By Becky Mills, AAEA Freelancer
If you think social media isn’t effective, meet Okra. Not the vegetable, the sow. More specifically, a three-way heritage breed cross who farrowed on Hornsby Farms in late October. Okra, and her maternity status, garnered over 20,000 hits on Facebook and Instagram.
“It was crazy,” says Beth Hornsby, who, along with husband Josh, owns the first-generation fruit, vegetable, and hog operation.
Hornsby shared her experiences with members of the Ag Communicators Network at their Montgomery, Alabama, Southeast Regional Workshop on November 14, 2017.
While Beth didn’t envision their first sow would attain rock star status, social media has played a key role in their Auburn, Alabama, operation from their summer of 2013 start up. “One of the first things we did was set up a Facebook page,” says Beth. Instagram followed shortly.
“We mirror our page on Facebook and Instagram,” she explains. “If people are only on one platform, they still get the same message.” She adds, “We love Instagram. We have over 3,500 followers.”
That message is trust, and safety. “We want them to know American grown food is the safest in the world. It is safe for our family, their family, our community and the land.”
“You don’t have to buy from us, we’d love it if you do, but we want to build that connection. We want them to know there is a person, a family, at the end of that line.”
The Hornsbys build that connection by posting the day to day activities on their farm, which include over 200 varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as Okra and her five Tamworth-sired piglets. While the sow and her brood get the most hits, videos showing the vegetable-growing process, from planting to canning the harvested products, are also big.
The Hornsby’s own crew, Sully, 8, Levi, 4, and Stella, 2, also bring on the internet traffic.
As vital as P.R. is to their operation, Beth uses social media in more tangible ways. Their web site includes analytics, and Beth says, “It helps us track trends for ordering, we can see what gift and produce baskets do well at what time of year. We can also see what images, posts and videos drive more traffic to our web site.”
The whole business of driving more traffic to the web site, or sites, is Eric Braun’s business. The Senior Director of User Engagement for Farm Progress, Braun works to get readers to the web sites for 25 magazines, including BEEF, Farm Futures, Feedstuff, and a variety of regional publications. “The most important thing is to grow your audience,” he emphasizes.
Twitter is his platform of choice for BEEF and Farm Futures, and he uses Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to schedule and monitor his tweets.
“Tweetdeck creates lists on Twitter and can follow each of those lists,” says Braun.
He also relies on analytics. “Analytics help us watch how our audience uses our content and what they like the most. We find out what gets the most clicks and visitors.”
For example, using analytics, he found that BEEF is the most popular of the Farm Progress publications on Facebook.
Mara McGurl, communications and multi-media manager for The Dairy Alliance, has been giving her social media skills and tools even more of a workout since the Ag Communicators Workshop. The Dairy Alliance, formerly known as Southeast United Dairy Industry Association (SUDIA), officially rebranded on January 1, 2018.
Both before and after the rebranding, McGurl says, “Social media is at the forefront of my job.” She communicates with dairy producers, consumers, retailers, health professionals, schools and athletes.
The platform McGurl uses depends on the message. She relies on Twitter for quick newsroom updates. “It is easy to incorporate into a few words.” If it is a longer message, especially one with a photo or recipe, she uses Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. “Each social media platform has a unique audience,” she notes.
Like Hornsby and Braun, McGurl also makes use of analytics. She favors Meltwater. “Meltwater gathers statistics from all our social media profiles, impressions, reach, engagement, demographics and more. It is a great tool.”
There you have it, social media tools of the trade from a panel of experts, including Okra.