Each year at the end of August, Beloit College releases “The Mindset List." The list serves as a reminder of just how far we’ve come in under 20 years by highlighting what incoming college freshmen have always known in their lifetimes.
Facts about 2014’s incoming freshmen class range from Bill Gates always being the richest man in America, to quarters always having one of the 50 states on them. The 18 year olds of today have always had the Internet and e-mail addresses, and they’ve always been able to chat online with their friends. With the introduction of Myspace to the masses in 2003, and Facebook made available to the general public in 2006, most people under the age of 30 are completely fluent in the language of social media.
I can’t remember a time when there weren’t computers in school. I remember playing Oregon Trail on a green and black screen, and learning how to save files on a large floppy disk in third grade.
Fast forward to today and, like most of my peers, I have a mini computer with access to anything and everything I could want stashed in my back pocket. While it’s been months since I’ve opened a newspaper, I keep up to date on current events with news apps. I use the Facebook app to stay in touch with my friends and family, including my 82-year-old great uncle who joined Facebook to keep up with the rest of the family.
A few years ago I was having a discussion with a salesman at our local implement dealership. When I mentioned something about Facebook, he responded he didn’t worry about Facebook, because “Anybody with enough money to buy a tractor didn’t waste their time on that crap.”
He not only believed that no one important enough to his business was using social media, but that those who used Facebook were wasting time. What he failed to realize was that, with his statement, he was saying he didn’t see the value of the communication tool chosen by over 1.3 billion people, including one of his biggest customers, not to mention the next generation of farmers who would become his customers. By brushing off this tool that he saw as a waste of time, this salesman was saying he would rather force his customers to communicate on his terms, rather than on their own. That doesn’t seem like a good way to sell a tractor.
Becoming fluent in the communication tools our customers use is vital, not just for selling tractors, but for connecting our customers back to where their food started. While some of you reading this will never log on to Facebook or Twitter, understanding how important social media communication is to the future of our industry matters. With 1.3 billion people logging into Facebook, we can no longer pretend social media is an inconsequential time waster that doesn’t affect our day-to-day lives.
It’s time that we learn to speak our customer’s language.
Carrie Mess farms in partnership with her husband Patrick and his parents on their 100-cow, 300-acre dairy farm near Lake Mills, Wis. She also speaks to agricultural organizations, empowering farmers to tell their own stories through social media. “Dairy Carrie” can be reached via: