In August 2013, my wife and I took the first step toward escaping desk-job drudgery. At the time, she worked as a nutritionist; I managed social media for a national TV network. Neither of us had experience in agriculture, but with Brielle’s food knowledge and my green thumb, we decided to try farming vegetables on our land.
Without a single cent of literal seed money, we opted to pre-sell CSA shares via Facebook. In a matter of days, our newly created page boasted 100 followers. By the following spring, all 20 CSA spots had sold out. Twist & Sprout Farms was a go.
Since then, our audience on multiple platforms has grown to nearly 2,000, and these followers help me believe that our farm will, one day, be my full-time job. Here’s how you can build your farm’s social presence from the ground up.
Learn from the masters.
Remember that every account starts with zero followers, and look to the ones you adore for inspiration. Note their content, imagery, and posting frequency, then mimic those practices until you find your groove. My favorites include Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook, and @ardeliafarm and @lizzylousfamilyfarm on Instagram.
Your first assignment: Facebook.
You might be tempted to blast your message across every hot new platform. (Periscope, anyone?) Resist the urge and begin on the oldie- but-goodie. Yes, your parents love it, but there’s a reason Facebook works wonders. Nearly 71 percent of all adult internet users have an account (more than any other network). Launch a business page from the drop-down menu on the upper right-hand corner of the site, and include contact details and links to your site in the description. Adopt your farm’s logo as the profile picture to bolster brand recognition. Facebook also offers easy-to-understand analytics and advertising tools, which can help you reach potential customers through, for example, geo-targeted posts.
Expand to other platforms.
Once you’re comfortable with the rhythm of Facebook, test the waters on Instagram and Twitter, using the same profile picture but tweaking the message slightly, as needed. In other words, don’t overthink it. Twitter’s better for sharing links and discussing ideas, while Instagram is built for photos. Make the pics good; a mobile editing app, such as Snapseed, can help. To expand your audience fast, include popular hashtags that describe your content. Sharing an image of your chickens? Tag #backyardchickens. (To start, we recommend #iamamodernfarmer.)
Cultivating an active audience requires regular interaction. Post on every one of your platforms at least once a day to keep current and potential customers engaged. And don’t let the comments linger: Treat them like calls on a customer-service hotline, and respond promptly and politely.
Keep it real.
Very few posts should be a hard sell. Instead, distinguish yourself from other, more sterile accounts by sharing wry observations and raw mistakes. Customers will naturally want to follow you if they believe in your story.
Pose meaningful questions to generate engagement. Asking opinions works best for me, as our followers often have diverse views that act as a catalyst for thought-provoking dialogue. This builds a sense of learning and community that I strive to foster.
Convert followers into customers.
Cement the relationship by offering discounts to the first five people who comment on a post or farm tours for new CSA members. We also grow our email list with a simple sign-up sheet at the farmers market. When we send out our newsletter, we ask folks to follow us on Facebook, and at least half do. It’s an honest, old-school way to build your virtual network.