What do you do now? With the busy season coming up for many people in the horticultural and agricultural industries, businesses are finding themselves scurrying around trying to make sure that everything is going according to plan. Everybody is trying to stay in line with the big picture. Where does that leave social media? Often social media strategies can fall by the wayside this time of year. It’s often a last minute thing, or the kind of thing that people don’t put much thought into. Is that a good idea? What do you think? My obvious answer would be “NO!”, but we can agree to disagree if you want to be stubborn about it.
You have a Facebook account; it’s got quite a good following. Your customers see it as a valuable resource for pictures and a good way to let you know how they feel. You aren’t so concerned about Facebook. You want your business to expand its social media horizons, so you turn to the next biggest thing: Twitter. You might even have a Twitter account. There are probably a few random tweets here and there. You might even have a decent number of followers. You sit down and look to post something new, but you find yourself staring blankly. You have no idea what to do with Twitter.
Take a deep breath. It’s going to be ok. I’m going to help you with that.
When looking to post on Twitter, you first have to ask a few questions. Who am I talking to? Is it customers? Industry leaders? Suppliers? Or is it some twisted combination of all of those? No matter what the case may be there are a few things you have to remember about this social media monster.
- Twitter is one giant conversation. Think of it as a constant ongoing networking event. Everybody has a name tag and it’s really ok to talk to anyone. It’s ok to ask questions. You might not get an answer from some people, but generally if people are active on Twitter they are looking to be a part of an active conversation.
- Think of it as show and tell. You only get 140 characters per tweet. That’s really not a lot of room to say something. That’s why you will see links all over Twitter. If you want to talk about a topic, state your brief opinion and link to a webpage that goes into further detail. Use Twitter as the bait to your own hosted content. Because you are limited in what you say. You have to make it count.
- It’s ok to share. Twitter was built for sharing. See that “Retweet” button? Use it. People LOVE it when you retweet their content. It lets people know that you’re interested in what they have to say, and it gives them exposure to your followers.
- Be personal. Nobody wants to follow a robot (well normal people anyway). Don’t post useless drivel. If you have something to say then say it. If you don’t, then go out and find something cool that you think your followers would be interested in and share it. Unless you’re a celebrity nobody wants to hear all about you all the time. Sales pitches get boring, and boring gets un-followed.
- Thank people. If somebody follows you actually take a look at their profile. If they are someone who might interest you follow them back! I don’t suggest following everyone who follows you but at least look into them as a candidate. If someone retweets you acknowledge them for it.
By following those five tips tweeting can actually become pretty simple. It lets you “show off” to a lot of people. It can help you become a business that is known as an industry leader. Twitter has the ability to give your followers the feeling that sometimes they are getting a chance to interact with you on a one on one basis. That’s the biggest thing to learn here.
Twitter is all about give and take. You really get what you give, and it can be a lot of fun. Maybe it’s just because I’m a social media FREAK, but Twitter is where I go to hang out. It allows me to be myself and I get to chat with some really interesting people that maybe otherwise wouldn’t know that I existed.
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It has been a cold couple of days up here! I hope that this finds you somewhere warm, whether that be in the tropics, in the living room in front of the heater, or in your (hopefully) warm cubicle. I must say that these last few weeks have been very busy. I am beginning to find that this is a general theme in being young and trying to make the most out of life and your current situation! However, I am not the only one who has been busy. It seems that the whole Green Industry has been in an uproar lately. Companies acquiring other companies, people making big announcements, and organizations putting movements into motion, it has been an interesting start to 2013. It will be very interesting to see what the rest of the year has in store.
It is important that at this time of the year that we don’t forget to stay focused on our underlying goals. We need to remember that for anything to remain possible we have to strive for a greater sense of communication. Companies and individuals alike are beginning to realize that perhaps old views of new technologies may not be so accurate.
People are beginning to see that perhaps the ultimate need for a social media is not in boosting immediate sales, but rather that social media can play an important role in learning, communicating and reaching out to customers. It’s about being creative, and showing the people that follow you that you are indeed a real person or a business comprised of real people. It is only in this that we truly begin to understand the power of social media.
Things like Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and Pinterest boards allow us to connect on a level that 10 or 15 years ago we could never have dreamed of. Social sites are no longer just for friends searching to reconnect with old high school friends. They are a way for entire industries or better yet the entire planet to interact, share, and engage with each other. In today’s world social media is about meeting people’s needs. The thing with these needs is that they are not always the same! Everyone uses this technology in a different way.
Moving forward we must remember all of us. We must continue to see what this greater connectivity means. A business Facebook page may not be the tool for you to use to make a quick buck, but it’s free and there is definitely something to be gained there. It’s all about utilizing the tools in front of us the right way. A hammer is a great tool for a lot of things, but if you try to use it when you’re making a sandwich and it doesn’t seem so effective.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited. I’m excited to see where we go from here. 2013 is shaping up to be a big year. I only hope that we continue to press on. We cannot afford to fall back now. There’s too much at stake now, and because we have come so far we have more to lose, but still so much more to gain.
That my friends is my true hope for 2013. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together carefully will take us the distance.
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Recently a man asked me this question: “How do you plan to stay on the cutting edge?”
The question actually caught me off guard. I had never really thought about what keeps me writing, and what keeps my information fresh. Then my phone vibrated in my pocket, and it hit me. What keeps me on the cutting edge is what I can learn.
