Those of you who read this blog often know that I often make grand plans.
You also know my plans have been known to fall apart. Take, for example, the cheesecake adventure of last November.
So a few months ago, in one of my plans, I was going to get 300 pageviews on my March 1 column. It’s now April and I had planned on telling you about my tremendous success. There was just one problem.
I didn’t write a March post.
I got sick, as in coughing till your sides hurt, sleeping 12 hours a day, sick. This makes it difficult to get 300 pageviews. I’m taking a mulligan, to quote a golf tradition. I’m asking you for a do-over.
So here’s what you were supposed to have read last month:
Turns out this social media experiment is not as easy as I was convinced it would be. The reason is simple – I’m not that great at creating good habits. Bad habits? Oh, I can develop one of those without even trying. The thing about using social media to promote your farm and/or educate your consumers is: gotta make it a habit.
I had planned (there’s that word again) to take 15 minutes a day to update my pages and write. When I did do that, my page got plenty of views and we had some great conversations. But I didn’t do it often enough – and therein lies the problem.
I wandered down the road to my friend Laura’s house. Laura milks sheep and goats at Blue Sage Farm. She makes cheese and ice cream and sells it at area farmers’ markets. I helped her set up her first Facebook page two years ago. She’d update it here and there, but recently I’d noticed her page was getting a lot more traffic. I wanted to know what she was doing differently.
“What I was doing wasn’t working. You need to communicate more with customers,” Laura told me.
She said she has gotten so busy, she started making a detailed schedule of what she’ll be doing each day. That allowed her to post something on her Facebook page each morning about her plans. The customers loved it. They started asking questions. Then Laura started asking them questions – about flavors of cheese or ice cream they might like, placement of her booth at the farmers’ markets. The end result: Since January, her Facebook page presence has gone from basically nothing to reaching a potential 80,000 people with each post.
But has it translated to sales?
Yes. Sales are steadily increasing now and the bulk of her sales points – farmers markets – are just getting started.
Laura told me she’s so busy now, she’s even trying to hire someone just to manage her brand on social media.
“People want that connection,” she said. “If they don’t have a personal connection, they can get the same kind of cheese at any counter for less.”
But what about those of us without a product to sell? For that answer, I went to Jennifer Heim of Heim Dairy in northeast Kansas. I’m not sure how I found her blog and Facebook page, but I’m certain it’s like most of the great things in life; I was looking for something else and stumbled across it. (That’s actually how I met my husband, but I’ll save that story for later.)
I like Jennifer’s page (Read her blog here) because it’s simple and informative.
Jennifer said she started using Twitter personally a couple of years ago and came across a community of farmers who started encouraging her to share her farm’s story.
“I started our blog about a year ago after realizing I had more to say that Twitter’s character limits allowed, and just four or five months ago I created the blog’s Facebook page. I was told Facebook was a great way to reach people, but I didn’t like flooding my personal page with farm info. These services are also a great way to keep our friends and family up-to-date with what we’re doing at the farm. My grandma is definitely the blog’s biggest fan.”
She said she spends anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours on the page each day, depending on what she’s doing. She doesn’t mind the commitment.
“I believe being part of the conversation about food and farming is a worthwhile effort,” Jennifer said. Like Laura and me, Jennifer thinks more of us need to start communicating and educating consumers about our stories and our products. From what I’m seeing online and hearing in public, we have a lot of work to do, but more and more of us are trying to create that connection. “I don’t know any specific figures, but I’m fairly certain there are more voices speaking out against agriculture than there are speaking for it. Any voice we, as an agricultural community, can add to the conversation is beneficial,” Jennifer said. “Adding a new, unique voice also helps illustrate the diversity of the dairy industry and agriculture as a whole.”
As for me, I’m going to continue to create a stronger voice for agriculture and dairy specifically in my online networks and in person. That’s my “plan,” at least. What are you doing to share your voice?