Former Google executive encourages farmers to share about their work and lifestyle online to promote agriculture.

Every farmer is a social media influencer in waiting. This provocative perspective was offered by Steve Lerch, a former Google executive and founder of Story Arc, a digital marketing firm, during his keynote address at the 2024 Iowa Pork Congress earlier this year. 

Lerch spoke with farmers and those in allied industries about the need to be more accepting of how and where the next generation of pork consumers learn about livestock production. Young people overwhelmingly access information online, and reaching out to these would-be bacon eaters is vital to the success of the pork industry in the future.

He suggested that it’s up to farmers to be their own marketers to promote pork, and more broadly farming, as a desirable product and acceptable way of life. 

Or put another way, it’s time for farmers to start thinking of themselves as influencers.


“If you can’t get people to pay attention to you, what you have to say doesn’t matter,” Lerch noted. “Anyone can do this. You can jump on TikTok today and start making content. It costs you nothing, and if you don’t like what you made today, you can try again tomorrow.

“Believe me when I say what you do, the products you produce, are definitely interesting enough to go viral.”

Lerch offered tips to producing content for social media and reaching out to younger consumers who are more conditioned to hear messages from a 20-second video clip than a 900-word newspaper story.

“Start thinking of yourself as consumer-facing. You are a brand,” he said.

Finding your passion

He recommends that a farmer-turned-influencer establish what topics are relevant to them and then find a single message and hammer down on it.

“I suggest you stop whispering about several things and start shouting about one thing,” he said. 

For example, if animal welfare is a passion of the farmer, he or she can create posts or videos about how they care for livestock. Get in the barn and share what it’s really like to oversee the well-being of hundreds or thousands of creatures every single day.

And, Lerch suggested, authenticity and honesty are vital to this process, especially to younger generations who have an aversion to things they perceive as too polished or professional looking. 

Join the conversation

It is also vital to be relevant to what people are already talking about, Lerch said.

He suggested looking at what topics are trending online. “Once you figure out what people care about right now, that’s where you should go.”

A free resource he uses is Google Trends, a website that tracks what topics are being searched for and breaks those search results out by region. 

Equipped with relevant topics and the specialized knowledge that only comes from living life as a farmer, ag influencers can easily speak to what the public is talking about at the moment.

“You don’t have to fight for attention. Instead, become part of what’s already getting attention,” Lerch said. “You should really try to understand what matters most to consumers and focus on that.”

Know the competition

Lerch’s final suggestion was to learn from consumer content of others, especially from those outside the social/cultural groups you identify with.

“It’s important for you to get over being uncomfortable about people being different from you,” he said.

Lerch noted that tracking with what the so-called “competition” is doing, such as looking at the messaging and styles of posts from animal rights groups, can inform the creator what topics need to be addressed.

“Look at what they’re doing, then you can copy some of it and do other things differently,” Lerch said. “The more you learn about what consumers think, feel and care about, the better you can target your message to them.”