The social media landscape is a scary place, right? There are so many platforms and types of posts, tweets, shares, +1s, circles and snap stores that there is no reason to pursue it. Turns out, it’s not that bad. Social media has become a big medium for companies. It has completely changed the landscape of both marketing and customer service. Now over 75% of American adults have social media accounts and this is not something that has escaped the attention of businesses.
So how do you get the attention of customers? How do your posts get noticed? Here are six ways.
Pictures, pictures, pictures
The average person’s attention span is eight seconds. Studies have found that the attention span of a goldfish is seven seconds. So you’ve got one more second to keep the attention of a customer than a tiny, domesticated fish.
This is best done with pictures and videos. I don’t mean company logos. I mean real photos and videos. They get the attention of customers in a vast sea of posts on one’s timeline. Videos are probably even better because they move, making them stand out even further.
There are several sites, such as Pixaby, Stokpic and Libreshot, which offer free photos under a Creative Commons license which offers free pictures in the public domain for no charge. Be careful to look at the terms and agreements. While most can be used for commercial purposes, there are some sites which only want them used for personal sites.
Yep, you read right; you need to be negative. A study by Outbrain has shown that negative headlines get 63 percent more views than positive ones. The recent election season has given no shortage to that option. Not does negativity post better than positivity, posts with positive headlines were shown to get 29 percent fewer reactions than headlines with no superlatives at all. In the study, positive terms were not believed to be as genuine as negative descriptions.
Know when to post
Just like prime-time television slots, your social media posts can get more interactions at certain times of the day. This varies per industry, and can vary per media platform as well. It’s been found that the best time to post on Facebook is 1 - 4 p.m. late into the week and on weekends. The best times for getting retweets on Twitter is around 5 p.m. when people are getting off work. However, if clickthroughs (a metric for reporting on the number of people who viewed a message or piece of content and then actually performed the action required such as clicking on the ad or link) are what you are after, try posting around 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Twitter gets used a lot during work breaks while commuting.
Can’t find time to make a post when you want? Scheduling posts can save a lot of time. There are several good third-party sites such as Hootsuite and Buffer which can help you with all of your social media platforms. It also allows you to schedule posts if you know you aren’t going to be available to make a post in the future. So, going to be suffering through the holidays with family and know you can’t break away (even though you might want to)? Don’t worry.
Schedule it now.
Have a plan
Know exactly what your goals are. Just because you create a Facebook page, don't expect an influx of followers which will load your business with, well, business. It’s kind of like fishing. Just because you throw a hook in the water, don’t expect to start reeling in fish if you don’t work for it.
Every action you take on social media should be a part of a bigger plan. List your goals, objectives and have a mission statement of what you what to accomplish. You will probably need to do this with each social media vehicle as each site has its own type of followers and requires its own type of medium.
Keep it business-like
As much as you want to vent or make a comical remark, do it on your own page. While you might think that this will make your business seem more personal, it will actually drive away more business than it will gain you. So unless your business is a political page directed to one specific side of the isle, just let it be.
Keep it consistent
The thing about sharing via social media is that if you stop doing it, people stop coming to your page. You need to update a few times a week to keep your audience interested. If people see that your last post on Facebook was a month ago, they aren’t going to see a need to return.
On the flipside, avoid posting too often. I’ve had posts come across on my feed five or six times a day and I ended up dropping them because it was just too much. Unless you are a new organization there isn’t a reason you need to be flooding my feed with your promotions and contents.
#Don’t #Over #Hashtag
See how annoying that is? When posting to Facebook, you can put one (maybe two) hashtags in a post. Twitter can handle a few more, but anything past four is pushing it. Instagram is a creature on its own. Hashtag away and you probably won’t start running people off, however, it is probably a good idea to slow your pace at 15 or 20.
Also, if you are using a hashtag for a specific event, make sure you use a hashtag that is easy to remember and that isn’t already being used.
The future is looking brighter for U.S. cotton growers. Producers and industry members gathered in Dallas January 4 – 6 for the Beltwide Cotton Conferences which featured speakers from all aspects of the business on a variety of topics from plant health to the economic outlook.
One of the primary reasons for a positive outlook is a serious reduction in the Chinese stockpile. The country’s National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance sold 12 million bales of cotton last summer. While the reserve stocks remain relatively high at 48 million bales, it is believed that China could conceivably lower its stocks to 20 million bales in the next three years.
