For GenNext Tree Fruit Growers, Social Media Is A Necessity

Andy Sietsema of Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill in Ada, MI, maintains several social media accounts for his family’s business, including Facebook, Twitter, Instgram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

“Social media is a very cheap tool to stay in contact with your customer base,” he says. “It’s also very easy to analyze your customer base with your social media; they do have ways that you can track who your customers are and you your people are who are following you.”

As Sietsema Orchards’ hard cider business has grown, he split the hard cider business off into its own separate Facebook page, since marketing and distribution for the hard cider will extend to several states. Sietsema also uses Pinterest to highlight products at the orchard market, as well as orchard weddings, and even food pairings with the products they sell.

Social media is only one part of maintaining an online presence, though, says Anthony Ndoca, co-owner of Garden Patch Farms in Homer Glen, IL. Ndoca hired Molly Nolan as a graphic designer to maintain the look of the website and to promote the farm through social media.

“It is important to develop an online presence through social media and the website,” he says. “The email that Molly designs and sends out, the Instagram photos, Facebook, Twitter — they’re really all just supplements to our website. Anytime we put anything on Instagram or Twitter, the posts always go to Facebook. Everyone that’s on Facebook is probably getting the email.”

Nolan is expanding Garden Patch Farms’ reach to Google+ and FourSquare. Thanks to the Google+ account, she says the farm now ranks higher in Google searches. Nolan says she is considering whether to offer check-in discounts or deals with FourSquare, but in any case, she plans to use it as a marketing tool.

Ndoca said beefing up their online presence has increased foot traffic through the farm as well as the farm being featured on local TV broadcasts.

“Social media spreads so easily. It’s a big city, we have a ton of people from Chicago – even though we’re 40 miles away – that come to our farm to pick apples,” he says. “All of that publicity comes from an online presence through social media, Twitter, Instagram. Many people would come in and say ‘hey, I saw you guys on Facebook’ or ‘I follow you on Twitter,’ or I’ really like your Instagram photo.’”

Here are some tips from the GenNext Growers on how to best use social media:

Know Your Demographic — “The 25 to 40 (demographic) is really our cup of tea, and that’s who’s spending the most time on Facebook,” Ndoca says.

Use Each Platform Differently — “You’ll use each and every social media platform in a different way. Very rarely will I send the same message out on each and every social media platform,” Sietsema says.

Automate Your Posts, Keep Them Consistent — “I have been working extensively through HootSuite for my postings. It has made my life much easier. I make one post daily, so I want to make sure that I have something that is worth posting, people find interesting, and builds anticipation. It’s been a challenge to post only one item daily, but I think it has paid off,” Nolan says.

(Photo credit: Molly Nolan, Garden Patch Farms)
(Photo credit: Molly Nolan, Garden Patch Farms)

Use Photos — “We posted something about how we had cider doughnuts coming to the farm and I did a really beautiful photo of them and 21 people shared that photo. So I know that 1,000 people saw that photo. We had a ton of zucchini at one point and so I made a Facebook post that said ‘3 for $1’ and sent it out. I had people come in and tell us ‘I just saw that on Facebook,’” Nolan says.

Create A Community — “The majority of it is what we’re doing, letting people know what’s going on on the farm. I think people come in and feel like they’re a part of the farm, like they have an idea as to what’s going on on the farm,” Nolan says. “It ties people together and give them the sense that they are a part of the farm and that’s been really successful.”

Use Blogs To Increase Traffic — “I saw a need for us to have recipes, and the benefit of someone using our produce in an attainable way. I contacted several local bloggers, and now have a few people to whom we provide a small amount of produce and they report back with blogs,” Nolan says. She says the farm has been featured in high-profile blogs, magazines, and newspapers in the Chicago area. “We’ve had a tremendous increase in our Facebook activity, Instagram, and our newsletter is up to around 5,000 people.”

Track Your Social Media Success — “We try to keep track of the activity and the analytics of the website and on Facebook to see what works and what doesn’t, even down to the times that we send an email,” Nolan says. “We have #pickthefarm so we can also keep tabs on what people are saying about the farm and what people are using the hashtag for. It’s also nice to see that people are giving us recommendations via that hashtag and that goes a long way.”

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