Rural Media

Some say that there are none so blind as those who cannot see. I have no idea what this means, but in a discussion about social media, none are so blind as those who happen to be me. That is until now. Social media is an infinite, nebulous web that connects everyone to everyone else, and the smart companies (i.e. the ones that will actually last) take full advantage of this technology. Profit generating in a digital era is almost impossible without media presence.

The automotive industry is no stranger to this, and any visit to a manufacturer’s website or private dealer’s Facebook page offers ample evidence of how crucial a digital identity has become. In my rural/agrarian area, however, the emphasis erodes just after the integration of web presence. My region is mostly agricultural, and farmers like a much different sort of social media, an older form. Leaning over the bed of a pick-up truck or standing in the middle of a vast expanse of crops, farmers generally network face to face. That is not to say that advertising doesn’t work here, it certainly does, but the majority of sales come from “good ol’ boys” routinely buying new vehicles like clockwork (or is it calendarwork since it’s bi-annually… I don’t know the rules here).

The interesting thing about this is that the guidelines for social media still apply. On a fundamental level both mediums involve valuated communication between people of similar interests and backgrounds using an intricate rhetorical foundation. With digital media, one must be fluent in the language of fast-paced tech talk and become well-versed in the art of the “quick gab.” Our social media does have to be cognizant of a multi-cultural world because we have a university campus that hosts international students and we assume they like cars, too. The farmer network (Face-to-Face-book?) requires its own level of discourse expertise. In order to participate in a serious conversation one must speak like a farmer or no one will take you seriously (I have amassed enough jargon to be taken seriously for almost twenty minutes… after that I Cinderella into a “city slicker”). As Barbara Fagan-Smith noted in her text, the fundamentals don’t necessarily change even when the tools improve.

In order to explore this dynamic, I spoke to an intern we had from the local university who had tried to implement some more modern social media tactics to our provincial store. For the sake of anonymity I’ll call him Justin (he’s not me, I just have a fabulous name). Justin tried for a number of months to implement a text network for the customers in all of our departments. The platform was basic, simply signs everywhere that read “Text: ‘everyday value’ to #####” and then that number would be stored on a mass text list for regular communiques and updates. Justin had some professionally printed ad cards that were vivid and noticeable yet small and non-obtrusive. His fresh-from-business-class logic told him that the advertising needed to be significant yet subtle.

With all of the ads printed and posted in the areas most visible to customers, Justin thought he would meet his initial goal of fifty text numbers within the first month. The reality took two months to set in as Justin had no trouble reaching the dozen or so customers who wanted to be bothered with “unbeatable rates” and “best prices around.” Justin had not failed to consider his audience, he knew that the customer base in our region is somewhat technologically stagnant. He also had designs on drawing in the younger university crowd with the more youthful venue. Both assumptions failed, not because Justin was ignorant of certain attributes, but because those attributes were more influential than his rhetorical strategy. The people in our area with money to spend don’t use digital content, and the people in our area who use digital content don’t have money. This is a Catch-22 that has yet to be caught.

Not all of our social media is impotent, however. Our website is full of new and used car information for customers who don’t want to drive here and look. Our Facebook page is a thriving effort to perpetuate the manufacturer’s advertising campaigns as well as a shrewd broadcaster of local values and colloquial solidarity. We learned a lot from Justin’s efforts to modernize our technological presence even though that lesson came from watching public interest fizzle before it even really ignited. Perhaps it was simply too soon. Discussions about this phenomenon regularly include the optimistic reminder that the next generation of farmers is highly tech savvy, and that such advertising and communication could one day succeed. The important lesson to draw from this, however, is that the tools we use as a business are not as important as the rhetorical foundations upon which we build.

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7 thoughts on “Rural Media”

  1. “There are none so blind as those who cannot see.”
    This is an old proverb that is speaking of people who are too closed minded or intentionally refuse to listen to logic or a new idea. So you’re not far off from your topic. I imagine it would be difficult to get some ‘good ole boys’ to pull up a social network site. They are very much a face to face community. My Daddy was a cowboy, through and through, and he loved the computer because he could play solitaire, and that’s about the only thing he ever used it for. There is still a generation out there who are looking for telephone books instead of doing a Google search. I wonder, what kind of campaign could work to pull them in?
    I understand the texting idea didn’t end well. Partially because the older generation doesn’t text as often and partly because it’s confusing to see the ability to text to a short number, not being 7-10 digits long. But, what if it were something that did peak their interest? What would be something that would have them asking about it? I know my dad would occasionally bring home web addresses and have me look them up for him so he could see what it was about, so it could work. However, maybe that isn’t the answer in those communities. We want a social media presence in order to satisfy the customer and lure them in. I don’t think we need to drag to the sites kicking and screaming. LOL.

    I would also love to see some images added here to go with the written information, but overall it’s a good post!

