Social Media Taking Root in Agriculture Industry

How to employ digital marketing with minimal expense

Published in the March 2013 Issue Published online: Mar 05, 2013
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AgChat FoundationThe agriculture industry, often erroneously maligned for not being up to speed on the latest business innovations and practices, today further dispels that myth with its growing immersion in social media, according to an advertising executive who specializes in the industry.

"The growth of the agribusiness social media movement is exemplified by the success of groups like the AgChat Foundation, whose mission is to empower growers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms," said Clay Cooper, director of client services at the Chicago-based Plan B advertising agency, which focuses on agriculture-related businesses. "The foundation's popular #AgChats on Twitter, which frequently draws more than 2,000 participants who tweet about a host of farming issues, reflects this surge in social media activity."

Cooper also points to a 2011 study by the American Farm Bureau Federation that revealed of the 98 percent of growers and ranchers ages 18 to 25 who have Internet access, 76 percent of them use social media.

"Without question, the `platform' is primed for use by agribusinesses," Cooper said. "But how does one begin to tap this powerful medium? It's best to start by looking at some practical, straightforward applications."

Cooper suggests considering a hypothetical example of a seed manufacturer looking to revamp his B2B marketing plan for the coming year. After a drought-ridden summer, money is tight and the seed manufacturer is working with a marketing budget half the size of what he's used to. One must also remember that smaller and more specialized seed manufacturers are forced to compete in a market filled with multi-national conglomerates like DuPont, Syngenta and Monsanto.

"What's a small seed manufacturer to do? It doesn't take multi-million dollar TV advertising. Rather, it's all about engagement," he said.

Here are several digital marketing opportunities this seed manufacturer can tap:

 Track relevant conversations and industry-specific keywords using a social listening platform like Radian6 or Spiral16.

 Participate in Twitter chats and monitor hashtags such as #AgChat, #farmtoschool, #sustainableagriculture, #foodchat and more.

 Create and maintain a blog that provides the type of advice or stories often sought by the manufacturer's target audience. This can include customer testimonials, troubleshooting tips for problems encountered by growers.

 Create a list of trusted industry sources and send a weekly or bi-monthly newsletter of the most relevant stories to warm and hot leads.

 Use trade shows to supplement physical contact information with email addresses, Facebook pages and Twitter handles, and then follow up via digital channels.

 Host a webinar about a timely topic or focused industry insight that will present valuable information to the target audience.

"Employing tactics such as these provides agribusinesses a great way to quickly take advantage of social media and conduct outreach on a limited budget," Cooper said.