Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication


Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Communications, Volume 99, No. 2, pp. 44-60


Copyright (c) 2015 Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License


Social networking sites often are used to maintain close social ties, but increasingly they are used for information and news dissemination, specifically about major events and crises. In 2012, a historic drought struck the Midwest, destroying or damaging portions of major field crops in major agricultural production states. By the end of August 2012, 90% of Nebraska was declared in extreme or exceptional drought, leading to bans on irrigation, damaged crops, and record-low yields as well as damaging the state’s leading economic sector. This case study used social media monitoring and analysis to explore online Twitter conversations related to this historic drought in Nebraska during a one-year period.

Researchers determined Twitter conversations increased in quantity as drought conditions worsened, and agricultural issues, environmental impact, extreme weather, effects on the public, and proposals of solutions to address drought were dominant themes among conversations. Twitter served as a news outlet for information and updates about drought conditions, and it contained information from local, national and international sources. The researchers suggest an opportunity exists for educational institutions and organizations to serve as leaders on social media and in social networks to disseminate timely and relevant information related to important public issues, while also monitoring and participating in surrounding discussions. Specifically, attention should be paid by public institutions to building brand equity through the use of concept marketing, audience engagement, use of big data, and thinking personally — strategies that have served private corporations well in monitoring issues of importance to their audiences.