Between weeding, watering, harvesting crops, caring for livestock, repairing equipment and performing sundry other tasks, maintaining a robust presence on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram isn’t exactly top-of-mind for most busy farmers. Even so, Jimmy Myers, owner and operator of Front 9 Farm in Lodi, Ohio, put in a remarkable effort last spring.
“It did take a fair amount of time,” he admits.
Looking to grow his CSA and increase general awareness, Myers worked with a few talented friends to create an original, three-minute music video, “So Farm Fresh and Clean—A Market Farmer CSA Rap.”
“I released it on YouTube last year a little bit into the season,” he says. (View the video below or on the the farm’s website.)
To date, he has been thrilled with the results. “Our customers at the farmers market think the video is great,” Myers says. “It has made us more well-known in the area, too.”
Fortunately, creating digital content for your farm need not be nearly as intensive. With a little planning and the right tools, you can improve your social media skills and enjoy real-world benefits as a result.
Pick a Platform
It’s simply not reasonable—or even necessary—to be on every imaginable social media platform. Instead, focus your efforts on one or two. Not sure which ones to consider? Clearly identifying your goals help simplify your choice.
For instance, maybe you want to attract more attendees to your farmers market booth or you need to advertise special events at your farm. With local event-posting options, Facebook might be your best option.
Looking to increase CSA subscriptions or just want to boost word of mouth? You might want to rely mostly on Instagram to tempt potential customers with artful images of your mouth-watering produce.
For his part, Myers really values Instagram as well as Facebook.
“People like personal messages, and we share a lot of our personal life on Instagram,” he says. “I feel like that helps connect people to their food, to their farm and to their farmer.”
If you aim to share in-depth digital content such as video farm tours, information on different kinds of produce, or even brief cooking demonstrations, starting your own YouTube channel might be best.
When possible, Myers repurposes content between different platforms. “I’m planning on putting [my YouTube video] up on Facebook again pretty soon,” he says.
Provide Real Value
Ideally, your social media presence should help potential customers get to know you better. And, if you can offer digital content that your farm customers value personally, they’ll be even more likely to become regular customers. (What’s more, if they develop positive feelings about your farm, they’ll also be more likely to help spread the word for you.)
How can you provide personal value? First, rather than continually peppering your followers with posts solely about you, try to vary your subject matter. For example, “how-to” posts have been shown to be especially useful and shareable.
Have a bumper crop of tomatoes? Create a series of posts featuring some of your favorite pasta sauce and salsa recipes.
Posting on a relatively consistent schedule is another way to attract—and retain—potential customers. Still, on certain days you might feel a little uninspired. By creating an “editorial” calendar in advance—including several months of ideas at a time—growing your social media presence will be much easier.
You can start by filling in upcoming holidays, local special events and your farm’s anniversary milestones. And, including famous birthdays, historical events, weird holidays and other dates can pay off. For these, Chase’s Calendar of Events is a good (albeit expensive) secret weapon for more post ideas.
Among the entries you’ll find? October is “Vegetarian Awareness Month,” and May 23 is officially “National Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Day.”
Posts that Pop
Viewers are much more likely to engage with your content if it includes visual elements such as videos, photos or infographics. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a graphic designer to create posts that pop.
Want to design a special announcement or an enticing invitation? Canva is a free, Web-based design tool that includes predesigned social media templates for Facebook, YouTube and others, as well as assorted layouts, fonts and other goodies.
Or, say you have a good post idea but lack an accompanying image. In that case, you can turn to online resources such as Freepik, Pixabay, Morguefile or Wikimedia Commons for downloadable illustrations or photos. Each of these is searchable and includes a mix of graphics—many of which are free and available for commercial use with proper attribution.
Just be sure to read associated copyright notices carefully and follow the instructions for anything you use.
Set It & Forget It?
If making time to post regularly is a hardship for you, social media post scheduling tools—such as Hootsuite, Hopper HQ or Planoly, among others—can make life easier. Enabling users to create posts in advance and release them at specific times, many of these web-based programs have free, bare-bones versions and fancier, paid options, too.
(Facebook features its own advance-posting capabilities.)
Just don’t get carried away. Writer Kenzi Wood, who specializes in generating content for marketing agencies, recalls spending hours coaching a client on how to use Hootsuite.
“Something didn’t translate … and they ended up posting their entire collection of content at once,” she says. “Three months’ worth of content spewed onto their social accounts, and it was a nightmare.”
As a precaution, it’s a good idea to save all of your planned posts in a separate file. Sarah Scott, founder of the marketing intelligence firm Amboxie, warns that if your software goes down or has a glitch, there goes all of your content and none of your posts will be posted.
Finally, following a “set-it-and-forget-it” strategy doesn’t mean you can neglect your social media accounts. Actually, you should monitor—and respond to—social media engagement each day as needed.
After all, those online followers just might become your newest and most loyal customers.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.