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How to Tell your Farm Story using Social Media

 

We Are Our Own Gatekeepers

Just a decade ago, the media was dominated by a few (very loud) voices. We watched the TV news at 5 p.m. and read the newspaper over coffee. If, as a farmer or a manufacturer or an inventor, we wanted to tell our story, we wrote up a press release and faxed it out – hoping someone would bite. Or, we sank thousands into advertising.

For the most part, farmers didn’t need to hire a big-city public relations firm to tell consumers that milk came from cows. Then came the social media revolution.

For the first time in history, the “gatekeepers” of media didn’t have the power to pick through a pile of press releases and decide which story to run or which consumer questions to answer (and which to ignore). Suddenly every individual had a public voice and a collective of individuals could create a revolution in a matter of days (literally, in some cases).


What happened next?

An overwhelming number of questions came pouring out of the consumer sector. Suddenly, people who previously thought to themselves “I wonder how many gallons of milk comes from a single cow each day?” could simply Google it. And if they couldn’t find out through Google, they could post the question on their Facebook page. Conversations got started and questions got answered.

The problems and uncertainty for farmers (and all industries) in this open information marketplace lies in the fact that the people who “answer” may have no idea what they are talking about. Misinformation becomes fact. Complicated answers become black-and-white. Conversation becomes argument.

This scenario of question/answer has played out in every industry in every sector in every marketplace. People want to know who is making, growing, shipping and selling the products they buy, eat and use. And they have the right to know. And we should be proud to share our stories with them. The more consumers understand the diverse, complex and fascinating world of food production, the more respect and understanding the industry will earn.


What do we do now?

It’s simple: we embrace transparency and tell our stories honestly with the people we work with, sell to, and learn from. It’s called public relations, agvocacy, conversation, or more simply, storytelling.

We are proud of what we do and are proud of our industry. We put food on the table of hundreds of millions of families each day in North America alone. And we stand together against bad actors and actions.

Of course we must listen to and acknowledge the concerns of those who trust us with their dinners, but with our voices, we must focus on our stories: our future, our technology, our commitment to safety, health, and social and environmental responsibility, our love of the land and our way of life, our dedication to our families. We admit our shortcomings and work to improve.

The more of us who choose to engage proactively and productively in conversation with the consumer audience, the more powerful our message will be. The tools we can use are Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Google+ (to name just a few).

As an ag business newbie and self-proclaimed city slicker, I was honored to be invited to the second Agvocacy 2.0 conference in Nashville, Tennessee, last month. The AgChat Foundation, a social media advocacy organization established to “empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms” held the conference to connect and teach ag professionals like me (and you) how to effectively use online platforms to help us tell our stories.

As I sat in the room a hundred ag professionals who have embraced social media and are using these tools to share these messages, I began to think of all of the millions of others who have yet to engage. Yes, the conference was amazing and I learned a lot. Yes, I think you should try to go, if you can. But, yes, I also understand that many farmers and ag professionals don’t have the time or knowledge to jump into Facebook or Twitter and figure it out.

One of the key messages of Jeff Fowle, AgChat Foundation past board president, in his opening remarks at the Agvocacy 2.0 conference was “reach beyond the choir.”

In my attempt to reach beyond the choir, I am appealing to you — the farmer and industry professional who doesn’t know where to start — pick one place to start.

Set up a Twitter account (it’s simple) and follow @AgChat@agchatfound and me (@amyserves). I’ll help you figure out how to follow along during the weekly AgChat. You can start by just reading the conversation.

Make a Facebook page for your farm (ask around! Your local Chamber of Commerce can probably help, or your teenage kid, for sure!). Connect locally, regionally and through the industry and share your daily life. Start by connecting with others through AgChat Foundation’s page (https://www.facebook.com/AgChatFoundation).

Visit www.agchat.org and read a few of the blog posts highlighted to get an idea about what other people are writing.

If you have something to say, but aren’t sure which avenue to take, connect with the AgChat community or email me and I can try to help.

We’re all in this together. We’re our own gatekeepers and our own storytellers, and through agvocacy, we are our own public relations machine.

Let’s use the tools we have available and get our story out. It’s one we can all be proud to share.

Article courtesy of DCCWaterbeds via Progressive Dairyman

Link Photo courtesy of Paolo Del Signore


How do you use social media to connect with consumers?

Want to learn the meaning of good conversation? Check out Tim Wray in “Get the Conversation Going.”
 

