We’re in a social media craze, no doubt about that. Facebook has reached a half billion users worldwide (70 million in the United States), and millions are tweeting and linking and texting. Question is, can you sell apples that way?

While many farm marketers want to use these media to tell their customers when the Honeycrisp are ripe, they have to remember that social media are not one-way streets.

The subject of social media came up repeatedly in presentations during the U.S. Apple Association’s outlook and marketing conference in Chicago this summer.

Alecia Dantico and Janet Helm, who are in public relations at Weber Shandwick’s Chicago office, emphasized that social media are interactive. In the traditional media of print and broadcast, writers and editors, and advertisers, develop the content, and push out “sanctioned and authorized” messages.

Social media are more democratic. Anybody can ­generate a message, or respond to one, and express an opinion. Bad news travels as fast as good news.

The old way is monologue, Dantico said. The new way is dialogue.

In many ways, marketing has been taken out of the hands of marketers, said supermarket guru Phil ­Lempert. “You are not in control anymore. Technology empowers consumers.”

As they network and talk about products on Twitter and Facebook, an endorsement or critique by “friends” can reinforce or offset an expensive advertising ­campaign, he said.

The best way to use social media is to be genuine, Dantico said, and be open to conversation among equals rather than lecturing and selling.
Steven Muro, with Fusion Marketing in Los Angeles, California, said that by 2020 the world’s 7.6 billion people will carry 3 billion mobile devices that will change everything. Instead of a wallet, people will carry smart phones that will put them in instant contact with everything, and through global positioning systems, put everything in contact with them.