    Stacie

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  2. Justin,

    I’m so glad that I have your material as the source for my lengthy and thorough critiques. Your material and voice is present, though largely aided by your ability to keep communication simple, as well as colloquial. I think that your audiences will welcome a friendly approach to this material, allowing them to trust your ideas and look for your authorship in other capacities. However, I would caution you that your laid-back approach to sharing material might be dismissed by other discourse communities – especially from the stance of a corporation. Your writing may be about your own personal experiences, but someone within your own discourse community within management might desire something a little more formal.

    Your introduction is definitely one of the stronger facets of this blog. Not only is it fun, but it grabs your reader and makes them want to read more. Personally, starting with “There are none so blind as those cannot see” is a great juxtaposition to your otherwise comfortable approach to the material. It certainly will help your audience feel more comfortable with the concepts you dissect . Just be careful when approaching matters of opinion: you specifically stated in your introduction that a social media presence is essential for generating profit. Although social media has allowed organizations to communicate with the public, I wouldn’t say that a profitable business without social media is a paradox. This is simply an absolute that can be edited relatively quickly. I also want to bring some minor grammatical errors to your attention as well. You had specifically stated that “like a much different sort of social media, an older form.” Go back and reread this particular sentence as well as your entire blog. This is only one example, but try and avoid topical errors – they not only take away from your ethos, but they make your blog feel rushed and unpolished.

    Lastly, I would like to commend your ability to focus on a failure and not a success. Learning from Justin’s failure within social media is an excellent example of poor social media skills. Justin definitely should have considered their audience and the material that you referenced from our course

    Overall, great job, Justin. I always enjoy reading your blogs and I’m looking forward to seeing more of your style down the road. Don’t forget to go back and proofread before the end of next week!

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  3. Living in a very rural area, I can commiserate with you profoundly. I especially laughed when you said, “Not all of our social media is impotent, however. Our website is full of new and used car information for customers who don’t want to drive here and look. ”

    Our internet here has been the source of many curses and ill-speaking. I think, also, that people in a rural community are less inclined to worry about social media. At least in my town, people are too busy haying and pulling tractors and herding cattle that it is very rare indeed to be able to check people’s latest tweets and postings.

    Your blog has really gotten me thinking about small town access to social media and whether it would really be effective here. Thank you for your post and thank you for your honesty.

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  4. Hi, Justin!

    I really like your clever punches—”The farmer network (Face-to-Face-book?)” and the first line, plus various places throughout your post! Ha!

    If I could suggest anything, I would say to try to add links, images, and more connections to our readings, if possible.

    Nice!
    Dawn

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  5. hi there–

    Some points to consider:

    1. While I appreciate the meta-narrative you insert throughout the post, the two voices distract the reader in that I, as a reader, am not sure whom to believe. The “real” writer, or the commentator?

    2. The term “good ol’ boys” might be deemed problematic by some, although it is doubtful that you intended it that way. Are you deconstructing this term, or providing it for reference? I would assume the latter. Also, is the term used in a negative fashion, or are you expecting that your readers have the same schematic connections with this term that you do?

    3. “The important lesson to draw from this, however, is that the tools we use as a business are not as important as the rhetorical foundations upon which we build.”

    What an excellent concluding sentence — it embodies all of your points and invites more discourse on the subject at hand.

    4. ” Our social media does have to be cognizant of a multi-cultural world because we have a university campus that hosts international students and we assume they like cars, too.”

    Are “international students” the only ones who occupy a “multi-cultural” perspective? The United States houses many cultures — many who were born here have rich cultural and linguistic heritages, as well as those who move here. If capitalism is to succeed it must consider the culturally diverse marketplace, right?

    Overall, this post was informative and entertaining. Solid ideas and insightful commentary abound!

    Thanks!

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  6. Justin,

    Your comments about the rural area make me think of my own childhood. Farmers are very resistant to change and wary of things they aren’t familiar with in general (I guess that applies to many people). This isn’t technology-related, but I am a long-distance runner. Whenever I go running in my parents’ little town, I always get the strangest looks, as if to say, “What are you doing? Life is hard enough work as it is!” Admittedly, my generation doesn’t have to work as physically hard as farmers do (that’s why America is so fat), so I think of my running as my equivalent way to keep myself healthy. My grandpa and dad worked so hard every day; that’s what kept them healthy. I invent hard work for myself. So that’s one illustration of a cultural divide related to social media.

    Back to the technology aspect. Having lived in some medium-sized cities as well as little farm towns, I can tell you that city people are much more impulsive, probably because they are faced with so many more options in their daily lives. Signing up for text alerts is designed for a population with poor impulse control: “A great deal? Maybe I’ll go buy a car today!” However, people in rural areas are less impulsive: “Why would I want your alerts? It won’t be time for a new car for 3 more years!”

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  7. Hi Justin! The end of your post has me really curious about who the next generation of farmers in your community will be. Is it the children of the current farmers? And are they off to school at the nearby university? I love that it sounds like you and your company did a better job reading your audience than the business intern (it sort of reminds me of the movie Doc Holywood). I think it’s awesome that you all figured out how to build community through the Facebook page (with colloquial language, etc)…I think you should post an excerpt/example!

    Thanks,

    Chase

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