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

It takes only 10 – 15 seconds per week to respond to an email about the symptoms you or your household members have had in the previous week. This will help us find ways to detect both seasonal influenza and hopefully pandemic influenza and other diseases so we can better protect the community from epidemics.

This is a brilliant way to turn anecdotal evidence into an accurate reporting tool that could save lives. Not everyone who has the flu calls the doctor, or even knows they have it, but by reporting symptoms an accurate picture of the influenza spread can be charted potentially saving lives of those most vulnerable.

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Cash-in to bring home the bacon

Just one of the many products cashing in on bacon's incredible popularity on social media.

Social media marketing usually works like this. You have a product and you promote it online through various means as part of your overall advertising strategy. If you’re creative and lucky enough, your efforts will go viral and your product will achieve instant fame and then others will seek to imitate or hang off your success.

But there’s one product that continues to go viral without any organised marketing campaign. Look in your twitter stream, especially on weekends and you’ll find a host of fond tweets about bacon. No one is sure why, apart from being easy to cook and pretty damn delicious, bacon is so appreciated online. Perhaps taste, affordability and its association with the morning after a big night make it a hit with the stereotypical social media demographic.

This mass appreciation for popular cured meat has seen an increase in people using the internet to search for bacon recipes. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2009 the LA Times reported that it “posted ‘1001 things to do with bacon’ in December, and it was the most e-mailed link on the site for a few days.

Bacon’s cult following has spawned a host of viral sensations that were unashamedly created to cash in on our love for “swine at nine”. One of most successful Bacon Explosion – a gut-busting 5000 calorie pork loaf that increases your LDL cholesterol level by 30 per cent just by looking at it! This culinary time bomb was invented by a couple of enterprising barbecue chefs, Jason Day and Aaron Chronister, to get traffic to their website It worked, receiving 400,000 views in it’s first month.

The success of the Bacon Explosion shows how social media can be manipulated to gain exposure for your product or organisation. All it takes is knowledge of what’s hot online, engaging content and a willingness to embrace the notion that no idea is too crazy.

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Q&A becomes even more interactive

In years to come the ABC’s Q&A program will be seen as a pioneer of social media interaction. The show’s success rests in no small part with the display of live tweets as the assembled guests debate each other and take questions from the audience and a few pre-recorded videos. While the tweets add to the show’s content they don’t have too much influence on the topics being discussed. So, the show’s producers have turned to crowd sourcing to give social-media-using viewers a chance to have a little say what should be discussed.

Using “Our Say”, and independent project to put the questions that matter to the “people in charge”, they invited anyone to write down a question for next week’s panel and main topic of discussion, which is announced on the main site. Users can then vote for their favourite question and the one with the most votes will be asked on the show alongside audience and viewer-video queries.

This is a clever idea to keep the show topical during the week. You can view questions by most recent or most votes. My only criticism is that many questions will get lost and those that attract early votes will most likely be in the running. Perhaps what they should do is allow a couple of days for questions to be posted, close entries and then allow votes.

Apart from that this is a good example of crowd sourcing at work, something that is yet to catch on in Australian social media circles.

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Local sports clubs can use NFL promotional tactics

The Washington Redskins last year took to Foursquare giving fans a chance to check and unlock a Redskins badge by checking in once at their home ground or three times at any featured Redskins bars in the Washington DC area.

Apart from acquiring the badge, users were also in line to win a tantilising prize package including box-seat tickets, pre-game field passes and a chance to party with the GEICO Caveman (a popular TV commercial character).

This is such a simple idea that could be easily taken up by Australian sporting organisations which have their own entertainment venues, which include many suburban clubs as well as AFL and NRL franchises. It gets bums on seats at games and encourages patronage at entertainment venues, which generate plenty of revenue. It can also be used to get fans to visit the club’s sponsors for more chances to check in.

And while not all sporting organisations can offer NFL box seats or the GEICO Caveman, they can still create a lot of interest by providing great prizes that cost them little in dollar terms but can mean so much to fans.

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Cree shines light on B2B social media

Energy efficient industrial lighting isn’t the sexiest of products, but that hasn’t stopped one American company using social media to promote it in a fun and engaging way.

Cree produces LED lighting and uses its website to effectively show their practical, safety and environmental benefits – LED lights produce 85 per cent heat than incandescent lights. Linked to its standard corporate website, Cree’s “LED Revolution” portal defies the B2B convention of supplying information in large slabs of informative, but boring text with the odd diagram and statistical chart.

Cree balances fun with fact, knowing that the people who buy the lights aren’t don’t necessarily have the same knowledge and interest as the engineers who designed them. As well as having product information the Cree website has socially interactive features including its “Cries for Help” page where companies send in pictures of their terrible workplace lighting with a brief description. Site users are invited to vote for the worst example each month for that company to win six recessed LED downlights.

The “Learn About” section is very well written and turns what would normally be a dreary subject into an entertaining and informative read about the virtues of LED lighting (yes, it’s more interesting than it sounds). Making it all the more fun are the demonstrations on YouTube including the comparison between chocolate bunnies under incandescent and LED lights.

Cree also allows users to become part of their “LED Lighting Revolution” and provides all members of its growing social environmental movement a badge to display on their site that says, “Take the pledge. I joined the LED lighting revolution.” Cree has identified that this is a great way to build community extend its viral exposure.

Not surprisingly Cree also has an engaging Facebook and Twitter presences, which are clearly marked on the website.

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New York Public Library reaches out through social media

We generally associate Foursquare with commercial applications, but it can also be a great tool for non-profit public services such as libraries and museums.

One of the most pro-active non-profit users is the New York Public Library, which uses the location-based social media platform to encourage people to discover various sections and branches.

Users who obtain the badge will get a one-year Foursquare Friends Membership which will provide them with special perks. Additionally, mayors at various locations will be included in a drawing for tickets to LIVE from NYPL events and behind-the-scenes tours of the Map Division. Non-frequent visitors benefit from a host of Tips on its Foursquare site, to fill them in on special events at each NYPL venue.

The NYPL has embraced social media across the board. It’s the top public library in the world on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr Flickr, had produced a series of hit viral videos and even has an iTunes site. Ironically, the 100 year-old library hopes that by embracing social media it will encourage people to continue reading books well into this century.


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