Social Media

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.

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37 comments on “Social Media

  1. Sue says:

    We have LOUSY internet as well. In the 8 years we’ve been at this house, you would think things would improve, but obviously it’s more important that companies keep costs low and just rake in the bucks.
    We tried Hughsnet–what a joke. So, I load pics when I can (3 a.,m. works best here) and try to do some when we travel.
    This once great country has put profits before people now and things are only going to get worse.

    Now—past the gloom on my end—Happy Holidays (or if you’re old and stubborn like me–MERRY CHRISTMAS!)

    Like

    • Bill says:

      And a very Merry Christmas to you too Sue!

      If there is one thing I prefer about city life versus country life, it’s high speed internet. We’ve urged the powers that be to make getting high speed internet to rural communities a priority. And not just so we can use Instagram and Youtube. We need it for home-based businesses and telecommuting. Maybe someday…

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  2. Our internet is pretty good through our landline, but when we wanted to get a cell phone we had to find a phone that worked here. We ended up with an inexpensive prepaid phone that works very well compared to the fancy iphone that my husband has to carry for work. His phone gets spotty coverage at best. Our cheapie works very really well. I would have thought they were all the same.

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    • Bill says:

      Cherie is thinking of switching to a phone like that. She’s researched it and it seems to be the best option. My phone is one of the few perks I still get from my old job, but a lot of the fancy features are nearly useless out here. We dream of having high speed internet and 3G phone service someday.

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  3. Laurie Graves says:

    Thanks for laying it out so clearly! After the holidays, I’ll consider posting pictures on Instagram. Luckily, we have good Internet connection.

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    • Bill says:

      It took me a while to come around to Instagram. Our daughter recommended it. It seems to be a popular place these days–more “upbeat” than Facebook or Twitter. But it is awfully hard for us to use it our here due to the weak phone signals. Hoping that will improve…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Good luck! We are lucky to live in a part of the hinterlands where we have fast Internet connect. Also, happy holidays to you and yours. It has been a pleasure to get to know you over the past year, and I look forward to your posts in 2016.

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  4. yes unfortunately some of these social media sites start out with freebies then cash in… I am pleased however Bill that you are doing well this way… And the Net is the way to get noticed…
    Wishing you and yours a Happy Weekend..
    Sue xx

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    • Bill says:

      And a happy weekend to you as well.
      I understand that those companies need to generate revenue. Facebook was smart to wait until the world was hooked on it to start charging businesses. It’s really pretty amazing that they can detect posts that are like ads vs. those that are not. We’ve tried tricking it, but without success. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • We are being watched! lol at every type of keypads Bill… 🙂 I wish I didn’t have the adds on my WP site.. but that’s how they allow me to keep it for free, for now.. They keep limiting and changing things, then dangling the carrot of subscribing to get your own domain.. But so far I am Happy with WP to keep things as they are..
        Enjoy your weekend Bill.. although I know running a farm there are no days off.. xxx Hugs to you and yours Sue

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  5. BeeHappee says:

    What I liked very much about my CSA was their weekly newsletter. Once in a while they post occasional photo or update on Facebook, but the newsletter would come at the same time as the share, and include everything, from description of each vegetable or fruit in the share, some interesting facts, history, storage tips and recipes. In addition to that, they would have an interesting writeup on what is going on in the farm during that season, thoughts about farming or plants. Really enjoyable, I refer to the archives just to read.
    One of these days I will get Instagram or Twitter account, somehow it is just not calling right now – somebody please put in a sales pitch to me. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      We do a weekly email newsletter too and our customers seem to enjoy it. Ours seems quite similar to the one you get. In one section we list everything available that week, our delivery schedule/market days, and prices. We also have a section titled “Around the Farm” which we use to let people know of happenings on the farm, what we’re doing, etc. Another section is titled “In the Kitchen” and it will include a recipe or household/gardening tip. We also have the Photo of the Week–a picture from the farm that week.

      I don’t think there’s any point in being on Twitter if you’re already on Facebook (although Twitter fans would no doubt disagree). Instagram is fun. If you like following what’s happening on farms (and I know you do), Instagram is a good way to do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beth says:

    I love your posts! >

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  7. thistledog says:

    Well thanks for that! I’ve got a farm business page on Facebook too, and have had the “boost this post” message, did NOT know they were restricting who could see it… what a shame. Wonder if there is a workaround, as it is a great way to get the word out about market days.

