Seven technologies that could help your operation

Jan 13, 2012

You’re likely aware of the Tweeting, blogging, texting world of communication we live in today. But have you ever considered how new technological gadgets could benefit your operation? The more information you have more quickly can help things run more smoothly. And the more ways you have of getting your message out there to potential customers or business partners, the more choices you will have for your operation.

Regardless whether you’re an early adopter of every cutting edge widget or a luddite happy with your hard-lined rotary telephone, here are seven areas of “new” communication technologies you should consider:

1. Smart phones

Products such as Apple’s iPhone, the Android by Google, or the Blackberry are all good examples of smart phones. Their benefit is the near-instant access to information they provide by their integral connection to the internet. By being able to connect via the phone network, the sea of information online is available anywhere you can get a cell signal.

Kenny Rogers of Wagon Wheel Ranch, Yuma, CO, says he uses his Blackberry to access the internet, particularly sites covering commodities markets. “I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the markets,” he comments about his use of the device.

Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairyman, calls his smart phones invaluable. “I couldn’t live without my smart phones at this point.” Rovey keeps a number of devices—two smart phones and a tablet computer— and all serve various functions to his production. His original motivation for two phones was the difference in carrier coverage. He says that is getting to be less of a concern today, however.

If the small size of smart phones is a concern, tablet computers like the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy are good alternatives.

2. Apps

The truncated phrase “apps” refers to very small applications created to complete specific tasks on your smart phone or tablet. The functions of apps range from tracking news to playing games to accessing email to booking travel tickets. If you can think of it, there’s probably an app for it.

The value of apps to your operation depends entirely on which ones you select. One app Rovey mentioned as useful was the Zillow Real Estate app for the iPhone. He said the Zillow app is useful when it comes to looking for ag land for sale.

Selecting apps can be a daunting task given their number. If you’re just starting out with apps on your smart phone or tablet, try going with the old word-ofmouth standby. Ask other producers you know who use smart phones what apps they use and like.

3. Social networking

Is the push for EVERY- ONE to be on a social networking site—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—just a fad? Maybe. Is “you should do it because everyone else is doing it” most of the reasoning behind it? Probably.

So should you ignore it? Nope!

Social networking sites are widely-used forms of online communication. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 65 percent of all adult internet users in 2011 used social networking sites daily. Internet users under 30, unsurprisingly, had much higher numbers, at 83 percent. But even among those over 65, one-third of active internet users were daily users of social media sites.

Why should you care?

Plainly put, if you want to be part of the conversation, you need to be where the conversation is. If you aren’t a part of social media, to those overwhelming numbers of people who are, you don’t exist. Regardless of your goals—bulls to sell, finding replacement hay, or just communicating your opinion—if you ignore where other people are communicating, you could be missing out on a larger audience.

“It’s more important than ever to tell our story,” says Brad Scott, former president of the California Beef Board. He says he sees social media as a way to tell the story of agriculture when less than 2 percent of the population has a connection with it. Social media like Facebook and blogs offer a one-on-one dialog between producers and consumers on a global scale.

4. Internet TV

Purveyors of user-generated video like YouTube or LiveStream can be a wealth of information and amusement. You might be surprised how many useful, homemade videos there are that sit alongside videos of silly cats and babies making funny faces.

Maybe you’ve wanted to know more about training a new cattle dog. Or you’ve needed a better way to repair your barbed wire fences. There could be an excellent short video out there made by someone like you who just happened to have a camera and a different way of doing things. The quality of user-made instructional videos available is impressive.

5. Online marketplaces

Perhaps you’ve heard of Craigslist, the online classified site, as a good place to find a set of used lawn chairs. Or maybe someone has suggested ebay, the online auction site, as the best place to sell your son’s old comic collection gathering dust in the attic. But have you ever considered them as market places for your operation?

A quick check of the “Farm Garden” section on Craigslist Denver brought up postings for roping horses, hay, trailers, grazing lands, ranching services and much more. Ebay similarly has a lot of variety with the diversity of its well-known auction feature and a growing classifieds section.

Don’t forget to check your favorite sites for classified sections, too. At Western Livestock Journal, we have a classified section on our site as well as in our weekly paper. Online you can find it at php.

Though all classified sites come with the caution of “buyer beware” and require the use of good common sense, they can be excellent resources for business.

By the way, your son will likely thank you for NOT selling his comics on ebay.

6. Personalized news

The internet has given us ways to target relevant information. RSS feeds and podcasts are “new” news delivery systems which give you the ability to select what you want to see.

If you like reading, signing up for RSS—Really Simple Syndication—feeds is an excellent choice. RSS feeds come with the benefit of not bogging you down reading an entire newspaper or wading through emailed newsletters. Instead, they send article briefs directly to your email or to a bookmarks folder on your internet browser.

RSS feeds are delivered via “newsfeeders.” Common newsfeeders include Microsoft Outlook and Google Reader. Popular internet browsers like Firefox have newsfeeders built into their bookmarks function.

If you’re more of a radiolover, podcasts are similar and can be automatically delivered through systems like iTunes. Podcasts can be anything from rebroadcasted versions of actual radio shows to user-created “radio” shows on any topic. Podcasts and their benefits are very similar to the usercreated videos of YouTube in this way.

7. Personal website

If you are running an operation and do not have a website, seriously consider getting one. Even if you have no desire to conduct business through a website, having an online presence via a website has powerful merits to consider.

Much as with participation on social networking sites, if you do not have a website, many will see your operation as nonexistent— because they won’t see it! This is especially true of younger audiences you may need or want to reach. These audiences rely heavily on the internet for information in all areas, including business decisions.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to be an expert in arcane programming languages to make a good website these days. Numerous free website-building and -hosting sites exist. Some examples include,, Google Sites (if you have Gmail already), and (for blogs).

If you decide you want a website custom built for you, there are other options. As a recent college graduate myself, I guarantee there are plenty of unemployed recent graphic design graduates who would love your business. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor