Social Media Steps and Strategies
We talked about the usefulness of social media in agribusiness in a previous post. Now let’s dig deeper into what steps and strategies a solid social media effort would involve if you were to take it on yourself.
Steps to Being Social
First, you’d want to assess your most important audiences and their demographics. That information would help you choose the best social media platform(s) to devote your time and attention. After all, a key rule of advertising – be where your customers are – applies to social media as well.
Then decide on a strategy for using your chosen social platform(s). We’ll touch on a few strategies in a minute. But the next (and often overlooked) step is to set goals: What do you want to accomplish with the time and effort you’re going to spend on social media?
Fortunately, there is a lot of measurability with social media. You can look at the total number of and increase in followers, amount of engagement seen through likes, shares, and comments, and results of calls to action through traffic to links, use of hashtags, and other footprints in the social media sand.
Now that you’ve got planning out of the way, it’s time to set up your social media page(s). Incorporate lots of images and graphics to enliven your pages, and develop content that will inform, entertain and engage your target audience effectively. A good approach to posting is “conversation management;” you want to be active enough on the platform to facilitate two-way communication. Respond to questions in a timely manner, thank customers, and encourage reviews.
And don’t forget about video – it’s highly engaging. New York Animal Agriculture Coalition Executive Director Eileen Jensen came up with a Facebook initiative called “Dairy on the Moo-ve;” they visit dairy farms across the state and go live on Facebook, sharing content from that farm all day long. Their largest audience on Facebook is 30- and 40-year-olds, and they continue to see growth from that segment.
Another key aspect of social media management (often best left to the experts) is following the analytics, interpreting the hard and soft data available (number of followers versus tone of comments) and assessing your strategies’ effectiveness to make adjustments if necessary.
Here are a few ways to approach social media activities with a strategy in mind.
Michael Boehlje, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at Purdue University, said that strategies for success in agriculture include developing “customer intimacy” (not that kind): understanding your customers and what you can do to create value for them. You likely have different types of customers, so your content strategy should differ for direct consumers, farmers markets, restaurants or retailers. (He also advised that farms “get smart” and use consultants, with which we wholeheartedly agree.)
Living your values, being transparent, and engaging customers in authentic relationships builds trust and loyalty. “The emotional connection with the farmer and the values they share is why many people will accept unfamiliar items in their CSA box and learn to prepare them,” said Tim Young in a Small Farm Nation podcast. “They’ll do this because emotion trumps logic in almost all purchasing decisions.”
NYAAC uses Instagram to tug at the heartstrings of consumers with images of adorable calves and silly cows, happy children and tightknit families, idyllic farm scenes and delicious-looking dairy products. With renewed focus on the popular platform, NYAAC doubled their followers in just a few months.
Sharing Your Expertise
Another strategy for building trust is to position yourself as an industry expert. Social media provides opportunities to engage in conversations about our food system, consumer trends, health and safety, policy issues and more. You can not only help move and improve those conversations, but show where you stand at the same time, thereby attracting like-minded consumers.
Organizations that represent farming segments often provide updates or analysis of what’s happening in the industry – and that is content that can be shared by constituents on their social media. Jensen said she sees this from their dairy farms that do have social media. “Our audience is the same as theirs.”
Partnering and Paying
You can also partner with social media influencers to promote your brand or devote some dollars to paid social media marketing. Let’s save those strategies for another day or, if you’re curious now, feel free to contact us to discuss.
We all know, whether intuitively or from data, that word-of-mouth works. Social media is digital word-of-mouth without the limitations of in-person interaction. It expands a person’s reach and provides a place to share, refer and evaluate businesses and products. It creates powerful networks; 81% of people agree that friends’ posts influence their purchasing decisions, according to a Market Force Survey.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media to grow your agribusiness – or your members’. If you’d like help planning or executing a social media strategy, contact us today.
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