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    • Bill says:

      We have friends with a homesteading business and they use Facebook a lot. They say that it helps to share the business post to your individual page. So every time they post on their business page, both of them share it to their personal pages. Evidently Facebook releases a post to a limited number of people initially. If it generates activity (likes, shares, comments) then they release it to more. But our experience has been that posts promoting the market, specific products, etc. are suppressed. That makes sense, since no one would ever pay to “boost” a post if the post were already being released to all the fans of the page.

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  8. Hard to believe that only about 10 years ago, all of this was in it’s infancy, and not even part of the general lingo. But it’s definitely here to stay in some form or other. My own opinion is that smart devices – cell phones and tablets specifically are driving customers to formats that are easy to view on a small screen – and Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all fill the bill very well. Websites can be clunky on a small screen, so it’s no surprise they’re getting less traffic these days. I have learned the hard way to keep emails short, as most of my addressees will see it on a tiny screen and will stop reading after the second line. And as you know from my blog posts, I’m not terribly good at short and pithy, a skill I need to work on in this day and age.

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    • Bill says:

      I remember when our law firm’s librarian gave a seminar to explain the internet to us. She insisted it was going to be a big deal, but I wasn’t convinced. When I first heard about social media I thought it was one of the dumbest things I’d ever heard.

      I was at an advertising law seminar once and the speaker asked if anyone in the room had heard of YouTube. Only a few hands went up. By this time next year, she said, you will ALL know what it is. She was right.

      It really is amazing how rapidly the technology has become so dominant in our culture.

      Cherie is our farm’s webmaster and just last week she converted our website to “Mobile Friendly” for the reasons you say. If a website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s a dinosaur.

      Like

  9. avwalters says:

    I resisted blogging. They said to promote my books–it was essential. So I blogged. I even tweeted a little–but I couldn’t really get into that. Then, after a year or so, “they” said, “Oh, blogging doesn’t work for fiction.” Sigh. What could I do? I was hooked. I had blogging “friends” all over the world, so I just kept blogging. The only upgrade has been that I now run the blog through a Facebook page. Right now, we’re not really in a book phase–not much writing, no marketing. That will all return after we’re settled. Others have suggested Google +, or Linked In. Sheesh. The friends who pushed blogging (and then Facebook) have abandoned those formats–they’ve either moved on, or left social media. I’m stuck in a fad–trapped by my own social connections. I’m glad it’s working for the farm. Sometime, in a year or so, I’ll have to completely revisit this–when the next book is ready.

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    • Bill says:

      Near the end of my time there my firm set us all up on Linked In. I just ignored it. I’ve never even looked at it. Google+? No thanks. I don’t need another Facebook in my life. 🙂

      I actually enjoy Facebook, but only because I’ve blocked everything political. I use it as newsfeed and get lots of good info from the alt-ag world that way.

      Blogging? What can I say? I’m addicted. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Scott says:

    Right now, I am in the land of no internet access at home. Only our phones are connected to the outside world. It’s not terrible.
    I have tried multiple times, but I can’t crack facebook. Don’t even talk to me about instagram, I don’t understand it at all. Not that I hate it, just don’t know about it. Twitter… I tried for a while, keeping track of news of small breweries, but I quit long ago.
    With facebook, I feel like an oldster using a computer for the first time. I’ve had a profile since 2004, but I stopped using it a long time ago and it has passed me by…
    Well Bill, we moved last week. Hence my quietness…First big step to a homestead resembling yours eventually. Wish me luck!
    Regards, Scott (smcasson)

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    • Bill says:

      Congrats Scott! Good luck and best wishes for a smooth transition!

      As for Facebook, I enjoy it. But I don’t encourage people to get on it. It has a lot of downsides too (time-sucking, invasion of privacy, annoying posts).

      Have you considered blogging? It’s fun, most of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have an elderly friend who recently had to open a Facebook account in order to buy his chickens. (Don’t ask me why — I don’t do Facebook, and I hope I never have to — but he posted in big print on his page “Don’t bother me, I’m only here to buy my chickens.” 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      That’s funny. 🙂

      At our family reunion this summer the oldest member of the family scolded those in attendance who aren’t on Facebook. He enjoys keeping up with family that way and it bothered him that some of us weren’t on it. “Come on you people!,” he said. “This is 2015!”

      I thought it was amusing that the oldest person in the crowd was the Facebook advocate.

