VAN WERT, Ohio – An Ohio State University Extension educator is getting a taste of the value of social media.
For Andy Kleinschmidt, what started out as a Twitter comment from a colleague at the University of Louisville went from a fun t-shirt project to charitable donations for the Ohio 4-H and Kentucky 4-H organizations.
"I was on a live Twitter ag chat, discussing general agriculture with professionals, colleagues, anyone interested in agriculture, when Jim Chen, dean of University of Louisville Law School, commented that agriculture is 'applied environmental protection,'" said Kleinschmidt. "I never heard agriculture referred to that way before and I thought it would be neat to put it on a t-shirt."
Kleinschmidt said that he expected the t-shirt project to extend to himself, Chen and perhaps a few friends or colleagues, but when he mentioned the t-shirt on Twitter and his blog, interest grew.
"We've had about 35 or 40 people so far buy a shirt. This project wasn't for my personal gain, but where I had the t-shirt made, they wouldn't allow me to set royalties to zero. So, Jim and I decided that any royalties would be donated 50/50 between Ohio 4-H and Kentucky 4-H," said Kleinschmidt. "We also matched the donations and a few other folks have come forward to make a match. To date, about $400 has been donated to the youth organizations."
Kleinschmidt said the project illustrates the capabilities of communicating via social media applications.
"Social media has been a huge driver of how the idea evolved into the current project. We can share real-time information and do so very rapidly, more than what a press release or a phone call could ever accomplish," said Kleinschmidt. "The multiplier effect is pretty powerful in spreading a message."
For Kleinschmidt and Chen, their message was to present a new way of looking at the agricultural industry and show support for the farmer.
"For some folks, agriculture is viewed rather negatively. They see agriculture as being harmful to the environment," said Kleinschmidt. "But Jim's comment that agriculture is applied environmental protection is just that. Today's modern agriculture is a form of environmental protection – the farmer works very hard to raise a crop or raise livestock and protect the environment at the same time."
Kleinschmidt said the project is ongoing and plans to leave the information on his blog as an example of how to use social media as a communication tool, as well as generate more interest in the t-shirt.
For more information, contact Andy Kleinschmidt at (419) 238-1214, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to his blog at http://agvanwert.wordpress.com/ and scroll down the right-hand column to "Cool Ag T-Shirt Now Available."