Seed World

Social Media’s an Investment. Make Sure You’re Using it Right

It’s time to stop ignoring social media and see how it can propel your business into the future.

Social media can be a bear for companies to dive into. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram… Now Tiktok as well? With so many different platforms to choose from, it’s difficult to know where to start. And, when you feel discouraged, you might even want to give it up. But, social media’s becoming more important for businesses to use.

According to the Pew Research Center, around seven in 10 Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information and entertain themselves — which is a stark difference even from 10 years ago in 2012, when only about 53% of U.S. adults used social media. 

It’s becoming more and more apparent that social media isn’t something businesses can ignore. Marketing is going digital, and more and more people are looking to engage with brands online to learn about their stories. 

And, while you might think it’s different in agriculture — it’s not.

Seed and agribusinesses need to have a social media plan in place to help their messages reach further to different audiences. On our Seed World Strategy webinar on Dec. 13, two experts — Charles Tweed and Sarah Cornelisse — joined to talk about what goes into social media strategy and how to tackle it if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task.

Start with a Plan

If there’s one thing Tweed believes you need to know before diving into social media, the first step is easy.

“When you think about social media, don’t overthink it,” Tweed, owner of Tweedia, says. “It’s the ability to connect with people that share like-minded interests. When you start to talk about social media for business, you can really start to develop some culture, some tone, some voice.”

Creating that idea of tone, voice and culture helps because people are looking to engage with brands that share the same values — Tweed believes that’s going to be important today and propelled into the future. 

And, if you’re lost for a starting point when it comes to social media, Cornelisse says not to sweat it — instead, start with some research.

“If you don’t have much social media experience, you really want to take some time to learn and get comfortable with the different platforms,” Cornelisse, senior Extension associate of agricultural entrepreneurship and business management at Penn State University in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education, says. “If you’re not using them personally, start talking to people that you interact with in your business and ask them what they’re using. Then, join those platforms — spend time not thinking about how you would use it for your business, but just spend time on it to see how other people are using it.”

When you’re working on social media personally, you’re able to sit, look for businesses similar to your own and check out different groups to understand the types of conversations people are having. 

“They’re looking for a community,” she adds. “You want to be able to engage them in those communities and understand the language that takes place on social media.”

Not only that, but experiencing platforms personally allows you to learn the different ins and outs of every platform — though some sites are similar, even sites like Twitter and Facebook are different enough that there’s a learning curve between the two. 

After exploring social media personally to see how everything works and research more on how you’d like to tackle it within your business, the next step is ensuring you’re approaching it the correct way strategically. 

That means answering questions like: what do I want to get out of social media for my business?

One of the biggest mistakes Tweed has seen in social media is businesses diving into strategy without any tangible goals and without a lack of investment. 

“If you’re jumping into social media as a business, you need to ultimately understand all of the tools that the person running your social media is going to need,” Tweed says. “Your social media marketer is going to be part customer service representative, part salesperson, part photographer and videographer … They need to do it right.”

When starting to approach your business’s social media strategy, first start with goals.

“What is it that you’re trying to accomplish? Often, with the farm businesses I work with, they might be looking to drive sales, but there are other goals you may have,” Cornelisse says. “It may be to improve community relationships or education for folks who don’t understand agriculture to give them a glimpse of your world.”

From there, Tweed says it’s important not to wing it. 

“The number of people that don’t have a strategy is pretty shocking, right? There’s a lot of people that are just winging it with what they’re posting today, or it’s fallen into the lap of an administrator to take care of,” he says. “It’s important to have a core document when you get started.”

In that document, aside from identifying goals, Tweed says it’s important to identify yourself as a business. 

Asking questions such as “Who are we? What do we value? What do we add to the industry?” can help jump start your goals as well as your social media strategy. 

“And, once you answer all those questions, you need to come back and ask yourself, why? Why are your people who they are, why you add value,” Tweed adds. “When you can start getting to some of those whys, you’ll start to see some storylines come out. Those threads that you pull out are going to create some storylines through your social media.”

In the end, Tweed says if your social media point person left tomorrow, there should be extensive documentation of your strategy to pass onto the next person, where they can understand who the company is, what the core values are and what the business’s story is.

After establishing your goals, your company and your story, then you can move on to start thinking about audience. 

“Your audience needs to be who you want to connect with and engage with,” Cornelisse says. “Understand the platforms they’re using, the topics they’re talking about and what kind of community the social media users are looking for — and how they would want to engage with you.”

When it comes to audience, Cornelisse says to remember: social media’s the new word of mouth. If your audience is on social media platforms, you can bring them to your brand.

“It’s key to connect with a few individuals or other businesses that are willing to share your content with their audience,” she says. “You’re generating that word of mouth, essentially. That can help roll things into a bigger audience’s view. That could take form of partnering with another business or collaborating on a promotion or event. There’s plenty of ways to get the word out that you’re on social media.”

And, if you’re worried because more “troll” and bot accounts follow you instead of the audience you actually want, Cornelisse says not to worry. Sometimes, building the audience you want can take time.

“It’s about having the right content for what your ideal followers and your community is looking for,” she says. “If you have your strategy, you know what your brand message is and you’re consistent with that, you’ll develop the follower group that you want.”

Make sure to stay tuned for part two, where we dive into advice to up your social media game for the future.