Well Stirred Shit

BY JIM WEBSTER

There are more ways of stirring up a slurry pit Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Parking a tractor with a slurry stirrer by the side of the pit suddenly seems so pedestrian. There again, at least with the tractor you’ve less chance of an early bath. The picture below is a still from a video available on Facebook but, on account of somebody else’s perversion, it won’t let the link be shown here.

Now you might ask why the need to keep a slurry pit well stirred should remind me of social media? It’s just that three organisations I’m involved with have been agonising about their internet and social media presence. The embarrassing thing is that when they discuss their website, I haven’t looked at it for months, years, or in some cases, for ever.

Why? Because the websites are worthy, have a lot of very useful documents and suchlike on them available for those who need them. But I’ve never needed them. Why would I go to the website? Anyway, I know who to ask in the real world.

If I want to know something that real people don’t know, I’m afraid I go to Google or some other search engine and start my search there. Yes, the search engine will probably bring me to one of these websites I know, but a search engine will also take me to other websites which might give me an interesting angle on the issue.

Some websites are just notoriously bad. They’re huge, and the internal search function doesn’t work too well. Gov.uk is a bit like that. It can be faster using a search engine that drops you to the right page faster than the website does.

But the thing about all this is that it’s work. You go on the web page when you need stuff. So I was asked by somebody if I’d seen something on the Rural Payments Agency website. The answer was ‘No’ because I go on that website perhaps twice a year. When I go on, I’m doing a specific job, I’m busy, I just want the information I want. So I’m not going to wander round the website ‘whilst I’m there’ seeing what else they’ve go.

It has occurred to me that we have two internets, the ‘worthy’ and the ‘fun’. The organisations that have the most reach are the ones who realise this and have the courage to go out there and be ‘fun’. In case you’ve not come across them, the Orkney Library is an example of how you do this. They have 73.9K twitter followers. Given that the population of Orkney is just over 22K it’s obvious that they’ve got a large international following.

They tweet with a photo of the queue waiting for the library to open (a duck), and you get a running update of the two doves who’re building a nest on the drainpipes. As well as this they have updates on local archaeological excavations, news on fun new books that the library has acquired (Dancing with Cats) and knitted hats for a project they’re running. All profusely illustrated.

The problem with social media is that it’s the clash of two different worlds. There are people who want to have fun and keep in touch with friends, and there are people who want to sell them stuff.

I confess I’m probably in the second category. I joined Facebook back in about 2009 because when doing freelance journalism, searches would take me onto Facebook. So I set up an account and a Facebook page. Facebook even ended up with an old email address that died when I changed ISP and it was six or seven years before I had to give them one that worked. My Facebook page was specifically set up so nobody could find it or post to it. It wasn’t until 2011 when I had a book to sell that I started posting stuff on Facebook.

You soon learn that screaming ‘buy my book’ is never going to work. I would suggest that 99.999% of people who come onto Facebook do so with no intention of ever buying books from people haranguing them on the platform. Indeed I understand this entirely because I too am irritated by adverts that appear on my news feed. But then I tend to deal with this by rarely looking at my news feed. When I come on to Facebook, I’ll check for messages. Various friends and family members tend to prefer to contact people through messenger. In the past I’ve had to explain, slowly and carefully, and in some cases multiple times, that the only time I see Facebook is when I’m at home on the PC. I’ll check the notifications, perhaps skim a couple of groups I follow and then I’ll leave Facebook and do something more interesting.

So if you’re going to the trouble of having a ‘web presence’, perhaps that’s the answer. If you want people to take any notice of you, you’ve got to be more interesting, you’ve got to be fun.

Which brings us back to our video, it was posted by drijfmesttechniek.nl who specialise in slurry technology. If you go on their Facebook page, you’ll see the video. It has to be admitted that they got my attention in a way that a page of slurry pump specifications would never have managed.

So whenever any organisation asks my opinion of their website now, I just ask them how pious and worthy they intend to be. I am coming to the conclusion that if they are on the worthy end of the spectrum, they’re wasting money spending a fortune on a web designer.  Frankly I suspect that all their website needs is a real world address, a phone contact number, a brief guide to the organisation and an email address. Because who is ever going to look at more?

Jim Webster farms at the bottom end of South Cumbria. Jim was encouraged to collect together into a book some blog posts he’d written because of their insight into Cumbrian farming and rural life (rain, sheep, quad-bikes and dogs) It’s available here.