In just more than a decade, humanity’s relationship with tech has advanced more than in the previous century through the use of social media. We are farther apart yet closer together than at any other point in human history, thanks to free online social platforms where we can connect with new people and speak to them in real time from just about anywhere in the world. These new tools are becoming more critical for small businesses.
Solidify Your Brand
Connecting with your consumer is the ultimate goal in creating a social media account for your business. By sharing things—including stories about your product, photos from your farm, recipes, anecdotes and the things you love about your work—you solidify your brand. By having a memorable image of your brand, customers (and potential customers) are more likely to remember you and seek you (and your business) for your product when they need it. Be memorable in your posts, share from the heart and always take excellent photos.
Through social media, you reach people from all walks of life and from all over the world. Even if you produce food locally or work regionally, don’t underestimate the support available to you from international followers. Loyal followers like, comment and share your posts, making the posts more visible to your local customers and giving your brand and name exposure.
If you connect with customers on your farm or at market, chances are they’ll want to find you online so they can keep up with you and your product. Weeks or even months after the sale, they’ll be reminded of your exchange the next time a post of yours comes up in their social media feed. With this built-in advertising based on real relationships, you can quite easily attract customers for life.
How and What to Post
What you share on social media largely depends on your product. Do you run a dairy farm and sell butter, milk and cheese? Customers will expect photos of the products, but they’ll love behind-the-scenes looks at pregnant cows and newborn calves, the cheese-making process and the story behind your logo. If you have a pick-your-own berry farm, customers will wait for updates on the ripeness and availability of berries. They will also appreciate preserving and freezing recipes as well as tips for the gallons of berries they pick and take home.
To be successful, you need excellent photos and a genuine spirit. Share from the place of your heart, and simultaneously show the best angles of your farm, products and business.
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are photo heavy, and if you work on these platforms, invest in an updated device with a good camera and keep it nearby for big events. Get to know the editing features on your device and the program—Instagram’s filters and editing options are particularly helpful—to make your photos look their best.
For many businesses, posting daily or once every two or three days works well to get started and build a following. Some big brands post only once a week. The more you post, however, the more you are seen and the more your followers and customers remember you. Again, it all comes back to your product and your brand.
What are you selling and to whom? If you make artisanal bread aimed at the gluten-free millennial crowd, then post recipes, tips on how to use your bread—does it freeze well or reheat well?—and ideas for serving.
If your product is cold-roasted fair trade coffee and pastries aimed at morning market-goers, then post reminders the night before with your morning location so they can get their cup of java early.
For organic, local veggies, post photo collages of the vegetables from seed to harvest to show your customers what goes into every vegetable they buy. They’ll feel more connected to their food and remember the experience, too.
The Importance of Hashtags
Hashtags were made to be seen and get you seen. Don’t underestimate the importance of this crucial social media tool. Hashtags are seen by millions of people, and they are one of the best ways for new followers or customers to find you. Use relevant hashtags to your business, but keep it interesting, get creative and mix it up with every post.
Hashtags for something specific that you grow (#organic #blueberries) could be paired with whimsical and honest hashtags (#hardwork #farmerlife). Spend some time looking up hashtags, and see their popularity. Use popular hashtags with 10,000 posts and more for best visibility. Play around with it, and see what works for you.
Make It Work for You
None of us wants to become a slave to social media. Keep a good perspective on it all, and use it to your advantage. Foster a healthy relationship with it, perhaps by coming up with a posting schedule that meets your needs, turning it off after a certain time of day or even hiring a part-time assistant to oversee your social media accounts.
It will be more successful if it comes directly from you, but not at the expense of your health. Take care of yourself and your business, be passionate and share your enthusiasm for your farm, product and business. Your social media accounts will follow suit.
Sidebar: What Not to Post on Social Media
Here are a few tips on how to post legally and ethically on social media.
- Always follow the community guidelines laid out in the platform’s policies.
- Avoid posting negative or nasty posts or comments; #keepingitreal is one of the things that social media is lacking, but you can keep it real while also being professional. Don’t complain, whine or call out competitors or anyone you have conflict with on social media. It only makes you look bad.
- Be only as personal as you feel comfortable sharing. For example, I don’t share photos of my children’s faces on social media professionally, and now on my own personal accounts. I don’t believe it’s my right to share their image because they’re too young to consent. Even teens don’t fully grasp the reality of sharing an image for worldwide public consumption.
- Treat social media as a living journey, one that is endless and stored forever. It’s a bit scary to think about, but what you post to social media never really goes away. Assume that it can always be found and viewed again. Post accordingly.
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.