Agri [Culture] Insights: Why Social Media and Which Platform?

As agriculture promotion groups (APGs) and checkoff programs strive to provide educational information for farmers to keep them informed about investment activities and new opportunities, building a social community can be a positive, engaging way to support key communication goals.

Why Social Media?

Ag research shows farmers are using social platforms to engage with communities that share interests. APGs and checkoffs should consider social media as a channel to reach farmers with educational content and information.

In addition, checkoffs should remember social platforms are a great way to engage with farmers and industry stakeholders – and it’s just as important to engage with and listen to the community as it is to provide information.

As you embark on a social media strategy, take a moment to clarify and document what you are trying to achieve through social media and how social media will align and supplement your existing communication plans. Are you looking to increase awareness for program activities? Would you like your social media plan to allow your audience to share information? Know what you want and then strategically plan your social media approach to achieve your goals.

Prioritizing Efforts

Launching and maintaining a social platform will take resources, and it’s important to prioritize efforts. We recommend starting with a simple presence on multiple channels and focusing initial social efforts on channels that have the largest audience of interest. Once those channels are established, checkoffs can monitor activity and shift priorities based on target audience engagement.

With limited resources and a desire to be as efficient as possible with checkoff investments, it’s important to work in the platform that’s going to reach your audience and align with your communication plan.

First, know the platforms your audience visits. Like the mass community, your farmer audience may be following a variety of platforms. Focus on those platforms that have the largest proven farmer audience. Pew Research Center states Facebook is the most widely used of the major social platforms http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/

The 2018 Media Channel Study conducted by Readex Research and recently presented by Agri Media Committee found about half of the 3,523 owners/operators/managers of farms and ranches surveyed, use or access social media, most commonly Facebook and/or YouTube.

Which Platform Is Right for You?

Social platform offerings and popularity changes quickly, so keeping up to date on the social media habits of your audience by monitoring the latest research from media partners and industry experts is important.

  • Facebook has the largest audience and offers a variety of ways to engage with audiences through organic and paid posts, including the use of images and video. Facebook has become the place to start with most APGs and checkoffs, as the Facebook platform is the industry leader in social media. The platform has been successful for a long time and offers many options for engagement and ways to monitor and analyze your social efforts.
  • YouTube ranks high on Google search engines and offers the opportunity to provide high-value video content. The YouTube audience is massive, and YouTube remains one of the top social platforms for farmers. While many people think of YouTube as a place for entertaining videos – think “cats ringing a bell for their dinner,” it’s also an effective vehicle for instructional videos. Building a library of farmer-focused instructional videos could be valuable educational content for your audience. However, if your communication plan does not include video development, YouTube may not be the highest priority for you.
  • Twitter works as a social site that limits posts to a finite character count, and the primary attraction for users is the ability to follow interesting people and create a sense of celebrity access. It also provides breaking news and is a good resource for tracking online trends. For checkoffs, Twitter can provide a way to connect farmer audiences with staff leaders, board members, agronomists, etc. who develop a following by providing interesting, timely updates on field research and other topics.
  • Pinterest users are 80 percent female with food, beauty, style, home and travel being the most popular areas of interest. Pinterest can be a great way to deliver recipes and educate consumers interested in food topics.
  • Instagram focuses on photo and video sharing. Checkoffs with great photo and video content should consider Instagram.
  • LinkedIn functions as a business networking site with 70 percent of users outside the U.S. and can be a great way to connect stakeholders and industry experts with the checkoff staff.

While your audience may be accessing all these platforms, we recommend prioritizing efforts based on audience size balanced with your available content and the platform’s alignment with your communication plan.

Get Started With A Social Audit

To help you start your social strategy, you may want to engage with a third party to perform a complete social audit with data-driven recommendations for where to spend your time and effort. An in-depth social audit can help compare the activities of checkoffs and APGs to determine where your audience is most likely to engage with you. An audience audit also can look at match rates with your existing member lists, website visitors, etc., and compare data provided by each platform to help determine potential audience size. Once your audit is complete, a social plan can be developed to help your team prioritize efforts and efficiently add social media to your communication mix.

Need help getting started? Let us perform a social audit for you and help map out a plan to utilize social channels to reach your audience and support your communication goals.

To see the next blog in this series, click here.

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