Monday, January 17, 2011

Viral Ag Related Event...An experiment in Social Media

Unicorns and cowboys are mythical creatures and hamburgers are made in a factory. Livestock producers beat on their animals which spend their lives in cages so small they can't turn around. We know that isn't true, but enough people do believe it that many of us have turned into the agrovate posse. While we may be making some progress against HSUS and PETA, are we really making as much impact as we can? The six hundred dollar question becomes: Are we really educating unknowing, or are we mainly preaching to the choir?

If all of our efforts were really hitting pay dirt, it would be showing up in mainstream media and possibly in a trend or two on Twitter. Even the big stock shows don't attract that many non-ag people. I have an idea of why this is. To the average person, agriculture is boring, and those of us involved are a bunch of ignorant rednecks. The second reason is answered in a simple question. Would the average person rather spend a week at the Smithsonian or Disneyland? I would wager the odds would be in favor of the latter.

The next question is, can we come up with an agricultural event that is educational, yet entertaining enough for the average person to attend? If we can come up with such an event, do we wield enough social media clout to make an event go viral? Could we get an event to trend on Twitter, or spread on Facebook enough that it would possibly make national news? It would be an interesting experiment on the power of social media, and one we could do fairly easily.

February 3rd through the 6th I put on the Texas Crossroads Gathering, a small cowboy poetry gathering in Van Horn, Texas. There are a few things about this event which makes it unique. First, we actually live-stream video to the internet. Second the entertainers are not paid (the event is a small, but growing talent show.) Finally, all money raised from this event is donated to the local 4H Club and Christian Homeless Shelter.

When you stop and think about it, the majority of these entertainers are either involved in agriculture or have agricultural roots. Much of their material is derived from their experience in agriculture. True to form for people in agriculture, they also go out of their way to do things for other people. Several of these poets and singers are going out of their way to come early so that they can drive even farther to give shows to schools in Valentine and Sierra Blanca Texas.
When an entertainer goes on stage, I tweet their name and website url if they have one. Then I post it on Facebook. I do it again when they go off stage. By simply clicking the button to RT on Twitter or the like button on Facebook you are adding to the traffic the event receives. Twitter actually makes it easy to do. If you open the profile @texascrossroad in the right hand side of your twitter browser, all of the tweets in my timeline will show up there. This allows you to miss Crossroads tweets in your timeline, but still having them available to "RT."

We have the nucleus for an experiment in social media marketing. By combining all of the agvocates and their followers with the cowboy entertainers and their followers we can see if we can get this event to go viral. Between mentions and RT's on Twitter, and posting the live video on Facebook walls and blogs, we may be able to do it. Why do we want to do this?

If we can do this with a small event in Podunkville USA, then we can think about a series of events in urban areas to inform the general public on agriculture. It shouldn't be too hard to come up with a program which would inform and entertain. We also have a near perfect social media hook. The hashtag #kamikazecow.

As the entertainers will be judged to see who goes into the finals show, I decided to hold a Calcutta Auction to help some of the entertainers while raising money for the 4H Club and Christian Homeless Shelter. Bidders will have four choices of what to do with their winnings (and that choice along with the winning bidder's names) will be announced at the end of the day performance on February 5th. They will have the choice to donate to the 4H Club, the Christian Homeless Shelter, split their winnings between the two, or be greedy and keep it (Of course that last choice will be announced as well so I doubt if anyone will take that option)

So that bidders will have an idea of what kind of talent they are bidding on, participating entertainers will all perform an original poem, song or story with the same title...The Kamikaze Cow.
In case you are wondering, the title was inspired by an event a friend of mine had with rank cow high up on a ledge.

If you have any thoughts on this, leave a comment, then tweet it and post a comment on Facebook. Lets see if we can truly publicize an agricultural event using social media. If we are successful, then lets see what kinds of agricultural events we can design to bring in the John Q. Consumer!