Lessons Learnt Number Four – Using Social Media to Amplify Youth Voices

Social media is all around us. Facebook pops up onto our screens with notifications, we spend hours admiring Instagram images and we check in with the twitter-verse. In the ten years since Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) was born we’ve used social media to share our stories, create conversations and build relationships over countless interactions. In this edition of our Lesson Learnt series we talk to Young Farming Champions Bessie Thomas and Anika Molesworth to find out how social media can be used to amplify youth voices.

Bessie Thomas uses Facebook as her social media platform of choice to share her life on Burragan Station in western NSW. “I like Facebook for its ability to be short or long form,” she says. “I’m primarily a long-form writer and enjoy Facebook’s ability to allow me to explore my thoughts thoroughly, use language as it pleases me (especially for writing with comedic affect) and then add visuals to suit.”

Bessie at Burragan.JPG

Bessie.JPG

Just as Bessie enjoys Facebook for its long-form option Anika prefers the brevity of Twitter. “Twitter demands less wordiness and is relatively easy to use,” she says, “and I can use short sentences and one link or a picture.”

Whatever the choice of platform both girls agree it is connecting to your audience that is most important. “Having a public Facebook page is like creating my own little community,” Bessie says of her audience who come to her to experience real-life on a sheep property. “The one aim of my Facebook page has always been to show the human side of farming, show that I/my husband/our family/farmers in general are real people with the same everyday hopes, dreams, problems, desires, challenges, illnesses, brain-farts, morals, ethics and ideals as everyone else. I want to show that we are individuals who care, not just mass production food factories. We are not perfect; we are just as human as everyone else.”

For Anika using social media is about connecting with people who can spread her environmental and climate change messages. “I think Twitter is well used by farmers, researchers and politicians who are connected to the topics I am talking about,” she says, “and I like you can tag anyone, no matter who they are. For example I sometimes engage in a Twitter conversation with policy makers and where else could I do this?”

Anika Twitter

Using images and video is a trademark of many social media platforms and both Bessie and Anika use these to great effect. Bessie recently created a video after drought-breaking rain fell at Burragan. The video reached over 20,000 people and was picked up by the Sky News Weather Channel. See footnote

Anika has recently compiled short videos to share on Twitter where she talks about such subjects as renewable energy and climate change. “I am really interested in amplifying the voice of rural Australia, so I asked myself, how can I project my story further and raise awareness of topics I believe are important? I decided to make a series of short videos of me on my family’s farm. Walking around my paddocks I try to give observation and insight on my life in Far West NSW around a central theme of climate change – both its impacts and how it can be addressed.”

Anika admits, that although she is familiar and comfortable with Twitter and has built up an engaged audience and has being identified as the most influential agriculturalist on Twitter , there is always more to learn. Bessie too, finds it a continuous learning process but has these tips for creating successful posts:

  • Create authentic content. Don’t use give-aways or ask for likes and don’t post just for the sake of posting. Amplify your voice in a curated way.
  • Respond to comments and private messages and, in doing so, build trusted relationships.
  • Know your purpose, or aim, and stick to it.
  • Create an emotional connection. My best posts are the honest ones where I am celebrating the highs and also admitting vulnerability. Whinging and complaining posts tend not to do so well.
  • Spell-check! See footnote

Picture You in Agriculture provides all Young Farming Champions with training in social media skills during their immersion workshops and encourages them to share their experiences. Young Farming Champion Alana Black has recently contributed to this by creating a social media strategy document, sharing with YFC how to create engaging content. Just like Bessie and Anika, Alana’s believes it is about connecting with an audience to start a conversation and deliver a positive message about agriculture.

Footnote

That moment when Sky News wants to put your video on national TV and your dad rings to remind you of the ” i” before “e” rule except after “c”

A reminder we should all aim for progress not perfection