We used to have chance meetings at neighborhood schools and grocery stores. Now it seems social media has given us unique opportunities to meet and greet. With some of my new friends through social media, I have to admit not really knowing how we connected even if I’m thankful we did. This week though, I’ve given a lot of thought to a chance meeting a year ago through twitter but I doubt I’ll find a card from Hallmark to honor it so I did the social media thing… decided to blog about it!
I was still relatively new to Twitter a year ago. At first I had used the survey to find people I already knew and to find some great information sources. Reaching out to someone based on a tweet alone was something I hadn’t tried too often but one of my colleagues (Nick) sent me a message asking whether I had seen a tweet sent by a farmer in Kansas about a product I work with. Darin Grimm and I have had laughably different memories of the tweet that started it all off, we both agree it was about glyphosate and compromised weed control.
Since I was so new to twitter, I wasn’t sure how some of this stuff worked and I can remember wondering whether following up on a tweet like that would be seen as positive or not. I guess putting faces to tweets was still a question to me. And I worried that it would not be constructive to the customer. Having lived in small towns and having visiting hundreds of farms and worked countless trade shows, I had built confidence in talking to farmers in person. But I had no idea whether that would translate to social media.
Neither of us was following the other. I followed him & asked for a follow back so I could DM. I wanted to understand more about what was going on — what he had seen, what were some of the factors involved and of course, somewhere down the line, whether it was our product.
The tweets back and forth turned to email (which I found the other day) and and one of our people in that area checking to see how they could help too. I guess the rest is history.
That chance encounter probably built my understanding and confidence about what I could do on twitter. For me, I wanted to increase my awareness of what’s happening on farms I don’t get to visit first-hand. At the same time, it felt really good to be able to access some information this farmer found useful. But more broadly, this chance meeting and the time since have really helped me understand people are people (farmers are farmers) whether it’s on the farm, trade show floor or twitter.
And farmers are really what have created and cultivated my passion in agriculture. Most farmers are open and honest, but even when there are problems, you are hard pressed to find one who is mean-spirited. They are the kind of people I can ask a million questions of, learning more about ag and my job all along the way and I almost always get clear explanations and reasons to smile. After a few visits, a farmer can easily feel like a long-time friend. They are among the folks I can count on and I want to offer them the same.
And while not all of them turn out to be the kind of friend Darin’s become in the last year, there are a lot of other farmers out here on social media that I have added to my community.
In the back & forth reminiscing, Darin decided to write some thoughts as well:
It’s been about a year since I made what may go down as my most significant tweet ever… “Some issues with glyphosate effectiveness, same probs year ago, seems like glyphosate no longer a spray and forget chemical :(” Nothing overly dramatic there, just a simple complaint about a herbicide program not working as effectively as I had hoped, something that happens across the farm belt every day of the growing season I am sure. But the aftermath of that tweet… well let’s just say its been an experience!
First, I got a mention from someone at Monsanto asking if I could follow them. I did and they sent me a DM asking questions. Anyone who knows me can fully appreciate my inability to communicate ANYTHING in 140 characters, so from there the conversation moved to email.
At first, I was flabbergasted that I was actually having an in-depth conversation with a Monsanto employee on this issue, someone far away and who I assumed probably didn’t really care all that much about a Kansas farmer spraying a bit of glyphosate.
As this is Janice’s blog, you probably have realized by now who the Monsanto employee is. There’s a lot of things I could talk about on what I’ve learned/done the last year since that first encounter. Janice and I have worked on projects together, and our skill sets in communications and data seem to mesh well. We’ve discussed investments in wheat, mounted a campaign to get an “aggie” as twitter user of the year, even helped promote/develop a garden topic for foodchat. Lately, we’ve worked together through the AgChat Foundation.
But there’s one thing in the last year that stands out to me as the biggest learning experience I have had. And that is the simple reality that companies, even the largest organizations that exist, are made up of individual people.
Seems obvious when you write it like that, but a year ago, an organization like Monsanto appeared a bit of a monster to a small, independent farmer like myself. That is one of the positives of social media, I have gotten to know a number of Monsanto people (and others across the agri-business spectrum) and it has dramatically impacted my view of the ag industry. Sure, each one of these organizations is a business with the goal of increasing profits/market share, etc. (and really, that’s the same goals I have on the farm), but more than that each one of these businesses is made up of lots of people. All different kinds of people I am sure, but the ones I have met are often as passionate and caring about what they do and their customers as I am on the farm. That realization may not fit the uncaring corporate mold so many would like to paint today’s agri-business as, but it’s my new reality.
It’s been a very enjoyable and educational year, and I look forward to many, many more. All because of a tweet on weeds…
So tell me… a year like this needs to be marked but maybe it’s not a Hallmark moment. Maybe it’s something much better shared through social media. Do you have social media anniversaries on your calendar? Great chance to celebrate successes and friendships.