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  12. Joanna says:

    Thanks for that Bill. I probably need to get Ian up and running with the Instagram sometime then he can post pics of the alpacas 🙂

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  13. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, social media is evolving just like all technology. One thing I learned in a 41 year career in technology is that it never stays still for long. I still have the old Juno email that I used on the first dial-up connection. It’s still a good solid email with a Juno browser with it as well. I don’t use it on dial-up though it could still be used that way. It works with Internet connection now and I haven’t used dial-up for years. I do have Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. I have Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Juno for browsers. Websites look different on each of the Browsers. I’m not a software expert but I do know it’s difficult to have things look the same on all Browsers. It’s hard to marry social media with physical assets in a business but those that can do well with it. Running a business without an Internet presence in today’s world is virtually (pun intended) impossible. The ability to connect with people that would other wise not happen has all come about through media. This is definitely not our grandpa’s world.

    Have a great media market garden homestead day.

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    • Bill says:

      You’re right Dave. Nothing stands still in the IT world.

      I have lots of important documents created on our first computer and saved on floppy disks. Now I don’t even know how to get them off of there and where to put them if I do.

      I’m a fan of the internet. Sure it’s abused, but for people who love information it is fantastic. I use it nearly every day. I could live without it, but I wouldn’t want to.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Just reading the comments make my head swirl. Certainly every writer’s conference now turns into a discussion of social media. You are expected to have a social media “platform” before you even talk to an agent or a publisher. And once you are published, you are expected to market your own books. If you are going the self-publishing route like I have, then everything is up to the author. On another note, Bill, I use Hughes. While it certainly doesn’t match connected internet, it does allow me to stay connected out here in the country. And most of the time I don’t have problems uploading photos as long as I have reduced their size/pixels. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      Book marketing. Good grief. That subject deserves a post of its own. I’ve also heard how important social media is to marketing a book. But most of us know when someone is trying to sell us something and most of us don’t go on social media to have to deal with that. I’ve shared info about my book on Facebook (and here) but I’ve honestly tried to share no more than I would if were giving the book away. If Facebook is (in part) to share what’s going on in your life, then why wouldn’t an author share about his book. On the other hand I’m turned off by people who seem to be there ONLY to sell books. I’m not convinced that social media posts sell many books, but then again I’m no marketing guru.

      We’ve tried lots of different internet options out here. Right now we’re buying into shared bandwidth with a nearby business that has its own tower. That’s the best solution we’ve found yet but some days the service is so slow we can barely use it. Just a cost of rural living I suppose.

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      • “Just a cost of rural living I suppose.” And worth every slow up and download, I might add. 🙂 The social media folks are pretty clear on avoiding hard sale for all of the reasons you mentioned, Bill. Besides, I couldn’t do it. it’s a good thing I never had to make a living off selling things (other than ideas). –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Farming in the real world or farming in the social media world – that is the question because maintaining a social media presence is almost a full time job however you design the platform. Facebook has become the electronic yellow pages for businesses. When we are wanting to visit a local farm, that is where I go to find out what crops they have available and what their hours are for visiting. I do not surf Facebook or any other social media site because I think 99% of it is drivel and drama, but I do use Facebook for business information on their About page and their feed. 🙂 If there is a way to send out a group text (and I sure wouldn’t know if there is), that is probably more relevant today for those under 45 because so many of them don’t even use or read email any more. Best to you and your in 2016.

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    • Bill says:

      We do use texting for some of customers, as well as for the local restaurant we sell to, but mostly we use email and Facebook. Just today I need the phone number of a local farm. So I went to their Facebook page and got it. No need for a phone book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. farmerkhaiti says:

    I love love love social media. Living and farming rurally, it is such a lovely outlet and way to keep in touch, without having to leave the farm or have people in your space! Thanks to this post, I finally got my butt on instagram (ltd_farm I think is the “handle”) and LOVE IT! I think I’ll also publish the marketing chapter of my book project too, thanks Bill! By the way, I have found the morning is the best time to reach the most customers on facebook, I love how you can see the engagement with business pages and sure hope they don’t start charging for it, this is a huge venue for my farm and way to connect. Happy New Year to you and the “kids!”

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m glad to have inspired you. 🙂 I think your farm will look great on instagram.
      Facebook is our primary marketing tool–much more important that our website. I’m disappointed with some of the changes they’ve made, but it still is a great way to get the word out about a business, for free.
      I’ll look forward to seeing your marketing chapter. We could certainly use the help. 🙂
      All best wishes for a Happy New Year!

      Like

      • farmerkhaiti says:

        I don’t think you need help, sir, you two do a great job!!! I’m excited to share what’s helped me and what I have learned over the years, so maybe there will be a few nuggets of interest for you. Happy New Year, and enjoy your blogging break too!

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