Social Media CRM: 4 New Ways Farmers are Talking to Consumers
After two straight days of madly baling hay—skipping sleep while trying to beat the rain expected at his Etna, Calif. ranch—Jeff Fowle still avoided using the obvious pun when tweeting about farming to his more than 23,000 followers on Thursday night:
"Finished squeezing hay in bar. 2 hr nap then off to bale. Rain is coming. #hay10," tweets @JeffFowle on Sept. 16.
Hitting the hay may have been front of mind for Fowle, but the human voice of the family owned cattle and horse ranch knew he still needed to keep up-to-date on his customer relations management. He's become part of a growing trend among North American farmers—using blogs and social networking sites to interact with consumers who are growing weary of real and imagined food contamination scares and want to know more about how what they eat gets to their tables.
In 2009, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported that in a "survey of young farmers and ranchers, among the 92 percent of young (aged 18-35) farmers and ranchers who use computers, 46 percent regularly plug in to some form of social media."
But it's not just the young. For instance, researchers from The Ohio State University surveyed Ohio farmers—with an average age of nearly 56 years—and found they were increasing their digital marketing and their direct marketing efforts in areas such as loyalty programs and coupons, according to the October 2009 "Ohio Direct Marketing Survey Research Report." Nearly 10 percent of surveyed farmers planned to invest time in social media marketing in 2009.
Best practices are already emerging and are part of the reason @agchat, a Twitter account that hosts online discussions about farming from 8 to 10 p.m. EST Tuesdays, already has more than 7,000 followers since agricultural marketing consultant Michele Payn-Knoper began moderating #agchat in April 2009. (AgChat Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping farmers and ranchers learn how to effectively use social media, now moderates #agchat and #foodchat—which replaces #agchat on the third Tuesday of the month.)