“I think one thing China is doing is they found out that storing all of their cotton is very costly so it’s not something they can continue to do,” said Leslie Meyer, an economist with USDA’s Economics Research Service and a speaker at the Beltwide Conference. “They are trying to reduce it at what appears to be an orderly fashion to not disrupt the markets too much. That is obviously good for the cotton industry and it’s not a big surprise they are unloading their stores. They’ve stated that they have a plan to continue reducing their stocks in 2017 so we’ll see how that plays out.”
Nationally, approximately 19,000 farmers grow the crop, planting between eight to 12 million acres each year. In 2015, cotton growers grew 8.5 million acres, the fewest since 1983 when acreage was reduced by government programs that encouraged land idling. Economic impact from cotton reaches more than $27 billion in direct business revenue with indirect revenue estimated to be in excess of $100 billion according to the National Cotton Council (NCC).
“I think the yields for 2016 rebounded a bit; 2015 was a pretty bad year for many areas of the world’s production which suffered from weather and pest issues,” said Meyer. “This year is kind of a rebound from that. The good thing is that even though production is rebounding, consumption is above production and that’s helping to reduce the stocks further, which will help to some extent on prices. The difficult thing with prices is that if prices get too high, it’s going to encourage unneeded production. That in turn, will be a detriment to consumption and mill demand, so it’s kind of a fine edge.”
Those in the industry are also optimistic for the upcoming Farm Bill, with the hope that new provisions might make them eligible for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) programs. Cotton growers are currently not entitled to those safety nets. This inability to qualify for crop insurance stems from a World Trade Organization (WTO) settlement case brought forth in 2002 by Brazil, a major cotton exporter, who expressed concerns about WTO-prohibited subsidies which were being paid to U.S. cotton growers and the unfair advantage it gave U.S growers over Brazilian producers. In a final settlement, the U.S. agreed to several concessions, including the elimination of price and income support programs to cotton growers which are offered to the producers of other crops.
In its place is the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), a revenue insurance policy that the 2014 Farm Bill authorized as a replacement for direct payments. “When it comes to cotton, it’s clear the STAX simply hasn’t worked,” said Representative Mike Conaway, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “The shortcomings of STAX are a reminder of the importance of having both sound farm policy and crop insurance.
Most in the cotton industry are fighting for a removal of STAX which has not proven to live up to its original expectations and hare hoping to replace it with the PLC and ARC programs created by the 2014 Farm Bill which farmers of other major crops are eligible to receive.
Meyer says that synthetics could also play a major role in the future of cotton. “It’s tough to know whether cotton will be able to keep pace with synthetics. It’s been a struggle the past few years on prices. I think they can compete if the synthetics were not subsidized which we feel like there is quite a lot of subsidation in the world of polyester, particularly in China. I think that if we can keep cotton prices at reasonable levels and consumer demand picks up a little bit with the general economy with their forecasts of that happening, hopefully cotton will get a share of that market back.”
This article comes via a blog post I wrote on LifeHack.org.
Let’s face it. Vegetables are not the first food group that children look forward to at dinner. When has your kid asked for seconds of spinach? Desserts have their own menu for a reason. Despite their lack of popularity, vegetables are a necessary part of a kids’ diets. They provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy physical and cognitive growth and lower obesity rates.
The Center for Disease Control states that child obesity rates have more than doubled in the past 30 years in the United States and that the percentage of children age six to eleven years who are obese increased from seven percent in 1980 to nearly eighteen percent in 2012. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics noted that in a population-based sample of five- to seventeen-year-olds, 70 percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Now that the depressing stuff is out of the way, let’s get on to the fun stuff, shall we? If you really want your kids to eat those veggies, you must do what all good parents do: lie to your kids. Here are some tasty recipes designed to trick your kids (and some adults) into eating their vegetables.
Note that I do not represent any of the websites or advertisers for the recipes pages below. Nor am I a certified nutritionist. I’m someone who thinks nutrition is important and thinks it’s a good idea for kids (and grown-ups) to eat their veggies.
Beets are very good for you. They are high in vitamin C and fiber and are chock-full of essential nutrients like B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium. One of my friends introduced these to her daughter (and husband) as “Pink Princess Pancakes”. Verdict? Pink Princess Pancakes were a hit. Beets are not normally at the top of the yummy chart for most kids (or adults), but these make a great breakfast option.
Beet Ice Cream
Yes, beet ice cream. You wouldn’t think that the combination works, but it does. This recipe calls for cayenne pepper if you want a little kick, but it can always be omitted. Play around with it. Adding a few dark chocolate chips doesn’t hurt either!
