One of the biggest reasons farmers say they don’t want to engage in social media is they don’t want to deal with negative comments from strangers.
I get that. I also don’t like dealing with strangers who say negative things about the dairy industry.
But, over time and with some good training, I’ve learned how to manage difficult questions, and now I help farmers and others across the industry on ways they can effectively navigate the negativity.
Here are some suggestions on how you can handle a tough question on social media:
Always investigate who are you talking to, especially online. Check out their profile to see what you can learn about their interests and the types of stories they share or “like.” Sometimes, members of animal-rights groups set up fake online accounts just to harass farmers. You’ll notice they are fake by their lack of photos and interactions with other people.
Ask clarifying questions about what they would like to know. Many times, people hear or read something and immediately think it’s true. If you can discover their source of information, then you’ll better understand their perspective and you can gather information to show your side of the discussion.
Always try to use empathy when responding. What’s this mean? Well, imagine the person talking to you is a friend or relative who you don’t want to hurt or become combative with. You want them to see your point of view, but you don’t want to argue with them. An example of empathy would be:
“Wow, I see where you are coming from and if that’s what I knew to be true, then I would be upset, too. On my farm, this is what happens …”
Try to find common-ground topics to agree on, such as children because nobody wants to speak poorly about kids. Another great common ground area is technology since it is such a big part of everyone’s life. They may not understand farm technology, so explain it in terms they can easily grasp.
Thank them for their time talking with you. Farmers have great reputations for being hardworking, polite, and salt-of-the-earth people. Remember, when you are speaking with someone, you represent all farmers as a consumer is unlikely does not know others.
Finally, you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to. You can step away if need be. Not everyone is going to be convinced. Engage with those who sincerely want to learn and hear your story.
It’s not uncommon to have someone else on the farm managing your social media properties and they may not know the basic rules of engagement. I’ve created a simple flowchart for dealing with posts, comments or tweets. Feel free to download this or send me an email me at email@example.com, and I’ll send it to you.