Social media can help producers build sales and status
Farmers are using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to increase sales, enhance their reputation and interact with the consumer audience.
A number of American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) members use social media as part of their direct sales and retail-oriented agriculture operations, says Mace Thornton, acting director of public relations for AFBF.
"Being able to stay in touch with those direct customers is a real plus," Thornton says. "For example, farmers with U-pick fruit operations are able to keep customers informed when the crop is ripe. Other examples include farmers who specialize in communitysupported agriculture farms."
Social media also allows farmers to become a go-to source of information for their peers. "This is simply a more immediate way to communicate, improving on the coffee shop model," Thornton says. "A number of farmers have been able to raise their profile in their community and across the industry due to their ability to harness social media platforms."
Producers should embrace transparency by showcasing their products, whether it’s livestock or crops. "Consumers want to know where their food comes from," says Teresa Roof, public relations manager for the National Pork Board. "It can be as simple as taking a photo of a baby pig and posting it to Facebook or Twitter. It can be a video of manure being applied to a field with an explanation. The possibilities are endless."
Producers should be sure to include contact information—such as an e-mail address, farm logo or photo of themselves—on their social media accounts, Roof says.
Put Policies in Place. Producers who are building social media policies for their staff can take several steps to success. First, producers with a legal department should consult with attorneys to decide what should be included in such a policy. Those with smaller operations should have a written procedure that identifies the person in charge of social media accounts and any other team members who will play a role in answering questions from consumers or the media.
Employers should be transparent with employees when it comes to what they can and cannot say about the farm on social media. Those posting to social media should make it clear when a post reflects their personal views and not those of the operation. Other factors include creating a time frame for responding to consumers’ posts (24 hours, for example), identifying opportunities and risks and documenting online engagement with consumers.
Both the Pork Board and AFBF provide members with social media training. "Communicating and the ability to share stories is more important than ever, regardless of the medium or platform," Thornton says. "Because people involved in social media exhibit a more open attitude in regard to two-way engagement, farmers have an opportunity for high-quality experiences and connections to share their personal stories, as they take to heart the concerns they are hearing."
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