Direct-market farmers have one common complaint when it comes to figuring out how to market their farm products on social media — finding the time to do it.
Social media is well-suited for local food farmers to connect with their community and drive in-season sale. Everybody loves to know when the new strawberry crop is ready. Or the latest batch of goat cheese is in the farm stand. But social media can also be a terrible time suck. Farmers don’t have a minute to spare when their farm is in full season production, yet for direct market farmers, that is exactly the same time they need to be posting to their social media sites and engaging their customer base.
Plus, the more consistently you post to your farm social media sites the more the algorithms will favor your content and drive more views and customer engagement.
So, what’s a busy farmer to do? Food4All recommends that small farmers try out using a free social media scheduling app. (Hint, even the paid social media professionals use scheduling apps!).
What Are Social Media Scheduling Apps?
Social media scheduling apps connect with your farm’s social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn etc.) and allow you to schedule, even months ahead, your posts. Yes, it is possible to schedule a whole busy season’s worth of social media posts during your winter downtime.
Choose your app based on what social sites you use the most often and how much functionality you want. Some apps offer options like detailed reports on your audience or analytics showing you what posts were the most popular.
There are many choices of social media apps depending on how complicated you want to get or how much you can pay. Designing unique templates and ads? Managing multiple Twitter accounts? Focusing just on an incredible Instagram account? There’s an app for all of that! But there are a few simple, user-friend management apps with a “free” version which may be more than enough to meet your farm’s needs. You can easily upgrade to monthly plans if you decide you want more tools at your disposal.
Here are three of Food4All’s favorite FREE social media management apps:
Our Favorite Free Social Media Management Apps for Small Farms
Hootsuite is one of the most popular apps for social media scheduling. From one platform you can schedule posts for different social media sites. The free version allows for one user, scheduling on up to three different social media sites and 30 posts a month.
Keep in mind if you post the same thing to more than site (the same post to Facebook and Instagram, for instance) that counts as two posts. However, for farmers using just one or two social media sites on a regular basis, the free version and 30 posts a day may be plenty. Or, you can upgrade to the pro level for $49 a month and 10 social accounts and unlimited posts.
Buffer is similar to Hootsuite and allows for scheduling posts on multiple sites. Its free version allows three social media sites and up to 10 scheduled posts for each of the sites.
If you definitely use three sites regularly (rather than one or two most often) then the Buffer free version may be a smarter choice than Hootsuite. It’s next level up (Pro) is also quite affordable, just $15 a month for 8 channels, 100 posts and one user and a good option for in-between compared to most other management apps which seem to be in the $50 and more a month range for their pro versions.
Because Facebook owns Instagram, they put together a free scheduling and post management app for both platforms. For farms that actively use Facebook and Instagram as their two social media platforms this free tool might be all you need.
You can also use Facebook Creator to schedule ads and see detailed reports on your post analytics. Their website offers a lot of good tools on understanding and better engaging your Facebook and Instagram audience.
You’ve Got the App, Now What to Post?
The advantage of using a scheduling app for your social media posts isn’t just the time management positives but allowing your farm to be consistent in engaging with your audience.
Even just three posts a week, made consistently, will keep the conversation going and your farm face in front of your followers. (And remember, just because you have already scheduled a post, doesn’t mean you can’t also add a spur of the moment, “we have fresh eggs!” post to your sites). But being consistent does pose the dilemma of coming up with ideas of what to post, especially when you’re scheduling your posts weeks and even months ahead.
Here’s a few of our favorite, tried and true ideas:
- What’s in Season? With great photos. Always photos.
- Holidays! Don’t forget the wacky ones. (National Naked Gardening Day is May 1st!).
- Memory lane. Repost an old post (or photo) with a “remember when?” comment.
- When you’re selling food, recipes are ALWAYS popular.
- Curated content. Share an insightful article about farming with a few of your thoughts.
- Ask your audience questions (and include a photo). “The spring flowers are blooming on the farm! What’s blooming in your yard right now?”
- Blog posts from your website. If you blog, don’t forget to share them! If you create blog posts that aren’t time specific, like “How to Find Local Food,” you can post them over and over again.
- Quick tips and advice. “It’s May. Time to plant the tomatoes!”
- Everybody loves videos.
- Memes are great too.
- Share a testimonial from a customer.
- Inspirational quotes. (There are LOADS about farming!)
- Share resources. “Our favorite link for identifying farm pests.”
- Ask for customer feedback. “Which vegetable do you wish we grew?”
- Play games or run contests. “Name the newborn goat twins!”
Don’t Forget to Engage with Your Social Media Followers
One thing you can’t schedule months ahead of time is responding to comments on your social media posts. And, your customers expect it.
According to research by Twitter, 71 percent of customers expect brands to respond within an hour to social media engagement. Gulp. Well, hopefully farm customers will have a little bit more patience but the reality is, the more you engage (and respond quickly) to your customers interactions the more your posts will be seen and the more your customers will develop loyalty to your brand and your farm.
If you have scheduled your posts, at least you aren’t struggling to find the time to do that too. But, you do need to commit some time to responding to your engagements if you want to maximize the results of your social media efforts. Parents, this is a great way to engage your children in your business. They may be more socially media savvy than you anyways. Some farms assign one worker to keep tabs on social media engagement, just remember they will probably be checking their phone a lot to do so.
At the end of the day, social media is one of the best ways for small, direct market farms to engage with their audience. Find the tools that make it easier for you to do so consistently and watch as your audience (and sales) take off accordingly.
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.