Food4All interviews Pacific Northwest farmer and Instagrammer Melony Edwards, with some tips for farms learning to use Instagram
Farms are naturally photogenic. Which makes Instagram — an image-driven social media platform — an obvious fit for building an audience and, ultimately, boosting your farm’s online sales.
Instagram has more than 1.6 billion users a month and is the second most popular social media app in the United States behind Facebook (with close to 3 billion users a month). It’s quick and easy to use and perfect for posting photos or short videos snapped from cell phones. In fact, if you want to post to your Instagram account from your desktop you’ll have to follow a few workarounds.
To put it bluntly, Instagram is a great fit for that busy farmer that barely sees their office desk but enjoys taking cell phone photos and videos of the day-to-day, real-life farm experience. Farm accounts are so popular with Instagram users they even have generated their own name — “Farmstagrams,” of course!
But, just like any new social media platform, to best drive engagement and generate sales, you have to first understand how to work Instagram to your farm’s advantage and build up a following.
To get a “pro” understanding of how farmers can build their Instagram following, Food4All interviewed Pacific Northwest fiber farmer and National Young Farmers Coalition board member Melony Edwards. Melony started her new farm’s Instagram account in the summer of 2020 and within a few months had garnered 3,500 followers.
Melony, thanks for taking some time with Food4All today! It was really impressive how quickly you built up an impressive following for your new fiber farm business. Can you share a few tips with us today?
Sure! Well first of all, quality pictures are really important. That doesn’t mean you need to buy a fancy camera — most smart phones with a decent quality camera will work. Instagram has some great filters that can clean up smudges, weird shadows and other funky stuff. But, remember if you are posting photos of food you don’t want to go so filter crazy it looks like the photo has been manipulated to the extreme.
And you do need to think about what (and who) you are photographing.
What do you mean?
Well, first of all, keep in relevant to your business! If your farm Instagram account is to promote, say your poultry farm, don’t go posting pictures of your cousin’s baby. I actually have a personal Instagram account where I post pictures relevant to me. My farm account I make sure to only post photos of my fiber, dying fiber, growing the dye plants I use to dye with or things relevant to my fiber business.
Don’t post memes! Instagram followers are all about beautiful, original photos (and videos) true to the account. Memes don’t cut it.
The other mistake I see a lot of farm accounts making is they don’t post pictures of themselves. Your followers want to see YOU the farmer. You don’t have to post yourself constantly, but every so often, take a selfie and put it up.
Are there any secrets for setting up your account?
Well yes, there are. A clever, engaging description is important and a great profile photo of course (preferably of you, the farmer)! But also, include links to relevant information — like your farm’s website — in your bio.
Remember Instagram isn’t like Facebook. Because it is image driven, that means you can’t include a link in your posts. But, what you can do is, say you want to drive your followers to your CSA subscription page, you post a photo about your CSA and then in the comments write “link in bio.” Instagram followers know that means to check your bio. From there, you can link your CSA sales sign-up page.
Also, Instagram only gives you room for one link, which some people just change for whatever is most relevant. But, you can include multiple links by installing an app like Linktree, which is how big companies are able to put a ton of links into their company bios. Farmers may not need that though is most of the farm information they want to share for sales is through their farm website.
Great tip, links are important for converting visitors to buyers! Our Food4All farms with Instagram accounts add the Food4All online store link directly to their Instagram bio.
What other Instagram tips can you share with our farmers?
Make sure to tell a story with each photo you post, it doesn’t have to be a lot, but a little bit of text: “Harvesting the first of the summer beets” tells your audience what they are looking at.
You should also think about when you post. When is your audience most likely to be on their Instagram account? That can take some trial and error to figure out, but by watching engagement on posts made at different times you can usually start to spot some patterns.
Also, don’t post more than one photo a day — oftentimes people will miss posts if you put up multiple posts in one day although you can do an Instagram story and post multiple images throughout your story and that’s okay. But don’t make several single posts in the same day because they just stack on top of each and your followers will likely not see them all. Instead try to post frequently, ideally every day. Or at least three times a week.
Right! And farmers could use a scheduling app if they did happen to snap several photos in one day to parcel out those posts.
Yes exactly, social media scheduling tools can be a real time-saver for farmers.
Oh, and use hashtags! Hashtags help new followers find you. Stick with a few that you use repeatedly. For instance, your farm name is an obvious one. But, maybe your location plus farm, like #Seattlefarm or #Seattlefarmersmarket will help followers searching for farms, or farmers markets, in the Seattle area find you. Also, relevant food and farming tags like #localfood or #localfarmersmarket or #locallygrowneggs. But really whatever works for you and don’t be shy. Many people use 10, 15 or even more hashtags on a post.
Well, the biggest thing — and this is true to any social media account really —is to be authentic. Let your personality shine through in your posts. That’s what really engages your audience and builds up a following.
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of a movement, an event or a happening that can drive a lot of new followers for you. Especially if your farm business can mail product anywhere (like mine does).
I’m a Black farmer, and during the summer of 2020 there was a movement to amplify Black voices throughout social media. A lot of people were looking to support Black businesses, social media accounts and Black stories. I got a lot of engagement because as a Black female farmer, people started sharing my page and I was featured on some lists as “Black farmers to follow.” For a while there it was crazy, I was getting hundreds of new followers every day!
There can be different ways this can happen, like for instance, maybe you are a regenerative farmer which is getting a lot of press and interest from consumers right now.
Thanks again Melony! We hope you have a great 2021 growing (and dyeing) season!
Follow Melony’s farm story on her Instagram page — @ebony.by.nature or keep up with her work illuminating the voices of female Black farmers in her podcast series “Cultivating Culture” hosted on the Female Farmer Project podcast.
Food4All is a free, online marketplace built specifically for local food farmers, farmer markets and anyone selling farm and ranch goods, whether it’s fresh food, value-added items, or CSA’s. We offer free tools, technologies and a simple-to-use platform that will bring customers (new and old) to your online farm store and easily collate orders and get you paid.
For more information, check out our website at www.food4all.com.