Zucchini is a great vegetable to add to dishes. Shredded zucchini doesn’t have an overpowering taste and it contains all kinds of nutrients such as vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, and a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, niacin, and protein. Another good thing is that it is easy to hide. Pancakes are just one example.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
This is probably one of my favorites. It is a great dessert and if you don’t tell your kids (or pretty much any adult) it’s in there, the zucchini is pretty hard to differentiate from the awesomeness of the chocolate.
Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad
This recipe wasn’t just made for kids; it was made by a kid. Eleven-year-old Haile Thomas created this dish which earned her a trip to the first Kids State Dinner at the White House. Quinoa is very rich in protein and fiber and is one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. Black beans are very fibrous and contain potassium, folate, and vitamin B6 and have been shown to be good for the health of our digestive tract- particularly the colon.
Hush Hush Lasagna
This one contains four beneficial veggies: carrots, zucchini, peppers, and onions. Carrots are very rich in vitamin A with good doses of biotin and vitamin K. Peppers are good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Onions have vitamin C and chromium which help in regulating blood sugar.
White and Green Pizza
Popeye ate spinach for a reason. It is really good for you. It is rich in iron and is also an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B2. What kid doesn’t love pizza?
Four-Cheese Pasta Bake
Sticking with the spinach theme, this dish puts three cups of that green goodness into a meal.
Sweet Potato French Toast
Sweet potatoes pack a powerful vitamin A punch. They are also full of vitamin B6 and C. Here is a breakfast recipe to hide them in plain sight. When is the last time you turned down French toast for breakfast?
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
Does your kid like pudding? Of course! This is a great way to hide something green in desserts. Avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and have more potassium than bananas! Since most people don’t get their recommended daily requirements of potassium, this is a great way to keep that dessert on the menu while also staying healthy.
Ever see this cartoon?
A lot of the emails we get these days are mostly the "why-do-I-get-this-stuff" variety. If you own your own business and have your own email campaigns, you don't want your customers to be these people. I'm going to give you a few tips on how people will want to open your emails.
1) Don't be annoying
One way to keep from clogging up your customers inbox is to not send them an email, at least not every day. The quickest way for them to hit that Unsubscribe button is to send a bombardment of daily emails. Send them only when you have specials, events, or something important to say. They'll love you for it.
2) Be personable
"Dear Customer" just doesn't cut it. Their parents didn't call them "child". They have names. Use them. Most email programs have a way to input their names into the first email line instead of just an email address. Likewise, you have a name. Use it. I'm sure you would much rather get an email from "Jordan Strickler" than from "firstname.lastname@example.org".
3) Get your point across.
The average person has an attention span of 8 seconds. A goldfish has the attention of 9. Since the people reading your emails have an attention span smaller than that of a tiny fish, you need to get your point across. So don't have emails which read like a Louisa May Alcott novel. Graphics are good for this. So are bullet points.
4) Have a good subject line
In order to read your email, they have to open it. Get the most out of your subject line. Use words that elicit emotion. In a crowded inbox, it will make them stand out. Also, use numbers if you can. A number like 8 or 18 will also make it stand out more.
5) Check out the other guys
If you see an awesome email from another company, look at their emails closer or get on the email list for a company who you know to have good emails. Take some tips from them to polish yours up a little.
Remember email is still a great tool for communicating to your customers, you just have to know how.
Everyone has their favorite apps. Ag guys are no different. Below I've provided an unofficial list of what AgriMedia believes are the best free ag apps on the market. Note that these are mostly apps for the general industry. Apps such as NozzleCalc, GrainTracker and hundreds of other apps help with specific areas of the farm. Those are great applications, however these are AgriMedia's top five all-around generic agricultural apps.
1) AgMobile was created by the guys at Successful Farming and Agriculture.com. More than just a news app, this provides market information, bin prices nearest your location and weather which includes a weather radar, soil moisture, a drying index and a livestock safety index.
2) AgWeb has produced one of the best apps out there. With everything from news and market reports to weather and podcasts of their top shows like AgriTalk and Market Rally. A related app is for their FarmJournal Radio app which makes it easier to go straight to AgWeb's podcasts and video replays and the Cash Grain Bids app which finds the nearest bin prices near you. The content from AgWeb is a little prettier than AgMobile, but you have to download two apps for what AgMobile has in one.
3) The unique thing about the Farm Futures app is the My Office section. Here, you can access tools to assist you with things such as projecting crop costs, a cash rent bidding calculator, equipment purchasing spreadsheets and figuring farm cost needs. Oh, and it also gives the latest ag news and market reports.
4) The Fresh Food Finder is great for those on the road who love a good farmers market. This app uses your device's GPS to locate markets near you and then provides the link to that market's website, gives the address, directions from your current location as well as a schedule, list of goods which it sells and payment options (WIC, SNAP, etc.).
