Teresa Siles, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker
Teresa Siles, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker

We’ve all heard the stats: 901 million people are on Facebook, 140 million people are on Twitter, and 161 million people are on LinkedIn.

It can be easy to get lured in by the sheer numbers and the potential to reach millions of people with the click of a mouse.

But is it really that easy? More important, how can those in agriculture use interactive capabilities and social media strategically to meet specific objectives?

At Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, we’ve helped scores of clients in all industries, including agriculture, with their online strategies.

Social media is changing the way that we as a society communicate, and, contrary to what some believe, social media is more than just water-cooler chatter.

People are using social media for everything from figuring out what car to buy to finding employment.

On the food front, social media has become a go-to source for recommendations on restaurants, recipes, culinary trends and health information.

And when food safety issues arise, it’s often social media that breaks or spreads the news in a matter of minutes.

While the fear of the unknown may keep many in agriculture and food industries at bay, social media poses numerous opportunities for those who use the tools well.

At the core of social media are the ideas of transparency, open communication and creating two-way dialogue — organizations that embrace these tenants will be successful.

Tips

For those in agriculture considering entering the social media space, consider the following:

  • Listen first. Monitor social media to see who is talking about relevant topics, such as produce, foodservice and culinary trends, and food safety.

Listen to what is being said as well as the sentiment around the discussion. This critical step will help pave the way for your social strategy.

  • Survey your audience. Rather than guess what your audience wants out of your website, newsletter or social profiles, ask them. Simple online surveys will tell you what tools to consider and where to invest your resources.

We’re in the process of a survey such as this for the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program as it considers new forms of online communication.

  • Add value. With so many sources of information readily available, websites and social channels need to provide content that keeps people coming back. Think about what you can provide to add value.

Recently, we helped Markon Cooperative develop its new website and social channels, including its “Markon on Your Menu” section, which serves as a culinary hub of information with operator-specific tools like flavor profiles, usage tips and an extensive recipe library.

  • Create two-way dialogue. The days of one-way, “push” messages are gone and no longer work. Evaluate your website and social tools to see where you can create a conversation.
  • Use video to tell compelling stories. About 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. How do you break through the clutter?

The key is not necessarily to be the top-viewed video on YouTube, but instead to use video to share things that are difficult to communicate in other mediums to your core audiences.

Ocean Mist Farms uses video to demonstrate how to prepare and cook artichokes, in addition to showcasing its harvesting process. The company even has a video on how to eat an artichoke.

  • Plan for a crisis. While social media offers many valuable tools to build relationships in a proactive manner, it’s important to also consider how you would use your website and social media channels in a crisis situation.

Like all crisis planning, it’s crucial the thinking be done up front.

  • Embrace change. As technology and social media practices evolve, organizations must grow and change along with them.

It’s essential to have ongoing discussions about what’s working in social media and what’s not, and to be prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice.

The benefits of social media can be plentiful, if the tools are used strategically. Anyone who has ever set up a Twitter account, blog or Facebook page knows that the technology — in many ways — is the easy part.

It’s the strategy behind the technology that is crucial to success in the social media space.

Teresa Siles is vice president and director of social media for San Diego-based Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, a public relations and interactive firm specializing in consumer products and agriculture differentiation.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.