James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions
Social listening: It’s like eavesdropping on conversations when your customers, prospects, and interested bystanders talk about your industry, your company, and your brand. At Rooster, we believe so strongly in social listening it was one of the first tools we unveiled to clients.
The value is obvious. You can monitor conversations you might not otherwise hear from farmers, as well as investors, industry insiders, activists, and fans. You gain a much better understanding of the conversations in which you need to participate – and those you should avoid. Social listening helps you shape messaging and scheduling. It’s very powerful knowledge.
But social listening, as valuable as it is, can be difficult to measure. That’s why we worked with Brandwatch to create a proprietary agricultural listening query that proactively filters social media, discussion boards, news sites, and other online conversations discussing U.S. agriculture. The query is ever-changing and growing, and currently contains more than 20,000 characters and 3,000 words to identify 3 million individual conversations annually. The analysis and assumptions provided are my own. We provide this report first to our clients, along with more context and sophisticated metrics, before providing this free to the public.
Big Green Strikes Again. The Machinery and Equipment category featured the highest volume of conversation and John Deere was far and away the dominant topic. Granted, several of the highest spikes were on or around October 14 when workers walked off the job, but it’s not uncommon for Deere to win in this category even without a strike. The sentiment of the conversations in this category were neutral to slightly negative, which isn’t a big surprise considering the headwinds of striking factory workers, tightened supply chains, and soaring input costs.
Speaking of rising input costs… Farmers have definitely noted the price increases, especially the cost of nitrogen. Nutrien took advantage of this, capturing the largest share of voice in both the Fertilizer and Retailer categories. Simplot’s announcement that commercially gene-edited strawberries will be available within a few years caused a significant but temporary spike in late October.
Precision Planting: Big fish, smaller pond. The Precision and Tech category is literally a microcosm of Machinery and Equipment, with a volume of tens or hundreds per day compared to its larger counterpart’s hundreds or thousands. Still, it’s surprising to see the volume dip during harvest, which is normally when farmers are actively discussing precision technology. Precision Planting extended its share of voice in this category, helped considerably by pushes from several ag influencers. On the other side of the ledger, something happened at TopCon. After a series of significantly higher-than-normal spikes in late Spring, volume dropped off the table.
The thrill of victory, the agony of the tweet. The Cash Crop Seed Brands category is one of the largest we measure and, for the most part, Pioneer has owned it. That seems to be changing. As discussed in a recent review of ag websites, the company’s restructured pages may have unintentionally dampened traffic. On top of that, the company muzzled their social channels after an unfortunate retweet of a negative comment in October. This is understandable, perhaps, but the harvest season is Christmas morning for seed brands and Pioneer’s competitors aren’t standing still. This is a category we’ll watch closely moving forward.
Keep talking, even if there’s little to say. The Grain Storage category is one of the newer ones that we’re measuring, and it’s become a bit of a case study. Trapped between rising input prices and a diminished supply of raw materials and transportation options, storage manufacturers across the board are struggling to meet demand. So, what should you talk about if you’re not talking about your products? Sukup, the traditional category leader, has pivoted to conversations about what their family and employees are doing, the sponsorships and philanthropies they support, and safety discussions. What’s more, their customers are responding. Stay tuned.
Equipment Publications: It’s all about Pete. “International Harvester refrigerator sold for $300 today on MN auction. Bought in 1954. Still works.” Machinery Pete posted this on Facebook with a photo last October, and was rewarded with more than 1,200 likes, comments, and shares. Such is the popularity of his brand, which continues to help him dominate this category by a wide margin. As far as individual publishers, DTN/Progressive Farmer is typically the most prolific poster in the category. I counted 261 posts from one of their editors in a single month – that’s slightly more than eight per day if you’re counting from home. This helped propel them into the top slot, overtaking Farm Progress once the annual shows concluded.
A slow, four-way race in Animal Health. In one of the smaller-volume categories we measure, you’ll find four companies with virtually interchangeable messaging, most of which seems to be repurposed from press releases and other company information offerings. With so much regulation to weigh through, it’s frankly hard to say something interesting. This category is ripe for a takeover, but it would take a fairly significant social rethink from one of these companies.
What’s next? We’ll keep an eye on all these companies and categories as we head into 2022. And we understand that a report like this one likely raises as many questions as it answers. That’s why we provide our clients with a smorgasbord of options, from a one-time social audit to comprehensive, ongoing programs. If you’re ready to dive deeper into your social execution, let’s talk.