Farmers natural TikTok stars

Farmers are natural TikTok stars, says QUT academic

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BELIEVE ME: The approachable and trustworthy reputation of farmers would likely make them good social media influencers, researchers believe.

BELIEVE ME: The approachable and trustworthy reputation of farmers would likely make them good social media influencers, researchers believe.

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Research points to social media 'influencers' as key to reducing food waste.

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RESEARCH is pointing to the effectiveness of social media campaigns in changing behaviour around food waste and those behind the work believe farmers could play a big role.

The researchers say social media campaigns work best as part of a broad promotional mix and when they are fun and inspirational, rather than preachy.

They have identified TikTok as possibly the best platform for the purpose.

The project, led by Dr Jenny Hou from Queensland University of Technology's Digital Media Research Centre and School of Communication, has found social media is especially effective when tapping into cultural identity and aesthetic factors.

"Food waste contributes to 30 per cent of greenhouse gasses and presents a major global sustainability challenge," said Dr Hou.

"Yet it is also a mundane, everyday phenomenon. Unlike veganism, climate change or animal activism, it does not tend to polarise public opinion, so public educational campaigns can link behavioural change to mainstream values like saving money."

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Dr Hou said one of the key findings went beyond household food waste.

"We need to enact a multi-stakeholder, systemic approach to reducing food waste, involving producers, retailers like supermarkets, consumers, environmentalists, activists, community groups and policy-makers," she said.

"Among these stakeholders, there may even be some conflicting interests or values. Therefore, we need to leverage the most accessible social media resources to create an ecosystem of shared values that benefit and mobilise all stakeholders to reduce food waste.

"Due to its participatory work design, Tiktok enables people to translate ordinary stuff in life to social platforms and even make a new wave to lead food waste reduction.

"Farmers, as most approachable and trustworthy 'influencers' can be part of the mix for public education across social platforms. They can advise people on how to pick food for less waste, how to deal with premature fruits, how to store food, or even how to cook with the remaining parts of food people usually discard for an aesthetic reason."

Dr Hou said behavioural change often arose from positive emotion so making a campaign that was fun and inspiring to participate in would work better than one that was designed to shame people.

The research will result in an Evaluation Wheel and Framework of Social Media Impact toolkit that can be drawn on by practitioners, managers, and industries to measure their return on investment in social media campaigns.

Fellow researchers on the project are Professor Amanda Lotz, Professor Greg Hearn and Dr Kelly Lewis.

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