COMPENDIUM, IEEC-2023   ( ISBN : 978-81-967860-4-5 )
Theme-4: Advances in Social Management in Agriculture and Allied Sciences

Nosy Neighbors: Leveraging Local Positive Social Pressure and Word of Mouth (WOM) Communications to Persuade Landowners to Adopt Environmental Practices

Jefferson D. Miller

Professor, Agricultural Communications, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, United States


Extension educators and communicators in the United States have long known that word of mouth (WOM) is a key strategy for promoting local programs and activities (Hurst, 2005; Lundy et al., 2021). Social science research on WOM as a marketing tool has been prolific, especially since the advent of social media spawned a new approach to WOM. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 1,000 research articles were published globally on the topic of electronic word of mouth (eWOM) marketing (Verma & Yadav, 2021). Extension educators who are often tasked with marketing new agricultural and environmental sustainability practices have found that providing education alone does not necessarily result in audience members changing their behavior. Audiences--especially agricultural audiences--need prompts and reminders, incentives, and the realization that social norms are changing (Warner & Monaghan, 2020). At the University of Arkansas, a US Land Grant institution, agricultural communications researchers have been examining how to improve landowner adoption of conservation easements (CEs) in the region including northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma. CEs are agreements to restrict sensitive areas of land from certain agriculture and land development practices. A survey of landowners showed that knowledge and awareness of CEs were low, but landowners were internally motivated to protect their land environmentally. Meanwhile, they feared loss of privacy on their land if they entered into a CE agreement, and this fear may have been a stronger influence than their intrinsic conservation values. To combat this problem and build trust, landowners themselves indicated a desire to hear more through WOM communications from their neighbors and peers who have experience with CEs. They also valued in-person communications with locally embedded experts, such as extension agents and non-profit environmental organization representatives. Recommendations included developing a strategy to develop an in-person network to connect landowners who have already adopted CEs with landowners who are prospective adopters. Secondly, more support for locally embedded environmental organization staff was recommended to increase the amount of face-to-face contact with landowners. References Hurst, A. (2005). Local marketing and promotional efforts of Florida Cooperative Extension agents. Unpublished master's thesis. Gainesville, FL. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. Lundy, L., Telg, R., Irani, T., & Varvorines, J. (2021). Extension marketing: Campaign planning and audience analysis (AEC397). Gainesville, FL. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. Verma, S., & Yadav, N. (2021). Past, present, and future of electronic word of mouth (EWOM). Journal of Interactive Marketing, 53(1). Warner, L. A., & Monaghan, P. (2020). Using social norms to increase behavior change in sustainable landscaping. Gainesville, FL. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science.

IEEC-2023 at RARI (SKNAU, Jobner), Jaipur, Rajasthan organised by Society of Extension Education, Agra, India