When you are in the industry you tend to think that Social Media and the Social Web permeates everything in life these days. I was sitting back pondering all the ways in which Social Media has impacted what I do, how I work, where I work and so on. And I suddenly realised that there is a big part of what I am and do that social media has so far had zero impact impact on.
In one of my many pursuits, I have a cattle property. And the most common way to buy and sell cattle is through country saleyards. Country saleyards haven’t changed much in 50 years though I will admit that online auctions are becoming more common. However, the vast majority of cattle sales happen the old fashioned way. And local saleyards are the most intimidating places on earth when you haven’t seen one before – in fact, even if you have seen them they are pretty intimidating. And Social Media is of zero use in navigating the local saleyards – physically or figuratively! Not only are saleyards full of cattle, cattle shit, flies and so on but they are inhabited by a bunch of people who literally couldn’t care less about social media.
Firstly, anyone who turns up at a saleyard with a smartphone of some description is immediately tagged as a city type. If the phone were go off during the auction with some fancy ringtone you would probably be forced to leave the yards out of sheer embarrassment. In the yards, cattle are bought and sold on the basis of small facial movement, a finger movement, a wink – that the auctioneers are watching every face for very carefully whilst speaking at 3000 miles per sec. No time for the phone here. And if you mention Twitter, they’ll certainly think you are one.
The sale yards are incredibly complex with gates, and walkways and pens and overhead ramps. Getting lost or stuck is pretty easy. No Google maps to help you. And don’t even think of checking in on Foursquare. No, this is good old fashioned walking around to find your own way. No mayor has left any tips. No badges to get unlocked here.
Sales are conducted on two different basis. One is called a ‘Fat Sale’ where cattle are bought and sold on a price per kilo basis. Bidding is in cents per kilo and extraordinarily rapid. No iphone app to help here – you need to know how much per kilo, you need to be able to judge the weight of an animal by eye (no, they are not weighed prior to the sale) and you need to know what cattle ‘dress out’ at. The second sale type is ‘store’ sale where the bidding is on a price per head basis. Just as rapid as a Fat Sale but you better be paying attention and know what type of sale you are at – no time to check Facebook here – or else you could end up paying a living fortune for a pen of cattle.I once asked why a fat sale starts at 9am and a store sale starts at 11am. I can’t decribe the looks of sheer pity I got for the dumbness of the question. Obviously, in a fat sale you have to weigh the animals later to figure out the sale prices and that takes time. You start 2 hours earlier so you can still get to the pub at the same time at the end of the sale. Find that in Wikipedia.
And to give you an idea of speed, 800 cattle organised in pens of 3 to 20 are often sold in just over an hour. So you can talk to me about real time speed of the web and modern tools but they cannot keep up with this. And you know, that’s ok with me. Whilst I make a lot of my career and living out of the social web and the impact its having on businesses its kind of nice to have a small part of my life where social media doesn’t play; where time honoured tradition still plays a big role.
And in many ways its an embodiment of one the first things I advise my clients – if your customers are not on the social web and don’t use social media then you don’t need to be there either! And I suspect its going to be a while before we see Social Media in the Cattleyards