Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don't Get Left in the Cold. Use Social Media to Connect with Your Customers!


With sixty-five percent (65%) of internet users using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and others (Pew Internet, 2011), social media can justifiably be considered a legitimate marketing tool by businesses large and small.  In fact, in a survey by Chief Marketer, 92% of respondents indicated that they either were using or planned to use social media for marketing of their brands.

Farmers and small ag business owners shouldn't overlook the power that social media tools provide in connecting with consumers.  Surveys conducted by two of my colleagues, Kathy Kelley and Jeff Hyde, in May 2010 with consumers who used social media, found that over 30% of respondents expected farmers' market/on-farm markets and U-Pick operations to have Facebook presence.  Consumers' expected use of Twitter and blogs by these types of ag businesses hovered around 20%.  I would expect that surveyed again two and a half years later, we would see these results, or expectations, to be higher yet.


Consumers' Expected Internet Presence by Type of Food Business




But having a social media presence, or profile, on any of these tools isn't enough.  You need to provide consumers with a reason to "like" or follow your business.  When questioned on why they connect with businesses on social media, approximately 60% of the individuals responding to Kelley and Hyde's survey indicated that they did so to learn about new products/direction of the business, while almost half wanted to learn about sales before the general public.

Expectations by Consumers who Follow Businesses on Social Networks

We see that the evidence exists that consumers expect ag and food businesses to exist on social networks, as well as to provide them with things that they value in return for following them.  You probably also have your own reasons, or objectives, for committing to developing and sustaining a social media presence for your business.  By developing a social media strategy, you can ensure that you, and your followers, get what you need from a social media relationship.

If you own, or are involved with, a farm or small ag business in Pennsylvania, and want to jump into the world of social media with a guiding hand, Penn State Extension can help.  Come to one of three scheduled Social Media Boot Camps for Ag Businesses.  These two-day workshops will give you a hands-on opportunity to develop Facebook, Twitter, and foursquare/Yelp profiles, as well as mapping out your personal social media marketing objectives and strategy. 

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