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Big Thoughts for a Shrinking World

From a business standpoint, when you hear the words “Social Media” what do you think? For many businesses in the industry the only thing that would come to mind would be: advertising. “Social Media is a great place to advertise”, they say. Yes, that is true. Being involved in Social Media does get your name out there to a wider range of individuals and companies, but what else is Social Media besides an advertising tool? This is where a lot of people in our industry get stumped. They can’t move past the thought that Social Media can ever be more than just another way to let customers know about deals and special events.

They say that humans can only use a certain percentage off their brain, and that if we could access the vast unutilized portion that we could be much smarter. Well the same goes with Social Media – in a sense. If we simply use Social Media to advertise what we are currently doing or what we will be doing in the near future, we aren’t maximizing the true potential of these new technologies. We have to think outside of the box and realize Social Media can do way more for our businesses and industry as a whole, and unlike our brains this higher level of output is actually possible!

The first thing people need to realize is that Social Media is a communication tool. It allows two way communications between customer and producer (or supplier). Not only are we advertising and influencing our customers with the things we post on our pages, but Social Media also gives our customer the chance to reach out to us. It gives them a chance to communicate freely with us on what they feel is a personal level. If you aren’t actively answering questions on your Social Media pages, something is wrong. I’ve said it before but when somebody has a question about a product, they no longer turn to a hotline or write an email. Their first step is to find your Facebook or Twitter page and find an answer there.

Now, after coming to grips with the fact that Social Media is all about communication rather than strictly advertising, you can really start to utilize what I see as the greatest aspect of Social Media.  Never before in history has knowledge been so accessible. If you want to know about a plant disease or current trends in a market, all of that information is just a Google search away. Sites like Twitter even go a step further. Because of Twitter’s generally public nature, anyone can see what virtually anyone else is saying. That means that now at this poker table of an industry everybody can see at least a few cards in everybody else’s hands. I say “a few” because there are definitely some things in the industry that companies are trying very adamantly to keep under wraps. However for the most part, companies are being “forced” to divulge a lot of information across social channels because their customers are becoming so involved and are constantly asking for more and more information.

Now you could say that this would be bad for businesses, but I say this should be great for businesses because it should provide for a healthy industry of constantly evolving thoughts. It gets us past the sometimes foolish notion that we don’t want people to know what we are doing in our businesses. This way people can get a better look at how we do business and we can see how they do things, and then through discussion and evaluation we can apply changes to what we do to operate more efficiently. Yes, the other company benefits as well, but that’s what we need as a Horticultural Industry. We can only move forward as an industry if the businesses that make it up move benefit mutually. This is how true growth is achieved. Sure one company can advance technologically and have better profits, but if they don’t help ensure that there is competition; how healthy is the industry, really?

Social Media gives us this friendly format by which everyone across the globe can share information about the industry or any industry for that matter. A greenhouse grower in Canada can talk to someone in China who perhaps has a different growing system. Through conversation, these two decide to figure out a way to combine their ideas and come up with a growing system that benefits both of them. This mutualistic benefit is what I think is truly the biggest reason why businesses need to become more social. The days of secrecy are almost over, and if businesses cannot communicate with each other, no progress will be made. Obviously don’t give away granny’s secret cookie recipe, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk with people in the industry to see where you can buy the best oven. Social Media can give us this opportunity.

 

As usual you can reach me here: mday55@gmail.com

Twitter: @mday55

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The Big Picture

Recently while speaking with a diverse group of professionals in the industry, and trying to explain the reason why Social Media is important to our industry, something occurred to me.  People really don’t understand why they should be involved in Social Media. To be honest for a long time I didn’t either. However, the more you look at what works and what doesn’t  you start to realize why you’re actually doing what you’re doing. To start off: if the reason that you are involved in Social Media is simply because your competition has a Social Media campaign, then you are missing the big picture here.

When instituting a Social Media strategy, you must place your goals not only in the metrics side of things (i.e. analyzing traffic and engagement), but also in the overarching reason of why you should be on Social Media in the first place, to connect to future generations of the population. The problem for our industry and a lot of other industries out there is not that we are technologically advanced. We as an industry have all the technologies available to make us fully competitive for the time in the lives of younger individuals. What we lack is the sense of communication. This is where Social Media comes into play.

One of the problems that a lot of people face when looking into Social Media is that they see it simply as an advertising tool. They see it as a place for pictures, or a place to announce current sales. They aren’t grasping the real reason why Social Media is becoming more than a fad. Social Media is not a channel for advertising, but is rather a tool that expedites the entire marketing channel. It allows customers to communicate directly with a business about a good or service. It allows customers to communicate directly with other customers as well – without ever getting out of their chair.

Never before have people been able to give so much feedback about a product or service in such a short period of time. Social Media allows developers and breeders an insight into what people want out of plants on an instant and constant basis. People are not afraid to say what they want. It also provides and outlet for customer service. Now people often turn to Facebook or Twitter to ask questions about a product or plant, rather than call a customer service number. This benefits the customer, and also the producer. Customers get the answers they need, while producers are able to see trends in problems and can answer many questions in a smaller amount of time than ever before.

Social Media is a means of communication, not simply a means of advertisement. Even more importantly it is one of the main channels of communication for younger generations. It is something that children are growing up with. For good or bad, kids start using Facebook at younger ages every day.  Social Media is no longer a new technology to them. It’s something they have always had. It is second nature to them. That is why we as an industry must be present on Social Media now. Horticulture and gardening must become second nature for these new generations. In the past everyone had a garden and kids were raised thinking that this was a normal thing to do. However kids today are raised in homes in which gardening is not a major aspect of life. Then when they reach a purchasing age, the concept of gardening is not familiar to them which makes them less likely to buy horticultural related products.  One of the main problems we face as an industry today is that our industry is not familiar to Generation Y (and following generations). Social Media can help us dig our way out of this hole and help prevent this problem in the future.

Social Media itself is not a goal. The goal is to once again make gardening and horticulture relevant in the minds of young consumers, and Social Media is simply the vehicle.

Be sure to visit the Facebook page to connect with individuals trying to bridge communicational gaps in our industry! http://www.facebook.com/NextGenHorticulture

Contact me anytime with questions or comments.

mday55@gmail.com

Twitter: @mday55

Search for me on LinkedIn and Klout!