Grow Your Farm with Social Media

Whether to promote a product or connect with a community, social networks provide valuable services to the modern-day homesteader.

| March/April 2019

farm-social-media
Photo by Getty Images.

It’s almost impossible to navigate modern life without bumping into social media, but does it have a place on the modern farm? Absolutely! For many farmers, social media is a valuable tool that can be used to grow their farm or homestead.

From a marketing perspective, social media is the new frontier. Social networks allow fans of the farm to feel connected to the animals and gardens without getting their hands dirty, thereby building a deeper and more personal bond between farmer and consumer. They also provide an avenue to alert customers about new products, and a place to both gauge and foster excitement as your farm grows and changes.

Another perk of social media for modern homesteaders is the connection it provides to other farmers and people going through the same experiences and lifestyle changes. Near and far, social media connects like-minded folks who can share resources and knowledge about the unique experience that is homesteading.



instagram-chick
Image by Allison Sarkesian.

From an educational perspective, social media connects homesteaders as never before. It allows instant, up-to-the-minute answers to specific questions, letting you interact with experts and other farmers on a personal level. You can follow along with other homesteaders’ experiences in real time, and see all the ins and outs of their farms’ workings. And while not everyone is responsive to direct messages, most homesteaders are quick to help out another farmer with a question.

Homesteader Kate St. Cyr (find her @TheModernDaySettler) had an experience in which her Instagram community was able to make the difference between going through a new, challenging homesteading experience alone and having the confidence of an expert at her back. When she couldn’t track down much in the way of traditional documentation about the artificial insemination of pigs, the Instagram community was quick to offer expert advice. 

 “When posting about my plans to artificially inseminate my gilt for the first time, one of my followers reached out to me. She formerly ran the pig breeding program at Purina, and offered up her assistance if I needed it,” St. Cyr says. “Having a person to guide and help me from across the country made all the difference, and without the app, I would never have received the assistance I needed!” 

Social media can also draw customers to your unique brand. Kate Estrade of Local Cooling Farms (@LocalCoolingFarms) in Louisiana grew her businesses by marketing to local consumers using the global network of social media. Utilizing Facebook’s private neighborhood groups, Estrade was able to connect with folks who otherwise might not have followed her farm page. And while the number of people looking for Local Cooling Farm’s eggs, pork, goat, and beef in her neighborhood continues to grow, Estrade also found a place for Instagram as a marketing tool.

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Image by Allison Sarkesian.

 “I didn’t initially think I could expect to get much business from it, as our followers seemed to be mostly other like-minded farmers around the country and world,” Estrade says. “However, once we were gaining traction on Facebook through these neighborhood group posts, it seemed to help to have an active Instagram account with a decent amount of followers.”

Even more recently, Local Cooling Farms’ products have started to get some local sales from Instagram posts. “We have a few local foodie/keto customers with big Instagram followings who constantly tag us in their food posts, which has built up our local customer base a bit more too,” Estrade says.

To use Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media outlets to your advantage, you have to know how they work and what actions will help your posts reach the largest audience. Understanding hashtags and how to use them is a good place to start.

To create a hashtag, use the pound symbol (“#”) in front of a word or series of words, which creates a link to other posts that have the same hashtag. This means your post will reach anyone who searches for posts or information using that tag. For example, using #GoatsOfInstagram means that your picture of goats will show up whenever someone looks up #GoatsOfInstagram across the app. Using hashtags strategically helps your posts to be seen by a much wider audience, and hopefully those viewers will then check out your profile and your business.



geese-of-instagram
Image by Allison Sarkesian.

Using social media to connect with other farmers and gather knowledge about the lifestyle means searching those same hashtags, connecting with other people who have similar interests as you, and liking and following all the pages you find useful, so that their information shows up in your feed.

You can follow Estrade’s lead and post information on Facebook about your farm and produce to pages that target customers in your area. Many neighborhoods and communities have local Facebook “swap” or “sell” pages that are all about sharing local products. You can directly sell things through these pages, or just share information about farmers markets you’re selling at or a farmstand you keep.

instagram-goat-shirt
Image by Allison Sarkesian.

Whether you’re using social media as a resource for information, to connect with other homesteaders, or to market your brand, interaction is key. If you’re trying to promote a brand, quickly responding to messages and being friendly and chatty with your followers will be crucial to how they think of you, and will influence their decisions to recommend you to friends, like your posts, and share your page. And if you’re looking for information, a great way to get it is by posting questions to your social media communities. These interactions not only help build support for your products and provide you with helpful answers, they’ll also foster a sense of community that’ll keep you returning to those social networks for support.

Whatever your reasons for delving into social media, there’s no doubt that social networking can be beneficial in the connections it provides. Whether you take on just one account or go all out, you’ll find that, when used properly, social media can be a valuable virtual workhorse on the homestead. 

 


The Big Three

Social media platforms are always changing, but these three networking sites have proven popular with farmers and homesteaders.

■ Facebook: With more than 2 billion active users, Facebook is an undeniable social media giant. People use it to connect with friends, but also to plan and RSVP to events, and to share their likes and opinions. Facebook is helpful for letting folks know about upcoming farm events, and to generate chatter about your homestead and products.

 

■ YouTube: YouTube’s platform is based on video content, and provides a place for sharing both entertaining and educational films — a perfect way to share how-tos about farm life.

 

■ Instagram: Originally a photo-based social media network, Instagram now allows video content and lengthy captions so you can share photos of your farm and products, and delve into more detail about your homesteading life.


Kirsten Lie-Nielsen is a writer and farmer from Maine. She and her partner raise livestock and grow vegetables and medicinal herbs on their 200-year-old farm. Her newest book is So You Want to Be a Modern Homesteader? You can find her @HostileValleyLiving.






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