Thursday, August 28, 2008

Farmers: The original social network

Frank Lechtenberg, Nebraska farmer, founder of Marketing Talk Meeting

The most fascinating corner of communications technology these days is social media --Web 2.0 community applications like Facebook, MySpace, Ning, and Twitter. These sites share the goal of enabling people to network on the Web through user profiles, friends lists, private messaging, discussion groups, photo/video sharing and other tools.

Farmers have been Web 2.0 guys since the plow broke the plains, though. Being far flung in their businesses, they've always found venues of interaction--threshing bees, barn dances, church socials, going to town on Saturday night and just talking across the fence.

Rachel Happe, an analyst with Mzinga, a Boston-based builder of Web comunities, told me on Twitter recently that she admires the way farmers always have developed social networks. "Farm communities were the original social networks and my grandmother [Elizabeth Koester, Batesville, Indiana] was one of the hubs. Although she doesn't know Twitter, it's a dynamic she would understand. Farming communities were the original social networks as everyone needed each other."

A twist on Web networking is the tie-in of an actual face-to-face meeting. That's what farmers on Agriculture Online did a year ago, when they called a meeting of folks who participate in the Marketing Talk discussion group. It was quite a deal to watch farmers from seven or eight states get together face to face who had only known each other through the Web. Agriculture Online hosted the meeting, but basically stood aside and let the farmers/marketers carry the agenda.

Marketing Talk members will be meeting again next week in Des Moines, after another farmer, Chris Weydert, an Iowan, raised the idea of a reunion last month.

Last year, you got the sense that these guys learned about as much from each other as they could have from all the marketing experts in the country. There's nothing like networking with one's peers to get a bigger picture of the world.

We're looking forward to Marketing Talk II next week, Wednesday, September 3.

Here's where you can get more details about the event. Marketing Talk Meeting. If you're interested, there's still room for a few more folks.


Rachel Happe said...

Nice post John - my 85-year-old grandmother will be very pleased to know that she is pretty hip! The real to get it to her. I hardly send snail mail anymore and she is definitely not online...back to basics!

Social Networking for Farmers said...

It's true, farmers have always found ways to use social networking. As much as the idea of farmers as rugged individualists is true, so is the fact that farming has always had a social component to it. Farms have traditionally depended on labor from the communities they serve and have long held highly regarded positions in their communities as well. Farmers have always been very social.

As technology and equipment advances have replaced the need for much of the human labor in farming, it hasn't replaced the need for social connections farmers have.

Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and the new social networking site for farmers,, provide great new opportunities in a busy world to do what farmers have always done.

katty said...

I think the social network is a great alternative to know people, even to find ourselves because many people overcome their feeling of fears or when they are shy. In fact i like to read everything that help me or catch my attention. I saw a web called costa rica investment opportunities it seem very interesting.