We’ve all been to co-op meetings or industry events discussing social media strategy. Some presenters give you step-by-step instructions on setting up your Facebook page. Others speak in depth about search engine optimization and strategies to maximize your reach. They almost always tell you this only takes minutes per day, and more often than not they suggest you set goals and schedule your time. 
I’m not saying all this is bad advice. Certainly there are advantages to understanding how the countless different platforms work, and nobody wants to put in the effort to tell their story to nobody. However, too often this social media thing sounds a lot like work.
As dairy farmers, the last thing we need is more work. But we also know, from those same industry meetings, that we’re disconnected from our consumers, and we want to share our stories with them.
When you get down to it, social media is really just talking to people online. It doesn’t have to be hard work, and you might even make some friends and have some fun. I think most dairy farmers would agree they could use a little more socializing. 
If you’re new to social media or aren’t sure how to start sharing your story and promoting your product, here are a few tips on how to keep it simple. 
Start small
So you don’t have four gazillion followers like Carrie Mess, known as “Dairy Carrie.” Me neither. When she started blogging, neither did Carrie. You can’t develop a following without sharing your story, but you also probably have more followers than you realize. The people most interested in your story (until you’re discovered by the masses) are probably your current friends and family. Sure, they already know you’re a dairy farmer, but for those who grew up in town or left the farm after high school, what is ordinary for you might be very interesting to them.
You might even gain an ally in your advocacy efforts. Friends are powerful in spreading your message further, because the first hurdle toward influencing someone is gaining their trust, and you already have that with your friends and family. If you give them information that interests them, they will share it, and your reach will grow. 
Be yourself
It makes sense to stick with what you know when sharing information intended to inform and educate. The best way to build trust is to share meaningful, honest content. It also helps to stay in your social media comfort zone, especially at first. If you’re not familiar with social platforms, choose those that suit your strengths. For example, do you take a lot of pictures? Try Instagram. Love to write? Start a blog. A jack of all trades? Facebook is a great mixture of all types of media. There are no experts. There are simply people with more experience than others, and the only way to gain experience is by doing something. Stick with it and be true to yourself, and both your experience and reach will develop over time. 
Have fun
If you’re not having fun, re-evaluate your approach. People like listening to stories the authors enjoy telling. I firmly believe this industry is doing a good job of providing great products, but we’ve got a long way to go toward changing hearts and minds influenced by our detractors. It takes a lot of truth to overcome a lie. Every new, unique voice is a step in the right direction. Talk to people, interact, but most of all enjoy yourself. After all, this is social media. And remember, this isn’t supposed to be work. We know you already do enough of that. 
Jennifer Heim and her husband David own and operate a 120-cow dairy in northeast Kansas.  Find Jennifer on Twitter and Instagram: @jmheim33 and Facebook: www.facebook.com/heimdairy.  She also blogs at heimdairy.wordpress.com.