I had the chance this summer to speak in rural Japan (Kumamoto, Kyushu for those of you who might have been there to see Mount Aso) at a workshop on social media for the agricultural industry. Whenever I speak, I always mention how social media truly transcends industry (as well as discipline) and always ask someone to challenge me in finding an industry that can’t find a use for social media. The agricultural industry is ripe (pun intended) for using social media because it really does represent what the farmer’s market used to be. Farmer’s markets don’t just sell agricultural products, either, so listen up all you small businesses!
It’s often where your customer is at
If you wanted to sell your produce in the past, you had to go to where your audience was. With 65% of Americans using social media, there is no doubt that your audience is spending more and more time on social media. Obviously you need to figure out which platform is appropriate for you, but there is a social networking site out there where your target customer lurks. Chances are that platform will be Facebook, but depending on your product you might have better luck concentrating on LinkedIn.
It’s often where everyone is being social
Everybody congregated at the farmer’s market. It was a huge social event. So is social media. The key to being successful, therefore, is that we have to be social. We can’t just set up a Page and expect things to happen just like you can’t just set up a stand and expect to sell. You shouldn’t be over-pushing your product like some vendors do, but those that tend to sell a lot of produce at my local farmer’s market are those that have free fruit samples. Not only do my kids love them, it gives us a chance to try out their products and establish a relationship with the vendors. What is the free “fruit” that you are giving away to those who engage with your business in social media?
It gives you a chance to go direct to your customer
The advantage of social media as a marketing tool is that it allows you to go direct to your customer. Similar to how vendors need to build trust at the farmer’s market by providing quality produce week in and week out, you too need to do the same with the amount of online conversation and recommendation apps that exist. That’s why you should be taking advantage of what social media provides you to get to know your customer a little better. Don’t be shy: engage.
It gives you the ability to easily establish a new brand
I actually spoke at a workshop that was co-sponsored by Tomamo-chan. Tomamo-chan is the result of a major seed distributor realizing that Kumamoto is the leading producer of tomatoes in terms of volume in Japan, but very few consumers knew this nor were buying tomatoes specifically because they were from Kumamoto. The seed distributor got several of the leading tomato producers to join forces and create a new brand to co-brand their products going forward. Such is how “Tomamo-chan” was born – “Toma” coming from tomato and “mo” coming from Kumamoto. A cutesy character was created (displayed above), and through the help of my friend Katsuyo Nakao, they were able to easily establish this brand by tweeting and launching a Facebook Page where fans could actually see, and help “Tomamo-chan” grow up. I always say that social media provides a land of opportunity for unknown brands to make a mark in whatever marketplace they are trying to establish a presence. By showing up in social media with a unique brand in a consistent and engaging manner, it is as easy to establish a new brand entity through social media just like it is by consistently showing up at the farmer’s market.
Case in point to drive all of this home: At the end of the presentation, a gentleman in the back of the room raised his hand to share his experience with us. He was a watermelon farmer from the rural prefecture of Oita. He started a Facebook Page and was sharing how watermelons were harvested by using both photos and videos. There was nothing high-tech about what he did. In fact, he didn’t even have any apps installed or a Facebook Ads budget. He had some of his friends “Like” the page and it grew from there. One day someone simply posted on the wall that they wanted to buy a watermelon, and he took the order via email. Since then he confided he’s sold quite a few watermelons.
A tea farmer also stood up and reminded us of how much content farmers had to share – and how good it felt to share it. The farmer reminded us of how labor-intensive and tedious a job traditional agriculture is in Japan, but that when “fans” started to “Like” his photos, it made him proud.
Yes, social media can make your company and your employees feel good too!
Sometimes we overcomplicate social media with the technology and tools that we can leverage. If you remember that social media is the new farmer’s market and think how you would represent your company at the biggest farmer’s market in the world, hopefully you’ll see how common sense should be the cornerstone of your social media marketing strategy.
Have you ever sold a product through a Facebook Page comment? How do you feel when someone Likes your content? Let’s chat!