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.
Find me here:
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.
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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!