In our last blog post, we talked about the critical elements of your web design and how your website is the anchor of your marketing efforts (see that post here). In this post, we are going to talk about the crucial role social media plays in getting the word out to our target audience about our great agritourism business. Here is a brief rundown of the current major players in social media:
Data from 2015 Pew Research Center Report
Facebook – Still the king of social media even though many of the younger crowd have migrated over to or added other social media platforms to their usage. The latest statistics indicate that 72% of all American adult internet users have a Facebook account. In case you are part of the 28% that don’t have a Facebook account, this platform is mainly centered around sharing photos, links, your thoughts & opinions on life, support for brands, etc.
YouTube – Comes in at a strong second place at 63% of adult American internet users use YouTube. You may not necessarily think of YouTube as social media but it is becoming more and more of a place that people connect over specific topics and interests in the form of videos.
Pinterest – This one surprised me. I thought there would be a few others that would rank higher but 31% of adult internet users use Pinterest. In case you are not familiar, Pinterest is a giant virtual idea and inspiration board. Very popular with women and the DIY crowd.
Instagram - All about sharing images and dominated by the under 30 crowd, although older demographics are increasing. You can take a photo in this application and have it automatically shared to some of your other social media platforms. 28% of adult internet users use Instagram.
LinkedIn – This one is geared more towards business and business networking and relationships. Your target audience may not be on LinkedIn but relationships that can help you improve your skills, hire employees, and more are what you will find here. 25% of adult internet users use LinkedIn.
Twitter – I really expected this one to be higher on the list but still comes in strong at 23% of adult internet users. On this platform you are limited to 140 characters to each “tweet” or message that you want to share with the world. You “follow” celebrities, friends, or businesses that you are interested in.
SnapChat – Although this one didn’t make the 2015 chart toppers, I am fairly sure you will see it in the 2016 numbers. This has grown rapidly in popularity over the last year. It allows you to take a picture, add art or text, and send it to recipients, but they only have a set amount of time to view it before it self-deletes.
Others – There are literally hundreds of other social apps out there that have not reached the masses such as the ones above. Another newer social media platform that is gaining momentum that is worth mentioning is live video streaming apps such as Periscope or Meerkat. (Facebook has also added similar functionality). We will talk more about the potential uses for this in agritourism below.
Now let’s talk about using these tools to market our agritourism businesses. Where is your target audience?
The first step in using social media effectively is determining which platform your target audience is using. This piece of the puzzle is something that you should review and analyze every year as it does change. 10 years ago, if you wanted to target teens and young adults, Facebook was the place to go. Now many in that age demographic have moved on to other platforms after we adults invaded Facebook.
This is constantly changing and your marketing strategy needs to change with it so keep up on trends. The rest of this article will be largely based on today’s trends.
1. Why use Social Media?
The reason social media MUST be part of an effective agritourism marketing campaign is that is where your customers are. The average person now spends nearly 2 hours per day on social media. Your goal is to become part of your target demographic's social media feed by providing them with valuable content, keeping your business visible, resulting in growing your business.
2. Facebook is a Must.
Based on the fact that currently nearly ¾ of all adult internet users are using Facebook, this one is a must no matter what age you are targeting. Building a Facebook community through a business page or Facebook group is a powerful way to stay in touch with your community.
Just as powerful (if not more) is the use of Facebook ads. This is a relativity low cost marketing tool that allows you to get very specific on who you are targeting with your ads. So for instance, an agritourism business could target a certain age range within a specific geographic area. Or maybe target the ad to those who are members of a Facebook parenting group. There are other great options as well.
We will do an entire blog post dedicated to Facebook marketing and maybe even a how-to video but there are some really powerful and low-cost benefits to using Facebook in your marketing campaign.
3. "Be Everywhere" Approach
This is a great approach to take but only if you are willing to put in the work to keep all the social network “balls in the air”. You may find that several social media platforms provide different audiences or features that will benefit your business. Join as many as you feel you can provide valuable and regular content through. For instance, at Agritourism Ideas, we are active on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest. We have found that most of the agritourism business owners are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but we have seen some response and value from the others as well.
We have chosen the “Be Everywhere” approach but it does take time to stay active on all these platforms.
4. Good Content
Your posts, regardless of the platform, should be something of value. Whether that is something lighthearted and fun, or inspirational, or informative, make sure it contains value. Typically, businesses want to stay away from political or other culturally controversial topics to avoid the risk of alienating potential clientele.
5. Regular Posts
It is important to be consistent on your social media feeds. Set a schedule that makes sense for your business. If you are seasonal, you may have daily posts those few weeks you are open and may switch to weekly posts during the off season. It is very important that you stay active and connected with your community even in the off-season.
Be careful not to get too aggressive with your posts. Not many people want to see a post from a business or person show up in their feed every 30 minutes of every day. I and others I have talked to end up blocking those over-posters from our social media feeds.
6. Targeting the Younger Crowd
If you are looking to target the teens and young adults for something like a haunted attraction, visual-centric platforms such as Instagram, SnapChat, and Periscope are great options (in addition to Facebook) and a great place to find this age demographic.
My advice on building this network is to work with your employees that fit that age demographic to help you build that network through an incentive program or employee contest. Maybe even have one of them become your social media expert. If you go that route, I would start by having them run all potential posts through you to ensure that they understand the vision and professionalism you want to portray for your business.
7. Free, but Comes at a Price
Unlike our other marketing efforts such as billboards, mailers, radio ads, etc., social media accounts are free of charge. That is great from a budget perspective but it will come at a price and the price is time. To do this effectively, you will need to budget time. This is typically not a major issue during the off-season but is a highly precious commodity during our busy season and that is when you need to be using social media the most! If you know you won’t personally have the time, don’t sacrifice this key marketing effort. Delegate this important task to someone you trust.
8. Social Tagging
Having a presence on social media also allows you to be “tagged”. This can be an invaluable marketing tool. If you have a happy bunch of guests taking an awesome photo at one of the great photo ops you have setup, and they share on social media, most users will mention where they are. If you have a social media presence, they can tag your business and that tag can then be clicked. When that tag is clicked, the user is typically taken to your profile on that social media platform where they can find out more about you and find the link back to your website.
This also allows you to see who has posted things to social media and has tagged you giving you another opportunity to thank that person for coming, asking for specific feedback, etc.
9. The Ugly Side of Social Media
Social media can have the opposite impact on your marketing efforts if your customer service or product is lacking. If you are already frustrated with the high number of complaints you receive at your venue, you may want to address any gaps in service or product before entering into the social media world.
Even if you provide outstanding customer service and an outstanding product, there will most likely come a time where you receive a public criticism from an unhappy customer through social media. They could be unhappy because the farm was muddy, the rain was wet, or other crazy things that are expected and/or out of your control.
When this happens, face it head on. Respond to that user just as publicly and continue to provide them outstanding customer service even if it is as simple as offering them a phone call to discuss further. When others see that you respond and care – it goes a long way! Don’t get into an argument or heated discussion on social media. Bad form! Take the high road and offer them a chance to discuss or resolve the issue privately.
Social media, used correctly, can be your most powerful marketing tool. If you are just starting your agritourism venue, it can be an incredible way to get the word out about your new business. If you are an established venue, it can help you reach new audiences. In both cases, you are providing a way for people to connect with your business on a more in-depth and personal level.
Social media provides a great channel for getting feedback, running contests or promotions, and building up a community around your business rather than just a customer base. In my opinion, a strong social media presence should be a top priority in our marketing efforts.