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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

Demystifying social media

Facebook and Twitter aren’t just for teenagers

DO?YOU?TWEET??If not, you may be missing out on an entire world of community, education and fun that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook provide.


While high-tech communication tools and Ontario agriculture may not seem like an obvious fit, the Ontario agriculture community has adopted these tools to fit their own needs, creating a very active, encouraging and informative community to support and promote farmers and the agriculture industry.

what is it?
Social Media is a very broad term used to describe online networks of users connected by interests, location or mutual friends.  Some of the most popular social networks are Facebook and Twitter, currently having 500 million and 200 million users respectively.

One of the big differences between Twitter and Facebook is that Facebook is designed to help you connect with individuals you already know in real life, while Twitter connections are largely individual or organizations that you may not know in real life, but who are publishing content that is of interest to you.

That being said, many Ontario agriculture organizations have a presence on Facebook, and by “liking” their page, you will receive updates and event news in your newsfeed.

how does it work?
Every social network has its own set of behaviours and rules, which you should make yourself aware of before diving in. For the Ontario agriculture community, tweets are organized through the use of hashtags. A hashtag is a keyword prefaced by a # symbol. This makes the keyword a hyperlink, and if clicked, searches all of the millions of posts on Twitter to show just the tweets containing that keyword. In Ontario, many in the agriculture community add the hashtag #OntAg to help other users find their posts. Another common tag for general agriculture tweets is #agriculture.

For Rebecca Hannam (username – RebeccaHannam), an Agriculture Business student at the University of Guelph, one of the most beneficial aspects to the agriculture community is the ability to have mass influence.  “With just one tweet, you can reach thousands of people,” said Hannam. “I think the more people having conversations about agriculture, the better. Everyone eats, so it is a good opportunity to join in the conversation about what we do.”

Ontario Federation of Agriculture Director-at-Large Wayne Black (username- WaynekBlack) sees value in social media as a professional development tool. “It is great for keeping up to speed on agriculture news. Press releases, events, opening reports on crops…it’s all there,” he said. “It’s sort of like reading the headlines to get an overview. “

Black also sees social media as a means to promote agriculture. “The media has a gap they want to fill. Do you want it to be filled by the activists or do you want to share all the good stuff agriculture has to offer?” The act of agriculture telling its own story has been dubbed “agvocacy.” Mike Haley (username – FarmerHaley), a grain farmer in Ohio, coined the term to describe the agriculture industry using social media to champion agriculture publically.

On Tuesday evenings from 8 to 10 p.m., search for the hashtag #agchat and you will find a moderated and very active conversation with agriculture professionals from around the world. By adding this hashtag to your tweets, you can engage with and contribute to the conversation. For an amateur tweeter, this is a great way to find new users to engage with and share your own expertise and opinions with the community.

One of the key things to remember when using social media is that it is a very public forum. A good rule of thumb is to conduct your interactions in the same way you would if you were face-to-face: be respectful, be polite and be timely.  Make sure that what you share is information you would be comfortable publishing on a billboard, as you never know exactly who might be reading.

About the Author: Martha Jack is a social media expert based out of Fergus. She is the Director and Head Consultant of eConverse Social Media Consulting.

who to follow?
Find out what this is all about by checking out these well known Ontario agricultural tweeps. Simply type their username after the slash at (e.g.

Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine (@GrainFarmerMag)
Grain Farmers of Ontario (@GrainFarmers)
Claire Cowan – Editor of the Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine (@ClaireSCowan)
District 9 Director, Mark Brock (@Cropper01)
Farmers Feed Cities (@FarmsFeedCities)
Ontario Federation of Agriculture (@OntarioFarms)
Ontario Farm Animal Council (@Onfarmanimal)
Agriculture Journalist Lilian Schaer (@foodandfarming)
Foodland Ontario (@FoodlandOnt)
Thompsons Grain Marketing – market calls (@ThompsonsTweet)

getting started
If you want to get started on social media, here are some steps to take:

  1. Start off by thinking why you want to be there. Do you want to learn more about your industry? Make connections? Promote your farm within your community? By having an idea of why you want to be there, it will effect whom you follow and what kind of content you’ll be creating.
  2. Do some reading on the social network you’re interested in. A great place to start is, a website dedicated to social media news, tips and how-tos. 
  3. Next, create an account. Both Facebook and Twitter easily lead you through this process.
  4. Start by listening. Do some searches and add users talking about things your interested in. This will also help you learn the ins-and-outs of your chosen social network.
  5. Contribute! Remember to both post your own information and engage with other users as well.

what does that mean? a twitter glossary
Username/Handle – This is the name that they use while on Twitter. For some people, their username is their own name like the magazine editor who is ClaireSCowan on Twitter. Others choose a more descriptive name like District 9 Director, Mark Brock, who goes by Cropper01.

Tweets -  Messages on Twitter. Depending on your settings, most tweets are public. They can be read by anyone and must be less than 140 characters long. Here’s an example tweet from the Ontario Grain Farmer magazine Twitter account:

GrainFarmerMag Just had a last min switch in the story line up for March. An agronomy story just got bumped to April to make room for another timely piece.
Tweeps – Slang for people you are friends with on Twitter.

@ Reply – When you want to respond to someone’s tweet, you can get their attention by sending them an @ reply. By putting their Twitter username in the message, it ensures they see your reply. An example of an @ reply is:

ClaireSCowan @foodandfarming It seems that the majority of farmers I talk to have BBs. I’ve heard that iPhones don’t hold up as well in the field.

In this message, Claire Cowan responded to a question Lilian Schaer (@foodandfarming) had about Blackberries and iPhones.


Retweet (RT) – When someone tweets useful or interesting information, people can choose to tweet it again to their followers to reach a wider group of people. This is shortened to RT on Twitter. Here’s an example of a retweet:

GrainFarmerMag RT @GrainFarmers: 2011 Annual District GFO meeting dates and locations posted:

In this case, the Magazine Twitter account (@GrainFarmerMag) retweeted important information that was originally tweeted by GFO’s official account (@GrainFarmers).

About the Author: Martha Jack is a social media expert based out of Fergus. She is the Director and Head Consultant of eConverse Social Media Consulting. •

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