MADISON — Last spring, Katie Dotter-Pyle, a dairy farmer in Maryland, was busy scrubbing dividers in her calf barn, listening to music pumping from a Bluetooth speaker she carries with her when completing chores around the farm. One of her favorite songs came on the radio — and she couldn’t help but bust a move.
She later posted a video of herself dancing in her barn to Facebook with the hashtag “#DairyDanceOff,” starting a viral phenomenon that got dairy farmers across the globe smiling, even if it was just for a moment while watching or filming their own video.
“I saw Katie’s video as a dance battle challenge,” said Jessica Peters, a dairy farmer from Pennsylvania and friend of Dotter-Pyle’s. “And the second I pressed send (on my own video), I knew it would be a thing.”
The women behind #DairyDanceOff have lost count of how many videos were posted by dairy farmers last year, but those posted received millions of views, with infants to 80-year-olds and farmers with 30 cows to 6,000 cows, showing off their dance moves on farming operations all across the country. The videos were shared by other farmers, agricultural organizations, universities and more — starting as a nationwide trend before going international.
“It was a global sensation we never expected,” Dotter-Pyle said.
“And the best part was getting direct messages from farmers we’ve never met, and probably never will meet, thanking us for getting them to smile for the first time in months,” Peters said.
Having fun is kind of Peters’ life motto, she admitted. She and Dotter-Pyle use that motto to share their farm’s stories on Facebook and Instagram, giving attendees of the Dairy Strong conference last week tips on how to communicate their own farm stories on social media.
“Something happens on your farm every day that you can post about,” Dotter-Pyle said.
When it comes to content, share personal photos of yourself and your animals; research shows that people engage more when humans and animals are photographed together, Dotter-Pyle said.
In posts, tell about what you do as a farmer and why you do it that way, and be positive, even when others are not. If the topic is serious or the farmer feels it needs more thought put into it, take the time to write the post out and reread it to make sure it’s communicating the right message before posting.
The women also advised farmers to not post photos that only farmers will understand or to use farm jargon that consumers may not understand. Don’t get angry or defensive, even if you disagree with something someone said, and don’t ignore authentic questions from curious consumers. They also recommended farmers not post photos that may be questionable, such as photos of dirty animals, equipment or a procedure without an explanation.
Dotter-Pyle and Peters both share a lot of videos on their social media. They recommended videos be around two minutes long, and don’t mind sharing outtakes and fun bloopers with their combined 12,000 followers. And like most anything else, the more videos you post, the better you’ll get at recording them, Peters added.
In fact, both women agree that farmers have an opportunity with videos, especially if they can upload them to YouTube, a social media platform that millions of people use every day.
“I think YouTube is where we need to go and not a lot of us are there,” Peters said. “Video, in general, is where we need to go.”
Dotter-Pyle uses Facebook Live videos quite often, using the hashtag “#AskFarmersNotGoogle” to encourage viewers to send her questions about dairy farming. She said she gets two to three message each week taking advantage of her willingness to share and educate.
“It’s about building relationships, not being preached to,” Peters said.
The women were also excited to share that they are launching a new project on social, but couldn’t provide many details. Those interested in checking out their next project can follow Peters at Spruce Row Farm on Facebook and seejessfarm on Instagram, and Dotterer-Pyle can be followed at Cow Comfort Inn Dairy on Facebook and cowcomfort inndairy on Instagram.
“We’re doing this because we love this industry,” Peters said.
“And the more voices we have, the better,” Dotterer-Pyle added.