5) The Growers Edge provides all of the regular news, weather and market reports but also provides a text alert option when markets move past a certain price. It can be a little hard to navigate but overall is pretty decent.
This appeared in an article I wrote for Farm World not to long ago on cover crops. Personally, I'm for them.
Cover crops have long been used for maintaining soil productivity. Their use in the modern age, however, has been minimal with improved crop genetics, synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and better machinery. It is just in the past few years that producers have been giving cover crops a fresh look. A new survey released by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program in conjunction with the Conservation Technology Information Center with help from the American Seed Trade Association and Purdue University has found that a clear majority of farmers have a new appreciation for cover crops.
The survey of 2,020 farmers from across the country reflected enthusiasm for cover crops and – for the fourth year in a row – found a yield boost in corn and soybeans following cover crops. Multi-year data from the survey shows the yield boost increases as cover crops are planted year after year, a revelation that points to an appealing long-term benefit of the conservation practice.
Farmers have reported from the survey that corn yields rose an average 3.4 bushels per acre, or 1.9 percent, after cover crops, and soybean yields increased 1.5 bushels per acre, or 2.8 percent. Analysis of the survey data revealed that yield increases rose to 8.3 bushels per acre of corn after cover crops had been used for more than four years on a field. In soybeans, the average yield gain increased from 0.1 bushel per acre after a single year in cover crops to 2.4 bushels after four years of cover crops. Of the farmers surveyed, 33 percent found their profit improved as a result of using a cover crop, while only 5.7 percent said their profit decreased. The remaining responses were split between those reporting no change in profit and those not yet having enough data/experience to evaluate profit impact.
“Cover crops really shine in challenging years, when the improvements they influence on soil moisture holding capacity and water infiltration can minimize cash crop yield losses to stress,” said Rob Myers, Regional Director, Extension Programs for SARE at the University of Missouri. “In a favorable growing season, we expect to see less of a yield impact. However, the link between the length of time in cover crops and yield improvements points to the long-term benefits of building soil health. It’s also important to note that two-thirds of this year’s survey respondents agreed that cover crops reduced yield variability during extreme weather events. These farmers are taking the long view and recognizing that not every season turns out like 2015.”
Other highlights of the survey include:
* Cereal rye was the top species of cover crop planted by survey respondents, planted by 82 percent of the group and covering 187,044 acres among the participating farmers.
* A majority of respondents -- 52 percent -- reported that their soybean yields always or often rise after a cover crop of cereal rye; less than 4 percent said their yields sometimes or always decreased after rye.
* Cereal rye cover crops also proved helpful in other ways, with 82 percent of farmers reporting that the rye helped with weed management -- including 26 percent who found it also helped with tough herbicide-resistant weeds.
* Crimson clover was the most widely planted legume cover crop, while oilseed radish is the most common Brassica (mustard-type) cover crop species.
* Farmers were asked what would help motivate other farmers to adopt cover crops or increase their use; the top-ranked response was tax credits, followed by getting a discount on their annual crop insurance premium payment.
Cover crop mixes are gaining popularity. In all, blends of species were planted on nearly as many acres as cereal rye among survey respondents. Most – 61 percent -- said they designed their own blends, while 22 percent rely on advice from their cover crop seed salesperson or crop consultant for advice on mixing species.
“Several factors have led to the increase in the past few years,” said Andy Clark, Communications Director for SARE who has been working with cover crops for over 30 years. “Farmers seeing other farmers doing it have really helped grow the popularity in the past few years. University studies have so much influence, but when farmers see their neighbor planting them, they are more inclined to do it themselves. They are also seeing that it actually does help the soil. Climate change has been another factor. It looks like the use is going up and going up at a pretty fast pace. So far, there aren’t a whole lot of downsides to it.”
Lee Meyer, extension professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (UK), echoes Clark’s sentiment on the recent growth of cover crop use. “One of the things that is driving this is the recognition of cover crops and their value as well as the research projects which are going on. Probably one of the biggest parts of it, however, is just farmers sharing information with each other. The farmers that we’ve seen haven’t just been little guys. We have heard of producers upwards of 10,000 – 15,000 acres using cover crops.”
The benefits of cover crops are numerous and depend on the type of crop used. Primary uses include soil erosion reduction, adding organic matter to improve the soil, reducing weed problems as well as providing winter and early spring grazing. Since the development of no-till cropping systems, cover crops are known for their ability to provide moisture-conserving residues as well as nitrogen for the succeeding crop. They can take up and hold nutrients, especially N, which were not used from the previous cash crop.
