Episode 011 of the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast features a presentation on marketing your farm through the internet and social media given by Sheree Martin at the recent Farm & Food Forum, an annual event hosted by the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network.
Quick update on Koda, one of the Martin family’s dogs: His injury turned out to be from a small-caliber gunshot. He’s going to be OK. Look for a future rant on mean people who shoot dogs.
The first freezing temps of the Fall 2012 season arrived just before dawn November 1. But we’ve only had a couple of nights around 31 degrees, so everything is still growing well. More details on the farm activities in Episode 012.
Details about the contents of my talk are just below the player.
The Shine Springs Farm Shinecast is available for subscription via iTunes, Zune and doubleTwist (for Android devices).
I started the presentation with a brief bit of background about how I got interested in the “social web.” It dates back to 1991, when I joined Prodigy and began connecting with people around the world who shared common interests in certain bands and TV shows. I’ve written about that elsewhere.
This presentation is geared toward an audience of folks who aren’t familiar with how to use the internet and social media to market a farming or food-related enterprise. It’s also appropriate for nonprofits.
The Social Media Revolution
After the intro, I showed this short video from Erik Qualman & Socialnomics that gives an overview of statistics about various social media networks and how the way we communicate has changed. An updated version was released about 2 weeks after my talk.
Keys to Marketing Your Farm Through Social Media
The presentation is divided into two overall segments: Part I: The Big Picture, which starts with your website. I explain why the website is the key to your social media efforts. Part II: Details about current popular social platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
Start with a website. WordPress is the best content management system around. It’s easy to use, free or very affordable, and can be easily customized to make you standout.
Start With Your Website
Use your website to tell your story. Talk about what’s growing on your farm, why you farm, your history.
Use your website to share content that your visitors can find value in. For example, share recipes and tips for how to cook what you’re growing. Or share tips on growing backyard veggies.
Be sure keep your website updated regularly. Ideally, you’ll add something new a couple of times each week. At a minimum, you need to update it monthly. Fresh content matters for search engine optimization.
In the presentation, I give a lot of details about web hosting, registering a domain name and finding a WordPress theme. Rather than restate all of the details here right now, I have created this resource site that will be useful for beginners and intermediates who want to better understand how to use the internet and social media to market a farm or other type of small business.
As time permits, I’ll come back and update this post to include the same information here. For now here’s an overview.
WordPress.com, the free WordPress hosting service, is an option, if free is your goal. I forgot to mention in the presentation there’s an upgrade option available to use a custom domain name with your free WordPress.com hosting. The cost for a custom domain on a free WordPress.com site starts at $13, but the price depends on a few factors.
Based on my research in late 2011 and early 2012 (explained here), the top web hosts for a WordPress site based on a combination of affordability, ease-of-use and reliability were:
HostGator (affiliate link): I use HostGator. If you’re in the market for a web host, use the code BFFNOVEMBER for an extra discount of $9.94 off the hosting price.
BlueHost: I’m about to give BlueHost a whirl for a new site I’m creating.
I cover the best choices for premium WordPress themes in this post: Design Your WordPress Site: Choose a Theme on my new site, Teach Social Business.
Chose Social Media Networks Favored By Your Audience
Your audience is made up of your current and potential customers. You need to chose and use social media networks that they are using. If you don’t know, ask them.
If your audience is on Pinterest and you’re focused on a Facebook Page, you won’t have much success with social.
Keep in mind that social media platforms and networks appear at a rate that’s about the same as bunnies and sweet feral kitties. You’ll need to experiment with these to see what works best for you.
Right now, in late 2012, the top three for general audiences are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
If you want to connect through Facebook, create a Facebook Page for your farm or business. Don’t use your personal Facebook account to market your farm.
Facebook comes with lots of challenges, in part related to changes in the way content appears in the news feed of your Facebook Page fans. But another issue is that many people are moving away from Facebook to Pinterest and other sites.
Here’s a link to the Shine Springs Farm Facebook Page.
Twitter is about real-time communication and conversation. It won’t do you any good to create a Twitter account if you don’t use Twitter appropriately. If all you do is “broadcast” farm updates once or twice a week, you’ll fail on Twitter. If you sync Facebook and Twitter and share the exact same updates on both, you’ll fail on Twitter.
Be sure to upload a real picture of your farm logo, or even a farm animal (or yourself) to replace the default “Egg” avatar (image). Most folks on Twitter won’t follow someone who uses the default Egg graphic. I don’t have time to write the entire segment on Twitter here. These are the key points. I’ve added a “Twitter Basics” post to my to-do list and when I get that written, I’ll add a link here.
Pinterest is the social media network of preference in 2012 for women age 20-50-ish. It’s also popular with foodies. I highly recommend starting a Pinterest account and building a following there, if you’re just getting into social media.
Pinterest might be the way to go over Facebook, if you only have time for one social network. But, again, it’s important to ask your audience (your customers) which they prefer, and connect with them in that place.
Here’s a link to the Shine Springs Farm Pinterest page.
Google+ is important for farms and small businesses because it’s a great way to boost visibility in search results.
You definitely want a Google Places page for your farm or business. You also should post new web content there regularly and interact at least occasionally. Here’s a post I wrote earlier in 2012 about why I like Google+.
Slides for Presentation
Here’s the slide set I created for the presentation to the ASAN Farm & Food Forum. I tend toward minimalism in my slides (don’t like lots of text), but the key words will give you some context, especially if you listen to the podcast.
Related posts at The Ben Franklin Follies include this post on a presentation I gave at the Alabama Water Rally in March 2012 on social media for nonprofits and this supplemental page about social media tools for nonprofits.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the presentation, the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast or anything else on your mind.
Any topics you’d like to see covered in the Shinecast?
Leave a comment below in the comments section.
Future Episodes of the Shinecast
Future show notes for the Shinecast will be shared at www.shinespringsfarm.com. I’ll continue to post updates here to let you know the Shinecast has been released. But Google frowns on duplicate content, so I can’t post the exact same show notes here and at the Shine Springs Farm website. Rather than hurt my search rankings, I’ll only be sharing show notes at the farm site. I hope you understand.
Explaining the Delay
Apologies on the delay in releasing Episode 011. It took a bigger chunk of time than anticipated to edit the presentation recording.
First, I boosted the audio levels by running the presentation recording through the mixer. That took about an hour (the original presentation length). I made notes about spots in the talk that could be edited out to improve clarity and overall audio quality and then edited the re-mixed version.
Anyway, I hope you find the result to be at least reasonably adequate, for a live recording in a large, open room where I spoke without a mic.