There’s no escaping the power of the social media. If anyone harbored any doubts, yesterday’s news that a small one-and-a-half-year-old photo-sharing company launched by a couple of twenty-somethings is being acquired by Facebook for $1 billion should wipe the doubts away.
I’ve not been a doubter–I emphasize the importance of the social media when I speak to farmers and food club members about the importance of using the media to alert the public about government raids and court actions against small food producers. (I’ll be doing so again at the Food Rights Workshop in Minnesota May 13; more specifics on the event to come.) I tell them that a few food rights advocates have been very adroit in using the social media, prime among them Michael Schmidt with his Support Michael Schmidt Facebook page (that coincided with the start of his hunger strike last fall and quickly attracted nearly 5,000 supporters). There’s also the Farm Food Freedom Coalition Facebook page, which now receives over 100,000 views a month. Both Wisconsin farmer Vernon Hershberger and activist Max Kane have made very skillful use of YouTube via well-done videos highlighting confrontations with regulators.
A number of food producers use Facebook to market their products as well. They regularly report about life on the farm and what new products are available for sale. They introduce customers to their family members, and in general forge an ongoing relationship that helps foster loyalty. I know from discussing with several that it helps boost sales, as more people use social media.
I’ve been more a doubter of my own abilities to master the social media. Yes, I have a Twitter account (@davidgumpert) and a Facebook page, and I share my blog postings, and re-tweet interesting info. I’ve even live-tweeted at food rights rallies and court hearings. But that doesn’t mean I have a serious understanding of how these tools work, nor how to maximize their benefits. It’s kind of discouraging, when I read that 750 million or so people around the world are using Facebook, and I can’t distinguish between a public posting and a private message; I cower when I see the “Share” button–am I sharing a private message with one person or the entire world?. I like to think I’m as smart as, well, at least a couple hundred million of those people who are deftly posting cute little somethings or others.
I know some of this is generational. Teens and twenty-somethings take to Facebook and Twitter like fish to water.
I’ve even been taking an online course offered by my alma mater, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. The professor, Sree Sreenivasan, is dynamic, and he preaches a serious strategic approach to using the social media. (He offers social media advice on his Facebook page.)
As just one example, he cautions against just dashing off tweets, saying he spends four to eight minutes on each one of his, to check his spelling and otherwise edit, so his tweets are both accurate and representative of his serious journalistic mindset. He also encourages us to tweet about the course, using the hashtag #cjsm, to demonstrate the power of attracting eyeballs to particular topics.
At the last session, Sreenivasan pointed the class toward klout.com and proskore.com, where each of us can assess how we stack up against others who are tweeting, in terms of followers, re-tweets, and other factors. There’s another site to see how our hashtags are doing.
Uh-oh. I thought the social media were partly about getting away from status. It’s hard to deal with the thought of being told my ranking may be low. It’s one thing to think it, another to have it confirmed in a public forum.
I know I’m learning some worthwhile things. There are definitely lessons that can be applied to further the cause of food rights, beginning with using the hashtags “#food freedom” and “#food rights” as much as possible in your own tweets. (I’ll let you google “hash tags” if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.)
Will I ever get comfortable with the social media? That’s where I have this gnawing sense of insecurity.
For one thing, it seems as if you have to spend a lot of time with it. Just what I need, trying to make more time in the day.
Also, the social media seem to be for people to be out there, as it were. Yeah, I guess on this blog I’m sometimes out there. But I’m actually not a chatty person. I’m more of an introvert. Facebook is definitely for chatting.
But as I said, there’s no denying social media’s power. The social media are powering revolutions in the Middle East. They are where sports celebrities sometimes divulge “big” news like new team contracts, or that they are retiring.
We in the food rights movement need to get much better at using the social media. I think a big requirement is just doing it, and not being intimidated, and taking the attitude…so what if you look stupid on occasion.
Did I mention you can follow me on twitter @davidgumpert.
Has there been a business slowdown at the MarlerClark personal injury law firm?
That’s the main question that occurred to me when I saw a press release put out by the firm a couple days ago trying to stir up business based on three possible illnesses from raw milk in Missouri. This firm and others try to capitalize on illnesses from whatever foods are creating problems by blanketing the Internet with a steady din of “news”, but not usually as blatantly as this, and not usually on small outbreaks like this.
Does this language strike you as a little forward, or is it just me? (The release is in Q&A format.)
“Q: I drank raw milk and got E. coli. Im thinking about hiring a law firm to represent me, but am concerned about the cost of legal representation for my E. coli case. What are the costs of hiring a lawyer for an E. coli case? How do I find the most experienced E. coli attorney?
“A: The lawyers at Marler Clark have been representing E. coli victims since 1993 and have recovered over $600,000,000 for clients. The Marler Clark E. coli attorneys provide free case evaluations for all potential raw milk E. coli outbreak victims, and victims of other foodborne illness outbreaks. Our E. coli lawyers do not charge an hourly fee. Our firm works on behalf of clients and only collects fee on a contingent basis. That means we collect our fees for E. coli cases as a percentage of the recovery obtained on our clients behalf after the case has been resolved.”
Hey, maybe I get a cut of the next settlement, for having given the firm all this promo.
Coincidentally, Mary McGonigle-Martin lets it all hang out in an article on Food Safety News (owned by MarlerClark)–the story of her son’s illness from raw milk. McGonigle-Martin, who has been a frequent contributor to this blog, goes beyond describing the circumstances of her son Christopher’s illness (which she’s done extensively on this blog), and goes after leaders of the raw milk movement, including Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation, scientist Ted Beals, and Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. (She includes yours truly, and appreciate that she considers me “a friend.”)
I can understand her ongoing upset with the Weston A. Price Foundation, along with Mark McAfee, for failing to appropriately acknowledge Organic Pasture’s likely role in the illnesses that occurred in the fall of 2006 and affected her son. I think she goes somewhat over the top when she says they “would hawk their souls to convince their followers that raw milk is always safe to drink.”
I would also take issue with her complaint that Weston A. Price Foundation chapters “grind incessantly for the legalization of raw milk in states where it is currently illegal; in states where raw milk is legal, their aim is to relax existing regulations to their benefit. Sally Fallon, Ted Beals and Mark McAfee persistently advocate in state legislatures across the country regarding the perceived health benefits of raw milk.”
What she neglects to mention is that big dairy processors, public health and agriculture regulators, and university professors regularly work against any kind of liberalization of raw milk availability, and spend huge amounts lobbying against food choice…for Big Ag’s huge financial benefit.
The article is worth reading.
Thanks to all who shared their knowledge about calf health and animal husbandry on my last post–Ron Klein, Tim Wightman, Dave Milano, and others. Such matters are so mysterious to me, it’s great to have such diverse insights, and a parting back of nature’s curtain.