It all started on a cool spring day in March 2018 when Katie Dotterer-Pyle was cleaning calf dividers at her farm, Cow Comfort Inn Dairy, in Union Bridge, Maryland.
Dotterer-Pyle was feeling the woes of the dairy industry along with personal conflicts when she heard one of her favorite songs, “Havana” by Camila Cabello.
Using a bottle brush and hitting the timer record button on her phone, Dotterer-Pyle took a video of herself singing and dancing to the Latin-infused rhythm. She sent the video through the social media app Snapchat to a group of friends from a leadership conference as an inside joke.
Dotterer-Pyle, who is active on social media, decided to share the fun and silly video on other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Lots of people commented and shared how her video had made them laugh, but when an acquaintance at the time, Jessica Peters of Spruce Row Farms in Meadville, Pennsylvania, challenged her to a dance off, the social media hashtag #dairydanceoff was coined.
“The purpose was to make dairy farmers smile,” Dotterer-Pyle said, and there’s no doubt about it, that goal was met.
Dotterer-Pyle said that she and Peters heard from dairy producers from California to Ireland who commented and posted their own videos, joining in on the fun. At the end of the viral sensation, the two received huge amounts of thank-yous from dairy producers.
The two women also became friends and teamed up to share their passion and lend their voices to the industry in reaching consumers.
“It’s not a choice anymore. Farmers don’t have a choice anymore. We have to be business advocates for our industry and for own products,” she said. “We are so antiquated in this industry,” Dotterer-Pyle said of the dairy industry’s slow move to address the changing climate of consumers’ wants and needs.
Sometimes being a dairy farmer who is active on social media can be frustrating. Dotterer-Pyle said that while the first attack is the worst unnerving and it hurts, she now just selects the spam button and deletes the negative comments. Some of the checkoff programs have resources like Facebook groups, a blocking watch list and other tools that are helpful, still Dotterer-Pyle wishes the organizations offered more support,especially when a farmer is attacked on thier own social media pages.
In January, Dotterer-Pyle and Peters were chosen to speak at the Dairy Strong convention that was held in Madison, Wisconsin. The two presented on ways for inform dairy producers and industry professionals to work together in sharing the dairy story.
“I love the ‘we don’t want you to tell us what you’re doing for us, help us tell consumers what we are doing for them’ quote,” she said farmers are well aware of what promotional groups are doing for them, but they could use the industry’ agribusinesses support in reaching consumers.
They said that agribusinesses companies should try collaborating with farmers and centering their advertisements on reaching both the farmer and consumer demographics. Farmers are short on three things: time, technology and money. These resources are at the fingertips of some agribusinesses, Dotterer-Pyle said.
If farmers go out of business, an agribusiness loses a customer which hurts the industry as a whole, said Dotterer-Pyle.
Agvocates also need to improve their YouTube skills. The algorithm that fosters traffic to a certain page is tricker to master than one for Facebook or Instagram. But it’s the video engagements that draw in the audiences and make the most impact in communicating about dairy, especially if the videos are entertaining and less than 2-mintues long.
Some of the video engagements can be fun and a little silly, which in turn helps build a relationship with the audience, but Dotterer- Pyle said that shows people that she and Peters are not all business.
Recently, inspired by “Meant to Be,” by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line, the two released a parody YouTube video called “Talk to Me” that highlights the importance of having consumers and farmers engaging in conversations. A professional video producer helped them in making the video.
Being a farmer on social media isn’t as hard as it may seem. “Don’t be scared to be yourself and every audience is different &tstr; don’t be scared to collaborate and reach out,” Dotterer-Pyle said. “People think we’re not like them. In reality, the only difference is that we have livestock.”