By Sarah Woolford, Grain Brokers Australia
In an era when an image of a boiled egg achieves millions of Instagram ‘likes’, the impact of social media is beyond debate.
So much focus is placed on the dangers of social media for younger people via cyberbullying and access to inappropriate content. However, in contrast, not enough emphasis is placed in media columns on the opportunities for regional and farm businesses. We can not only tap into the outside world and beyond with immediacy, but also play ball from a commercial perspective.
The ability to stay on top of global grain and livestock trends and prices is only the start of the social media opportunities for growers and farmers. Twitter is the ‘go to’ platform for most. From currency fluctuation to working dog food recommendations, the latest and greatest is at our fingertips.
Kimberley pastoralist Jane Sale is co-founder (with Steph Coombes) of Central Station; a blog for those living in outback Australia where the duo share their stories. Its genesis was a desire to showcase the beef industry following the live export ban in 2011. Central Station has evolved into a wide-ranging Facebook platform that covers everything from food providence to mental health issues, all of which help build the brand of the northern beef industry.
Here at Grain Brokers Australia, our website is now only part of the system we use to communicate with growers. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even LinkedIn have become essential components of our agricultural arsenal. Wheat might not be growing any faster, however growers increasingly prefer information in bite-sized chunks and on the go.
But what about the direct social media money spinners now accessible to ladies and lads on the land? Social media stardom sounds easy when you say it quickly. However, it requires the same level of commitment as any business.
Most of us don’t feel we lead exotic enough lives for global Instagram or YouTube fame. Yet many are doing well without needing to become a ‘country Kardashian’. For example, the Oz Outback Family channel on YouTube posts on the biggest transport machinery in Australia. The clips are almost exclusively of road trains; some with close to half a million views. The best way to get cut-through is to focus on what you know, and include people or animals – the smaller and cuter they are, the better.
This brings us to the tricky issue of involving your kids in your social media commerce. The heartbreaking story of Dolly Everett’s suicide lead to a social media campaign to prevent bullying online and off. Her devastating experience has likely led to many more young lives saved. Dolly’s story is an obvious example of the pros and cons of social media engagement at a personal level.
This is an issue that requires extended family discussion and consideration. Even the Kardashian siblings struggle at times with their ‘famous for being famous’ lifestyle.
What of the financial opportunity? Even if your social media presence focusses on the produce you grow, it will attract a larger audience when interspersed with slices of real life. The monetisation of YouTube can kick in from 10,000 views, but revenue is reliant on how many ads are viewed; you might attract thousands of viewers to a video and still not receive a cent.
Other social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter work in the same way. A presence on multiple channels will act as cross-promotion and leverage your content overall.
What about those of us who don’t have cute kids and puppies to pull into frame? Jillaroo Jess, a keynote speaker at the 2019 RRR Network Conference, is a great role model to consider. With an active presence on Facebook and Instagram in particular, she is a bona fide outback media personality. This brings me to the most important advice of all when it comes to social media presence; keep it real. Jess’ images of ant hills, sunsets and feeding calves have an authenticity that is impossible to fake.
Assuming you have what it takes, what else should you consider?
Be creative – Use unexpected angles in your images and include everyday farm activities such as gathering eggs and feeding the dogs.
Get designing – As your brand develops, low cost design options such as Canva and Photoshop will help add dynamism to your posts.
Analyse your results –Use free analytics such as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics to learn how your audience is responding post by post.
For more tips, you are a Google search away from plenty of information about growing a social media audience. Always keep in mind that you know your life better than any expert, and trial and error will be as good a strategy as any.
As Mark Zuckerberg put it himself; “If you just work on stuff that you are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.”