At every farm marketing seminar we’ve attended (and there have been plenty of them) one consistent message has been the importance of social media. When we started the farm, over ten years ago, we had only a website, and that seemed like a big deal to me. Some years later I joined Facebook, in order to spy on our kids. A lot has changed since then.
What follows are my thoughts on the use of social media for promoting a farm business. Today we have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Their little logos are on our farm signs. There’s a Facebook widget on this blog. These days social media is ubiquitous.
Facebook has been our most important and most successful platform. We get far more traffic there than we do on our website. Until recently we could easily and effectively reach our customers on Facebook. On Friday afternoons we posted a list of what we’d have available at the market the next day. On Mondays we posted a list of items available for delivery that week. It was a terrific way to get free advertising. But unfortunately that is changing now, as I’ll discuss later.
We divide up responsibility for social media. Cherie handles Twitter. Instagram is my responsibility. We divide the Facebook chores between us.
We aim to post once a day on Facebook. Four days a week Cherie does the post and three days a week the job is mine. We try to offer a mix of posts that are entertaining and informative. Sometimes we’ll link to a story of interest to sustainable farming or healthy eating. Sometimes we’ll share information about our product availability. Sometimes we’ll post a pictures from the farm. We have nearly 1,000 Facebook followers–a fairly impressive number for a small farm in a small community–so we must be doing OK.
But Facebook isn’t as good to small businesses as it once was. Now it is able to detect posts that are advertisements and won’t show them to all the followers of the business unless you pay to “boost” the post. I don’t blame Facebook for wanting to be paid for hosting ads, but farms like ours don’t have an advertising budget, so our posts don’t get “boosts.” Lately we don’t even bother posting about the market anymore, since we know the posts will be suppressed. We’re back to using email to communicate with our customers. But we still generate a lot of goodwill with Facebook and many people have told us they enjoy our posts. Even with its flaws I think Facebook is an excellent tool for small businesses. And you can’t beat the price.
As Facebook becomes less important, Instagram is on the rise. Instagram is all about photos. Unlike Facebook it’s not cluttered up with political nonsense. It’s an especially good way to show scenes from the farm and it seems to be becoming increasingly popular. Unfortunately for us out here in the sticks, it’s very difficult to upload photos. And I have to wait till I’m in town (where internet service is better) to try to look at the feed. Still, I recommend getting an Instagram account and posting a few pictures a week, as a way to keep customers connected to what’s happening on the farm.
Some people use Twitter rather than Facebook, so we put out occasional “tweets” to keep connected to them. It’s possible to link social media, so that tweets and Instagram posts are automatically shared on Facebook. We tried that for a while but found it was better to post separately, with the specific media and audience in mind.
Back when we started the business I didn’t plan to have a website. But I was convinced to get one by a friend who told me that a website is indispensable. These days I would say that while a website might be important, a social media presence is even more so.