With more than 30% of pork processing offline due to COVID-19, thousands of hogs backing up on farms across the country and company CEOs warning of meat shortages, we are seeing the 98% of Americans not involved in agriculture are now taking interest in an industry they know very little about. While some comments and questions on social media are legit, others have left me shaking my head and stepping away from the screen.
Prior to COVID-19, we saw our fair share of misinformation. Now that we are in a crisis, that amount has grown exponentially and under stressful conditions it can be tempting to fire off a reply or share an image. Don't.
"Taking the high road can be difficult, but also I think it is more important than ever to focus your attention where it makes sense," says Claire Masker-King, director of sustainability and international communications for the National Pork Board. "We can't fight every battle online and every misinformation online so do what makes sense and where you can have the most impact on the time that you spend on that."
Masker-King says it is also important to try to identify the type of person before responding.
- Trolls — Someone who wants to mudsling and isn't asking a genuine question
- Rager — Someone who has a strong opinion and is hard to appease
- Misguided — Someone who thinks they are posting a fact, but their post is inaccurate
- Genuine questioner — Someone who doesn't understand the situation but wants to know more
Masker-King says while sharing your stories and answering questions is a powerful way to connect us to others, it is also crucial to be intentional about what you share online. After all, what gets posted today could lead to the spread of misinformation tomorrow.
The Pork Checkoff offers these five tips for sharing your farm story on social media during a crisis.
- Show how much you care. The current market conditions are having a profound impact on many people's farms and livelihoods, which is requiring them to make really tough decisions. However, these conditions are not changing how much you and other farmers care for your pigs. Focus on sharing your dedication to animal care, even during this time of uncertainty. Remember, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Keep in mind, the general public does not have the same understanding of farm life and the pork supply chain as you do. Most people do not understand the complexity of raising pigs and getting pork from the farm to their table. That makes it especially hard for them to understand why you must make the decisions you are making on your farm. It's OK to show your emotions but gear the conversation to the general public. A good rule of thumb is to speak to a level a third grader would understand to ensure that things are not taken out of context, which is especially important in social media.
- Be mindful of the photos and videos you share. Even in times of stress and crisis, it's important to remember how powerful images and videos are in the digital space. While sharing your story, make sure to frame your photos and videos so they capture your audience's attention without a negative consequence. Make sure the pigs are healthy and clean, with barns and alleyways cleaned up. As always you want to represent the best of your farm and industry. Although social media may seem fleeting, you're creating an online archive that tells a story about pork farming. Make sure it's a good one.
- Content idea: Be humble and show appreciation for others. Your employees, as well as packing plant and grocery store workers, all play a role, even if indirectly, in helping to keep farms running. Right now, just like you, they are on the frontlines. Show appreciation and thank them for their efforts and dedication to keeping our supply chain moving and together meeting consumer demand for pork.
- Content idea: Share how pig farmers are giving back to their communities. There is a lot of negative information everywhere right now, and many people are looking for some good news to brighten their day. There are numerous examples of producers giving back in a variety of different ways, and these stories provide a surprising and welcome break from the bleak news of the day. Like and re-share these stories and share your own to remind your followers about how much pig farmers care for their communities.