When it comes to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, I figure most folks fall into one of three categories: 1) There are the people who don’t like it, think it is foolish, and maybe even a little wrong. 2) Those of us who use social media and are sure or not so sure if we are benefiting from it. 3) Then there are those are on the fence about joining social media, but maybe a little intimidated by it.
I realize those folks in the first category will not be moved. So be it. But too bad. You are missing a lot whether it be personally or professionally. If you are in this category, you can stop reading here.
Recently, I attended a workshop hosted by the Ag Institute of Florida dedicated to informing ag professionals on effective use of social media. It was a great event, with people sharing success stories on how they’ve put these tools to work in their associations or farm businesses.
I will restrict my discussion here to the use of social media for business and marketing reasons. I will only note, if any folks from category 1 are still reading, the personal use of social media can be so rewarding — seeing pictures of family and friends and reconnecting with old friends who would have otherwise been long lost.
In agriculture, I see two missions for social media — marketing, and educating the larger public about the importance of farming.
Those of you on the fence about joining social media, I say jump on in. It doesn’t cost you anything, and I bet somebody you know would be more than willing to give you a quick lesson just to get you on board.
For those of you already using social media, but not sure it is paying off, I’d refer you to this month’s cover story. Shannon O’Brien has effectively used several social media platforms to promote her family’s retail farm market.
O’Brien Family Farms’ Facebook page has nearly 600 likes. I won’t suggest that all those people are loyal customers, but I bet a good number of them are. If you sell your produce locally and you are on the social media fence, how does a good portion of 600 customers sound to you?
What on earth will I post on those social media sites? That’s a fair question asked by people in categories 2 and 3. Ryan Goodman (aka @AR_ranchhand, per his Twitter handle) spoke during the Ag Institute workshop. He has become a notable agriblogger and has built a strong following in social media. He is a contributor to CNN’s Eatocracy’s blog page where he is often a defender of modern farming practices.
To the question about what to post, Goodman says write about what you are passionate about. In all my experience dealing with farmers, I’ve found most are passionate about growing. So, there’s a start.
One point that rang clear throughout the workshop was to post pictures. You know the adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. Best of all, it is easy to do. Post pictures of your crops’ progress. If you grow U-Pick, post pictures of your customers in the field — that is a promotional gold mine. Better yet, as your network grows, you will find people will start mentioning or posting pictures about your farm in their social media feeds. It becomes viral and will grow your bottom line.