Social media case study: Crowdsourced crops and FarmVille in real life

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National Trust MyFarm branded bull

Courtesy of the National Trust

Most Facebook users will have heard of FarmVille, one of the most popular games on the social network, with almost 47 million monthly active users. And as social gaming has a massive following in the UK,  it’s interesting to hear that the National Trust have launched a real life interpretation of the popular FarmVille game.

The project, called MyFarm, hands over control of the real-life Wimpole Estate to online users, who then vote on all major decisions about running the farm. It’s worth noting that while membership is open to anyone, it costs £30 to sign up for a year, perhaps as a way of ensuring a level of commitment from members.

As the experiment aims to improve education about food-sourcing, their is the potential for families and schools to join in the debate. The project will accept up to 10,000 “farmers” and is actively driving recruitment through Facebook and Twitter.

It seems that MyFarm aims to eventually become an online community as the site has been seeded with blog content and they are using a community manager to liaise between the virtual and real life farmers. Discussions will be held after voting to reflect on how and why a decision was made, and at least one major decision is expected to be voted on per month. There is already a promising amount of high quality video content available, and I hope that be more produced as a great way of giving engaging feedback to the farmers, as well as showing how their online decisions have affected the real world.

While the site includes The National Trust branding in the main banner of the site, the call to action for signing up to the National Trust is featured well below the fold of the website-potentially a wasted opportunity to promote membership to the main charity. Perhaps it has been designed this way to reduce diversion from the primary aim of signing on farmers.

The first vote will open on May 26th and the National Trust aims to reach 10,000 farmers within 3 months. I hope that they are successful in reaching this goal, as the experimental and educational value of this project is exciting and it will be worth keeping an eye on to see how things develop.

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