6 Ways Farmers Can Turn an Instagram Following Into Sales

Instagram is a growing social media platform that now offers the option of direct sales. Here's how to establish a following and lead customers to you.

by Jesse Frost
PHOTO: @roughdraftfarmstead/Instagram

The social media platform Instagram holds an enormous amount of potential for small scale farmers to promote their farms. It now even allows direct sales from the platform (with a little work). Getting a lot of followers is a great initial step, but it takes some additional work to convert that to sales.

Let’s look at some of the ways to make your presence on this social media platform grow but also effectively turn it into a marketing platform. Whether you marketing a community-supported agriculture operation (commonly called a CSA), a farmers market booth, a product such as farmstead soap or something else, you have many ways to make Instagram a perfect tool for selling.

Primer: What is Instagram?

Instagram is an image-driven platform where users can post photos with captions. You can “like” the photos of other users and also “follow” those users. You can post video snippets called “stories” that can be as long as 60 seconds that are generally less curated than posts. The number of total users on Instagram is expeted to pass 110 million in 2019.

1. Build Your Following

Consider a few important factors when it comes to building up a a good Instagram following, which in turn can help you sell your products. First, although the quality of your photos needn’t be professional, they must be clear and not blurry. Follow a few other successful farmers on Instagram and see what they post. Popular posts usually involve people, animals and places. So a person holding vegetables or petting a cow on your farm is always good fodder. Being in the photos usually helps to establish your brand as a family brand, but is not a requirement. Don’t be afraid to just put up some photos and see what gets the most response. Once a day is fine. Five times a week is plenty. Too many posts can drive away traffic, so be judicious.

2. Emphasize Your Location: Local

Seeing that most farmers want to sell locally, and customers want to buy locally, establish yourself as a proud local business. Use hashtags—the “number” sign—with a word connected such as #farma. Examples are #urbanfarm, #chicago and #growyourown. Place these at the bottom of your post. These tags allow people to search, so, for example, if a Chicago resident is looking for an urban farm, he or she might enter two of the above examples and find yours. There are many ways to do this, but if people know where you are they will know to look for you, so always post pictures and stories from your market or wherever you sell.

3. Use the Stories Feature

Instagram “stories,” which appear as the little bubbles at the top of the app, are a very casual affair yet they generally get a lot of engagement. A good story needn’t be high quality, it just has to be genuine. Take a snapshot of what you’re doing—moving the animals, setting up for market—and share it. Customers will enjoy seeing the “behind the scenes” of your business and feel more connected. In fact, “stories” is a good term for it—getting people connected to your story, whether through these snippets or your photos, is a great way to get them to support you and become another part of your story.

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4. Let People Know You’re Selling

In order to sell something, you must make it known that it is for sale. Once you get people invested in your story as described above, take some time to design a promotional campaign. This does not have to be anything fancy, just a few mentions of, say, your CSA before you launch it, then a plan for each week how you will promote it. Make them nice as can be, however. Trade some product for some nice photographs even. Or if you are preparing to do a market, lead up to that point by posting photos of the preparation in the garden or around the farm. Share the good, some of the bad and also some of the ugly––it doesn’t have to be too curated. Customers like authenticity.

5. Promote Your Posts

When you’re ready to sell something—a CSA for instance—Instagram offers you the option to promote your post so it will reach your entire following and beyond. This is also connected to your Facebook (which owns Instagram), and is another great way to promote. Why is it great? Both platforms allow you to target exactly the clientele you want through keywords and location. So Facebook and Instagram can advertise directly to those who might have an interest in your product based on how you set it up and the keywords you use (such as local food, yoga, paleo and so on).

6. Sell Directly From Instagram

If you have a big product list, Instagram now offers sales directly through its app. I have not seen many farmers doing this but it could be a great opportunity. There are a few stipulations and rules you must follow to get set up, but it could be a great way to sell certain farm products.

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