Online Media Analytics in Agribusinesses (or Lack Thereof)

January 25, 2021 | Letters

Authors: Jinho Jung, Graduate Research Assistant, Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics
Courtney Bir, Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics
Nicole Olynk Widmar, Associate Head and Professor, Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics
John Lai, Assistant Professor Overlooking Agribusiness Economics, University of Florida Food and Resource Economics Department
W. Scott Downey, Director and Professor, Purdue University Center for Food and Agricultural Business
Aissa Good, Associate Director, Purdue University Center for Food and Agricultural Business

social media icons on an iphone home screen

Culnan et al. (2010) found that Fortune 500 companies use at least one of the most popular social media platforms for their interaction with customers despite variations in the use of the platforms by industries. Contrarily, according to Brandwatch (2016a), agricultural industries are one of the least developed in the use of social media. As of 2016, only 65% of agricultural firms had a social media presence, generating two million mentions annually about their brands.

In the first Consumer Corner letter of 2021, we explored new media and online media as a way for agribusinesses to connect to their customers, yet not all of the agricultural firms present in the social media space are even active on the platforms where they are present. According to Brandwatch (2016b), only 1% of the 130,520 mentions directed to an agricultural brand over five months received a response. This lack of social media usage and focus may be attributed to the fact that agricultural firms belong largely to Business-to-Business (B2B) industries where social media has been less developed or may be perceived as less impactful. Regardless of the reasoning, agriculture is still the least matured industry among B2B organizations, accounting for 6% of the total mentions of B2B brands (Brandwatch, 2016b).

Social media use by firms is not limited to unilaterally conveying messages to the public or marketing strategies to consumers. Firms also monitor sentiment expressed and comments posted on blogs, review pages or forums via social media listening or social listening (used interchangeably) in order to improve their products, services or relationships with customers. Social media listening has been showcased here in Consumer Corner over topics such as eggs, Thanksgiving 2020, Halloween 2020 and even Disney World.

Companies sometimes react directly to campaigns put on by social activists. For example, Kraft Foods changed its ingredients in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese after Food Babe and her army of supporters delivered a petition with over 270,000 signatures and hijacked Kraft’s Facebook page asking Kraft to remove the petroleum-based dyes, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 (Veil et al., 2019). In 2003, Kraft Foods reduced the amount of trans fat in its Oreo cookies after carefully monitoring the public sentiment on blogs (Terdiman, 2006).

Social Media Analytics in Agricultural Industries

The scarcity and immaturity of the analysis of social listening generated data in agricultural industries in comparison to other industries is surprising considering that agricultural companies at all stages of the vertical chain already appreciate the value of data analytics (Pham and Stack, 2018). For example, seed input and machinery companies employ data analytics in their own decision making and help farmers make planting decisions, which is represented as Precision Agriculture (Pham and Stack, 2018).

However, an absence of B2B corporations from social media space does not necessarily mean there is no conversation surrounding the brands. Note that, according to (Brandwatch, 2016b), social media platforms generate two million mentions about agricultural brands annually, and 59% of emotive language about agricultural firms is negative.

The relationship between actual characteristics in agribusiness and management areas and associated sentiment from social media may constitute a valuable case to help agricultural firms consider gleaning public perception data to inform management decisions. In particular, social listening may offer the opportunity to manage public relations issues before they develop into significant events. Or, alternatively, when a brand faces serious public relations issues, social listening may potentially be used to measure or monitor negative sentiment and/or improvements. 

So, that’s exactly what we’ve done. Stay tuned for online media data analytics dedicated to top seed industry agribusiness firms here on Consumer Corner …

References

Brandwatch. 2016a. Agriculture and Food Production Brands on Social Media. Available at https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/social-media-report-for-agriculture-brands/

Brandwatch. 2016b. B2B Industry Spotlight: Agriculture and Food Production. Available at https://www.brandwatch.com/reports/b2b-industry-spotlight-agriculture-and-food-production/

Culnan, M. J., McHugh, P. J., & Zubillaga, J. I. 2010. How large U.S. companies can use twitter and other social media to gain business value. MIS Q. Executive 9(4), 243-259.

Pham, X., & Stack, M. 2018. How data analytics is transforming agriculture. Business Horizons 61:125-133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2017.09.011

Terdiman, D. 2006. Why companies monitor blogs. CNET. Available at https://www.cnet.com/news/why-companies-monitor-blogs/

Veil, S. R., Reno, J., Freihaut, R., & Oldham, J. 2019. Online activists vs. Kraft foods: A case of social media hijacking. Public Relations Review 41(1), 103-108.

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