Communicating cooperatively: Exploring the social media platforms and online communication channels utilized among agricultural commodity cooperatives in Texas

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2022-05

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Abstract

Currently, there has been little research or exploration about cooperatives’ communication efforts and strategies when communicating with their members. Integrating social media platforms and online communication channels in a cooperative’s strategic communication plan could help foster the relationship between the cooperative and its members. Using the Organizational-Public Relations Theory (Ledingham & Bruning, 1998), this study was founded on the principle that cooperatives build relationships with their members, the owners of the cooperative, through frequent and clear two-way communication. Communication helps organizations build and maintain relationships with external publics, like cooperative members. These relationships are crucial to an organization’s success, and lack of communication can adversely affect the relationship, leading to organization failure in some cases. This study sought to identify social media platforms and communication channels utilized by agricultural commodity cooperatives in Texas, analyze cooperative managers’ perceptions and communication strategies when using these tools to communicate with their members. A two-phase, mixed-methods analysis was utilized to explore this topic. A communications audit of all agricultural commodity cooperatives in Texas (n = 78) was conducted in phase one. This study determined Facebook was the most popular social media platform used by agricultural commodity cooperatives. The findings from phase one directly informed the purpose and research design of phase two. Six agricultural commodity cooperative managers were interviewed to gain insight into the perceptions and communication strategies when using these tools to communicate with their members. This study indicated agricultural commodity cooperatives have been slow to adopt and integrate social media platforms and online communication channels into their communication strategies. There is great potential for researchers, cooperative managers, Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council, and social media strategists to improve two-way communication between agricultural commodity cooperatives and their external publics.

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Keywords

Cooperative, Communication, Cotton Gin, Grain Elevator, Social Media, Texas

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