Facebook, smart phones, YouTube, Twitter — aren’t we already way too connected? Old-timers might say, “Yes, this is all too much!” Younger producers may say, “I pick and choose how I connect and communicate — the more options the better.” The reality probably falls somewhere in-between. There are multitudes of ways to communicate with your feed and grain customers in today’s world — and you shouldn’t dismiss the trends. This month we will delve a bit into some of the whys and wherefores of social media; what younger producers are looking for regarding communication; and then look at techniques some firms in the grain and feed industry are utilizing to strengthen their business.
Younger producers weigh in
Farm Journal Media recently surveyed younger producers (age 39 and under) regarding their communication preferences (see Tables 1-3 on page 52). Their responses help to inform our comments in this column. Communication is important, and changing with the times (i.e., utilizing more and different methods of communication and networking) is worth some consideration.
Social media is a participatory online media format where news, photos, information, opinions and referrals can be made using a number of social media websites. The social web was originally developed as a method to stay connected with friends, but quickly evolved into a new format for communication, news delivery, event planning, product/service research and referral, and opinion sharing.
Social media marketing uses online social media tools to enhance a company’s marketing efforts. Social media is a complementary extension of your other marketing efforts. It doesn’t replace “traditional” avenues of advertising, but adds additional tools and touch points where you can interact with customers.
Face time with Facebook
While some may view Facebook as a fad, there is no denying that it is a powerful social media tool, and that younger folks utilize it. As you can see in Table 3, 80% of the 30 to 39 age group utilize it and with 93% of the 13 to 19 age group using it, future customers can be expected to being even heavier users. The key to making Facebook and other social media sites work is to actually participate and become involved in the discussion/networking, and this takes time and effort — and perhaps a bit of brainstorming.
The Farm Journal Media survey revealed that over 70% of respondents older than 20 used ag-related discussion boards. This shows that producers are interested in what other producers are experiencing and saying. Your Facebook page can help serve this need and keep your customers thinking about your feed and grain business. Think about what message you want to send.
As you likely know — Facebook pages are kind of like traditional websites (information about your company, contact information, links to useful websites, etc.). However, Facebook pages have evolved to be much more dynamic — they combine “threaded discussions,” and have aspects of a news feed site. They have functionality that allows for easy user interface, i.e., the uploading of pictures and other content is accomplished without the need for specialized web development software. This makes a Facebook site relatively easy to use and update.
Facebook can be used in the feed and grain industry to post grain bids, breaking news or other brief tidbits of information that your customers will find useful. Events can also be announced/created, complete with an option to RSVP. Additionally, while much of social media is “social” in nature, discussions on business topics can unfold — fueled by customers and then joined by others. This can present a bit of a risk since you do not “control” all of the content. Customers (and others — if you allow anybody to “friend” you — which is to have access to the site) can post comments which you cannot censor or approve. Thus, you have to decide if this risk is worth it.