“For a lot of growers, there is an interest in improving soil infiltration rates,” said Erin Haramoto, assistant professor of weed science at UK. “ There are a number of benefits. Row crop growers are little more limited because they have a shorter window than vegetable growers.
Cover crops vary depending on the type of crop planted. They can be broken down into two categories: Legumes and Non-Legumes. Legume cover crops (clovers, vetch, peas and beans) fix a lot of N for subsequent crops, due to N-fixing bacteria that live in nodules on the plant roots. These types also prevent erosion, support beneficial insects and pollinators and can increase the amount of organic matter in soil.
Non-legumes include grains (rye, wheat, barley, triticale and oats) and forage grasses (annual ryegrass). These are most useful providing erosion control, suppressing weeds and adding organic matter to the soil. Grains are very effective winter cover crops. They can also be harvest as forage, straw, grain or left in the field to provide mulch and organic matter to the soil. The grasses can be used as a winter cover crop, although it may winter-kill in some years. When planted in August or September, it usually produces good top growth before cold weather, helping it better to survive. However, even if they do winter-kill, they will still protect the soil. Cereal rye is generally the most popular in the Midwest due to the flexible window in which it is able to be planted.
If desired, all legumes can be seeded with a small grain. This will improve the soil cover, which is especially important on highly erodible fields, and improves the chances for winter survival of at least one crop. When using a mixture, a reduction of seeding rate of each by one-half is generally recommended.
Before any of this can happen, however, the cover crop must first be terminated in order to reap the benefits. Herbicides are one of the more popular methods with row-crop growers, however, different covers require different applications. The more affordable method is a winter-kill termination which is possible in most areas of the Midwest, however this is not an option for some of the covers. Oats and oilseed radish are two of the more common winter-kill covers. Tillage can also effectively terminate some cover crops, however this method has lost popularity as it reduces some of the benefits such as erosion control and building of soil organic matter. Mowing or using a roller-crimper can also terminate covers at the flowering or heading stage.
“For non-organic growers, herbicides are the most popular,” said Haramoto. “For organic growers, it is a little more challenging because they have to rely on tillage or mowing or using a roller crimper since they are not able to use any chemicals.”
Haramoto says that those who do not show an immediate profit should not be downhearted. “Economic benefits that growers see are hard to put a dollar value on,” she explained. “They occur over the long term such as changes in soil health, increasing organic matter and reducing soil erosion. It has been shown that the first couple of years of growing cover crops, the economic impact may not always be favorable as growers are still learning how to use them. There is a learning curve involved. There might be lower yields the first couple of years because they are still working out their seeding and growing strategies. Over the long term, however, there is an economic benefit.”
She says that the growers of vegetables and tobacco may be able to see a more immediate economic benefit. Using legumes, they will probably be able to cut their use of N down as those crops will add N to the soil more so than the non-legumes; as much as 50lbs per acre.
Both Clark and Haramoto are encouraged by the fact that cover crops are remaining popular despite the decline in row crop prices. “I was worried that with commodity prices going down, we would see a decline in cover crop usage, but that isn’t the case,” said Clark. “I’m encouraged because it seems that the use is rising through both higher and lower prices. It seems like there is nowhere but up.”
More detailed information can be found by going to http://www.sare.org/CoverCrops. For information about a specific regions, producers should contact their local extension agent.
The world of social media is a large and scary place right? All of those tweets and comments and shares. Turns out, not really actually.
While it can be a little time consuming depending on what and how many platforms you use (if a business, you may want to even hire an outside business like, I don't know, Agrimedia?), I have provided a couple of tips below to help you with your social media presence.
1) There are a lot of posts out there. Especially on Twitter where Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Sally are posting about there latest meal and how wonderful it was. The good thing is that there is a way to stand out from the crowd. Pictures.
Posts with pictures are much more probable to draw the attention of a scrolling user. Try it and see if your interactions grow.
2) Just like prime-time television slots, your social media posts can get more interactions at certain times of the day. I have found that one of those is just before 5:00 when the 9 - 5ers are getting ready to head out of the office. Before leaving, quite a few of those will log on to social media to see what Uncle Jimmy might be having for dinner.
3) Scheduling posts can save a lot of time. Don't forget that you were supposed to post something because you got busy. Schedule it before hand. There are several good third-party sites such as Hootsuite and Buffer which can help you with all of your social media platforms.
4) Plan. Have a social media plan ready. Know exactly what your goals are. Just because you create a Facebook page, don't expect an influx of followers which will load your business with, well, business.