I have to admit I get excited when I talk to people about social media and using it in business. When I say social media, most people seem to roll their eyes as if to say, whats the point, or suggest the only value in social media is to have an online gossip or waste time.
I reckon that is a big underestimation of the usefulness of social media, particularly in business. A quick look at some of the numbers in Australia, suggest that of the people who have internet access, 60% have a Facebook account. The average use of Facebook is about 4 times a day and most people use it every day. Other social media tools like Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and Trip Advisor all have significant use by Australians in all walks of life.
The simple fact is, we are an age where people expect to access information and a connection with trusted sources of that information immediately. If it is sharing family pictures or searching for information on the weather or a place to eat, people are turning to social media to get that information.
This is the opportunity to tap into that demand. Smart businesses see social media as a way of connecting with their customers and potential customers in a way that has never really been an option in the past. It is pretty obvious that people want to connect with businesses and products. They like to see images and stories of business and products they support doing well in the marketplace.
The best social media strategies encourage clients and other people to engage with a business. That engagement needs to lead to a recognition of the business as a 'go to' for information and ideas.
Well, thats what I am trying to achieve with RaynerAg and I have been teaching businesses how to do this in their own social media programs.
What does surprise me is how little though people give to the things they post and share on social media. I've seen all sorts of things from tweets that contain swear words, to nasty comments, negative observations or criticism of businesses or government policy. It seems some people confuse their ability to share their thoughts with the the impact their thoughts might have on their businesses recognition as a 'go to' source of information and ideas.
I reckon it is very unlikely that people are going to go looking for advice or to support a product when they see a series of negative posts or comments.
Many people think it is just common sense that you don't post negative material or comments. Yet every day I see them on Twitter, Facebook or on other sites. So I reckon there is a gap between common sense and what really happens!
Ideally when I am teaching businesses how to use social media as part of their brand awareness, I want them to see the excitement that comes from sharing ideas and information across a much broader range of people than they could access from traditional advertising. I really hope they become businesses that develop a reputation for information that is trusted and useful. More importantly I want to help businesses or individuals avoid posting something that makes me ask "Did you just tweet that?"
I'm often asked by producers for my ideas on ways to increase the income they receive for their cattle. Getting a better return is something most people want from their cattle. And along with the desire to make a better return, there is always some new idea or marketing strategy that someone wants to do because they have heard it will make them more money!
Sadly I don't think there is one simple scheme, breed or idea that will guarantee you will make more money! In my experience the way to make money in cattle production is through a combination of work and focus. And while most people work hard, the focus is often the area that is most lacking.
So what should you be focussing on? The first thing is your market. Australian beef markets are well defined. If you are selling cattle to a feedlot or to an abattoir, both of these destinations can clearly describe what type of cattle they want to buy and they can say how much they are prepared to pay for those cattle.
Despite these specifications being readily available, many people don't appreciate what a powerful tool they are in helping you make money.
Specifications provide you with target weights and fatness. This helps you determine suitable growth paths on farm for your animals. It means you can use your feed reserves and make grazing decisions that will direct your animals to a market end point. This is the focus that many people need to have but often don't.
Sadly I often see people who put cattle into a market and those animals are overweight or over fat. This creates a few problems. Firstly the animals are out of specification, and so will be valued at a discounted level. So instead of an optimum price per kilogram, it is sometime much lower than the animals deserve.
Secondly it takes your feed resources, and therefore adds to the cost of producing those animals, to get them to the weight you sold them. So not only are they worth less per kilogram, but you also wasted feed getting them to that point.
I reckon a lot of people don't notice they are losing money. The extra weight, even though it has a lower value, will mask the lower each animal has made. So that producers often miss the fact their animals didn't receive the optimum price.
Focussing on a market specification, either for feedlots of for processing, helps set realistic work goals. Decisions about grazing management, feeding programs and other tactical decisions become easier if you are working towards an end point.
More importantly at a strategic level you can start examining your genetics and your herd. Are your bulls helping you achieve the correct growth rates and level of fatness required by your target market? Do you need to be selecting a different type of cow in the breeding herd?
Are your pastures capable of supporting your growth program?
These are important decisions that can help you target your financial resources more effectively in the long term. While in the short term you can focus on hitting a market specification that will return you the greatest return.
I recently worked with a client who was aiming for a specification for a feedlot. The optimum price was for steers that were 400 - 449kg. Over 450kg the price difference was 5c/kg lower. Initially this didn't seem to bad, however we started to look at the feed resources we had to use. The extra cost in this instance to get steers over 450kg, effectively worked out to be the equivalent of a 25c/kg discount! We started to look at how we were growing those steers, and by aiming for an earlier turn off at the optimum weight we were able to save around $70/hd on the steers that normally would have been in the heavy category. To wrap this story up in past years about 10 - 15 steers would always have been too heavy, so we saved around $1000 by making a few changes and staying more focused on the plan!
There is no doubt we had to work a little bit harder and change a few management practices. However I reckon using resources more efficiently, and targeting a specification more closely, has helped realise better returns on farm.
I reckon working with producers to be more focussed and efficient in their work programs has helped gain a better return for the clients I've worked with.
I love agricultural shows! I'm not really sure where that love came from. I have an early memory of going to the Picton Show as a small child, and I remember seeing cattle being judged. I'm certain they were Charolais because in my mind they were big white animals. While Picton is now close to the outskirts of Sydney, the Royal Easter Show was too far for us to go to until I was much older.