MLA Social Media Conversations Workshops – Charters Towers, Katherine & Katanning

Just back from attending the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) inaugural ‘social media conversations’ workshop in Charters Towers.  A very useful and enjoyable two days – with enough new information to make the head spin (next step is to put the new stuff into practice), great company and interesting discussion.  In fact, I’d love to attend another one down the track, to find out how everyone else is getting on and have the inevitable questions that will arrive out of testing something new, answered.  And to continue to update knowledge on changing technology/systems – including learning more shortcuts and tricks.  These are the sorts of simple but time-saving and efficiency increasing tips that people working in large offices teach one another on a daily basis, but people working on their own or in geographically  isolated businesses, miss out on.

Attendance at these social media workshops is is highly recommended for any livestock producers who are interested in learning more about how to get first-hand stories of everyday rural life and issues, direct to anyone who is unfamiliar with Australian agriculture, via the internet or mobile phones.  I’m not sure that there would have been much rural interest in attending social media workshops prior to the live export ban fiasco.  But the outpouring of live export misinformation actually did the bush a favour in one way, because it highlighted the increasingly urgent necessity for as many rural Australians as possible to take maximum advantage of the huge range of direct storytelling and networking avenues now available, to counterbalance the mass of opinion very efficiently broadcast by animal rights extremists and uninformed conservationists (eg the ones who keep telling us that ‘Meat Free Mondays’ will stop the sea engulfing coral atolls in the Pacific). 

MLA workshop information includes websites (static or rarely changing background information – but it can take days or even weeks to be found by search engines, especially if the website is new and/or small), Blogs and online forums (up-to-the minute opinion pieces, found by search engines within minutes), Twitter (instant 140 character messages, around the world in seconds), Facebook (more personal and casual family stories, but also how to set up a Facebook ‘Page’ for business networking/storytelling), LinkedIn (more formal business networking – direct with decision makers running companies and organisations to grassroots primary producers; all around the world), YouTube (videos) and Flickr (online galleries of still images).

Workshop participants bring their own laptop if possible.  And if you need help with anything, it’s there in spades.  Our group had a huge age range, from Hillgrove’s venerable can-do Tom Mann at 76 (embarrassingly capable with a fancy mobile phone activities) to people many decades younger.  The range of experience was very varied also, however most had personal experience with one area (eg Facebook) but knowledge gaps in other areas. 

Participants end the one and a half days with a Tumblr blog page set up and a Facebook ‘Page’ (for non-family/close friends) set up, with images and links attached.  Plus a new network and a specific ‘to do’ list.

Any livestock producers who are interested in attending the MLA ‘Social Media Conversations’ workshops should contact Deborah Leake at Meat & Livestock Australia as soon as possible, because only the dates and locations for the first 3 ‘test run’ workshops (Charters Towers, Qld; Katherine, NT & Katanning, WA) have been set.  More workshops will be held in other areas in 2012.   Speaking up now will help ensure an MLA workshop is held within travelling distance of where the largest number or most interested participants live.  Information Technology-related workshops tailored for rural residents are as scarce as hen’s teeth – so best to sieze the opportunity.

Over the last six months it has been great to see so many rural residents realise they have first-hand stories of what it’s like to live in the bush that are of interest to other people, and that you don’t need to have some sort of special qualification to be able to write something of interest to others.  The more primary producers who invest a bit of online time in explaining to the public what their life is like, all over Australia and in all aspects of food and fibre production, the better off we’ll all be now, and future generations.

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