In the Green Industry we spend a lot of time looking at our current surroundings. We see what we produce, how the crops are, what our returns are, and how our own businesses are faring. However, often we fail to see the big picture. We fail to dig deeper. One of the things that we don’t do in this industry is, analyze what is happening in the very extended circles that we exist in.
For instance when a company joins a community like Facebook or Twitter they create a page, type up a few posts and that’s it. Sure they start to follow other subsidiaries of their own companies, their competitors, and maybe a few voices that are considered to be the leaders in the industry, but they neglect the smaller people and businesses that surround them. They don’t realize how much there is to learn from these pages. They don’t see that this industry is truly made up of a million tiny pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Sure without a few pieces you still get the message, but the puzzle just isn’t right.
Bee keepers, farmers, growers, gardeners, tool companies, mower manufacturers, seed companies, and the list goes on; they all have a part to play in the industry that we exist in. Maybe not directly but by listening to these people we can gain a greater sense of our surroundings. It can help us see certain reasons why some things in the great scheme of things just don’t fit right. Problems that one of these agents might be having can relate indirectly to our own problems.
Another thing we don’t take a look at too often is people or businesses outside of our own giant industry. We need to pay more attention to how businesses in other sectors act. This is where we can truly stay on the right track if we look to companies like Coca Cola and Nike and acknowledge how they come about their successes and failures we can effectively judge our own industry and see what we need to do. These businesses are large and can afford to spend massive amounts on market research that analyzes the way consumers are currently thinking. We can use this to our advantage and learn from their mistakes and achievements. By paying greater attention to these things we can adjust our own strategies to nail our respective markets.
The point I’m trying to make here is that to stay on the cutting edge we just have to pay attention. We have to learn as much as we can about as much as we can. We as an industry have to stop being so narrow minded. We have to come together as a giant community and communicate not only to our customers but with each other. We can learn from everything that happens around us. In today’s day and age Social Media can only help us with that task. It allows us access to millions of different sources of information. It gives us a glimpse into the workings of all kinds of businesses. Someone once told me that I followed too many people on Twitter. I told them they didn’t understand what I was doing. I am a learner, and I feel that I have something to learn from every person in this industry.
I know that there are some businesses out there doing the “right” things, but this just goes as a general call to action.
If you agree (or disagree) you can tell me at one of these locations:
Happy Holidays! I hope this post finds everyone well: recovering from holiday parties, taking a break from arguing with the family, and anxiously awaiting the New Year! After about a month of absence I am finally back to writing and posting. It has been crazy here with moving around through three states, getting ready for Christmas and preparing to start my new job in January. I hope that you have not fallen in to the same no-posting rut that I have. If you have though, it’s ok! Just pick back up as soon as you can to keep your followers interested and engaged.
In light of 2013 approaching at high speeds, I wanted to take this post to point out some of the big things that we learned in 2012 that we must not forget coming into the New Year. I have a list of three big concepts but I assure you these are not the only ones, but are merely three of the biggest and most obvious.
Perhaps the biggest lesson that we should have learned this year from a marketing standpoint in the Green Industry is that social media is not a fad. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are not going away nor are they really dying out. From the beginning many business owners were skeptical as to whether social sites would become anything more than a way for people to chat with their friends. This has been proven wrong. Every day we see social media grow in impact. There isn’t a news program out there that doesn’t utilize social media in some way whether they put up a hashtag for Twitter users or talk about how you can learn more about something in one of their anchor’s blogs. Facebook has become one of the best ways to organize charity events and raise awareness of certain movements. Even though the “Kony 2012” movement might have imploded somewhat due to its organizer, it gave us the chance to see how things can become viral and really take over social feeds all over the internet. Social media isn’t simply a space to find old friends anymore. It’s a community designed to cater to billions of different people with a trillion different needs. If our businesses are to be successful in the future we have to become more involved in how this community operates.
The second lesson that we should take out of 2012 is that when we look to judge our “performance” on social media, we cannot just simply judge how many followers or likes we have. We have to dig deeper and really judge ourselves. Are we engaging users? Are we providing a valuable service? Are we making the online community a more convenient place by being a part of it? These are the questions we must ask. This year we saw political controversy because presidential candidates acknowledged that many of their supposed “followers” weren’t real people. We can’t fall victim to this way of thinking. Having more likers or followers is great, but only if they truly care for what you have to say. Sure it’s nice to think you have a large audience out there, but if it isn’t comprised of real people who are you really talking to but yourself?
The last major lesson that our industry can take out of 2012 is that it doesn’t take long for things to change, and we have to be ready. Next year we are going to see a change in one large sector of the horticulture industry. Impatiens walleriana have become a disaster. It will go from being one of the top crops to being one of the riskiest. Over the past couple of weeks I have talked to many growers. All but one of those growers has decided to stop production completely. The one that decided to still grow Impatiens plans to grow one tenth of the crop they grew last year. We have to look at this situation and realize that we cannot always be so set in our roots – see what I did there? We have to be more comfortable with change, at all levels in this industry. It’s time for use to realize that we cannot always do business the way we have for the last thirty years.
Again I hope everyone had/is having a great holiday season. I promise to be posting more regularly now, especially since I am finally a graduate of Cornell University and will no longer be cramming for final exams or studying flash cards late into the night.
You can find me at any one of these links and addresses or look for Mason Day on LinkedIn and Google+.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.
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Just a quick update! I recently wrote this blog for Bayer CropScience on the ways Social Media is impacting Agriculture. Follow the link to check it out!