5 Ways Farmers can Increase Traffic and Sales with Facebook

It used to be that you could take your produce to the market every weekend, sell it for cash, and come back to work the fields that evening. You’d forget about your customers entirely until the next weekend. That’s no longer the case. Today’s consumer expects companies of any size to engage with them – and that includes your farm. But promoting your farm and making sales through Facebook isn’t easy.

First, you need to learn the four principles of a successful Facebook campaign.
Focus

Your customers’ attention span is dwindling, and it doesn’t help thatyour farm is competing with literally hundreds of other Facebook accounts. While a good farmer needs to be able to do several things well, trying to do a variety of different things on social media will hurt more than it will help. You won’t be able to please everyone. If you’re a conventional farmer, the odds of winning over organic-only consumers are low. Focus on your target market.

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Photo by Chris Smith

Exponential Growth

The early days of a Facebook marketing plan will give you the same feeling you get when you’re waiting for rain. Hours spent staring at the sky, fingers crossed for even a glimpse of a cloud. Social media marketing works on an exponential level. At the start, maybe one out of your fifty followers shares your picture of a baby calf. However, once you have one thousand followers, twenty or thirty people will share the same picture, resulting in way more eyeballs on your farm. Be patient.

 

Provide Value

You have to earn your audience’s attention, and you do that by providing value. With each post you make, consider what type of value you’re offering. You can break content value down into three basic types:

  • informative
  • entertaining, or
  • engaging.

Informative content gives your audience information they didn’t know before. A quick post on why you can’t hop in the combine after it rains would fit. Entertaining content, such as a video of a barn cat hopping through hay bales, won’t educate your consumers but it’ll brighten their day. Finally, engaging content works by offering your audience opportunities to engage with your farm, usually through discounts and deals.

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Photo by Helge Tenno

Build the Relationship

If someone walked up to you and asked you a question about your farm, would you ignore them? Refusing to respond to any Facebook posts is the Internet equivalent. By responding, you demonstrate to your audience that it’s worth their time to read your posts and comment. You don’t have to comment back, sometimes simply liking a customer’s thought is enough to build good will.

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Photo by YDubel

Now that you know the core of a successful social media campaign, it’s time to develop your action plan. Here are five things you should do on your farm’s Facebook account.

  1. Use Clear Images

We’ve talked about marketing your farm with photos before. Time-strapped people are visual –they won’t read a two page description of a tornado, but they’ll comment on a photoof a wrecked barn. As an added bonus, pictures are far easier for your audience toshare. Use pictures of your farm to draw your consumers to your Facebook account.Think of it as the dinner bell that brings everyone running to the table.

  1. Show Your Farming Lifestyle

Using Facebook successfully means developing a relationship with your audience, and part of that relationship ties to your lifestyle. Maybe it’s just rained and you can’t go combining. Rather than posting about how you’re bored, make a post about how you’re spending time with your family because you can’t go combining. People are following your account because they want something different. Few of them will ever set foot on a farm, sogive them a glimpse into the farming lifestyle.

  1. Giveaways and Contests

A Synscape study found that 42% of people choose to “like” a Facebook brand in the hopes of getting a discount. Don’t disappoint them! Offer your customers discounts and giveaways for promoting your content on Facebook. For example, you could offer five free pounds of ground beef to a randomly selected person who shares your photo. Or perhaps anyone who “likes” you on Facebook is entitled to a 5% discount when it’s time to cash out.

  1. Caption Contests

Living on a farm gives you moments that will make you lose your hair and moments where you won’t be able to stop laughing. Maybe a kitten snuck into your truck when you were not looking and puts its paws on the steering wheel. Perhaps one of your farm hands is covered in mud after slipping from a horse. When things like that happen, take a picture and get your audience in on the fun. Give them the chance to write a caption for the photo, and throw a bottle of BBQ sauce to the best one – or whatever you want your farm to be known for.

  1. Ticking Clock Discounts

When you keep the clock ticking, you encourage people to act now rather than later. For example, if you announce a discount on raspberries, some people will be interested, but they might put it to the back of their mind and forget about it. If you tell them that for this weekend only, raspberries are 50% off at the farmers’ market – they’re a lot more likely to make the trip. Create a ticking clock to push customers past the tipping point.
Facebook and Farming

Don’t think of Facebook as something you’re obligated to do to keep up with other farms. Think of it as an opportunity to connect with your audience and bring them to your farm, at least on a virtual basis. Farming is a business of relationships, from family members helping out during the harvest, to your regular customers picking up a few chickens each year. Use these strategies on Facebook to build relationships that will last as long as you farm.

Link photo courtesy of mkhmarketing