Twitter serves as a coffee shop but isn’t restricted by geography
Jeff VanderWerff’s story is similar to that of other 30-something farmers. Two years ago, the Sparta, Mich., native left a career in ag retail and returned to his fourth-generation family farm. At the same time, he noticed a disconnect between farmers and consumers and felt passionate about trying to change it through social media.
"As a grain producer, Twitter is a great way to explain to people where they can find my products in stores," VanderWerff says. "We raise wheat, which goes to a local flour mill and then is distributed to local bakeries. I can pick up a loaf of bread in a store and tweet that I grew the wheat to make that bread."
People from all walks of life use social media to connect with an audience in a more personal way.
"Twitter gives brands a chance to first listen to what people are saying not only to or about their products, but competitors’ as well," says Inga Rundquist, public relations specialist with MindFire Communications. "It’s also a chance to get into the conversation and give your brand a human presence."
Typically, people who have a relationship with a business or a brand do more business with them because of brand loyalty, Rundquist points out. She also recommends using Twitter as a way to monitor an industry and get a pulse of what’s going on in the business.
"Once you create your Twitter profile, find people within your industry," she says. "Twitter has a good search engine. You can look at a competitor’s profile and follow their followers to grow your list organically."
For the purpose of marketing, Rundquist says to establish goals for your Twitter or social media use. Define what you want to achieve through social media. It might be to increase awareness, improve customer service, better understand consumer perception or learn more about your industry.
"A good goal for someone starting out would be three to five tweets per day with a mix of something about your business, something that has your attention in the industry or something that adds value to people following you," Rundquist suggests.
Connections Pay. VanderWerff believes Twitter has been instrumental in advancing his business. He closely follows about 150 farmers and ag business people.
"It’s helped me develop a peer group, share information and get advice from someone other than my next door neighbor," he explains.
VanderWerff says his dad never saw Twitter’s value until he could predict grain markets and yields. "People would talk about things three days before it would happen," he says. "Farming is a solitary business. Twitter is my generation’s coffee shop. I won’t go to the coffee shop for two hours, but I’m sure to sit in my truck for 10 minutes and catch up with friends on Twitter and see what everyone is doing."
A Michigan farmer (@agsalesman)connects to farmers and consumers
38% of his followers are ag-related
1,386 people he follows
2.7 his average number of tweets per day
2,149 people follow VanderWerff