How Consumers Use Social Networks to Connect with Food Retailers: Internet Tools

Posted: July 9, 2012

Continuing our discussion about online and social media tools, this article presents responses pertaining to social media and web-based tools that might be good fits for direct marketers.

We asked respondents to tell us if web-based and social media tools (websites, email, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and blogs) were good fits for direct markets including on-farm and farmers’ markets, road-side stands, pick-your-own operations, and local wineries.  As you can see in Table 1, respondents indicated that websites were the best fit for each of the market types, followed by email and Facebook.  Twitter, MySpace, and blogs were seen as good fits by fewer than 25% of all respondents.

Table 1.  Percent of participants who thought that the following web-based and social media tools were “good fits” for the following types of retailers.

Tool investigated
On-farm/farmer's market
Road-side stand
Local winery
 Websites           39.8%
 Email           36.5%        36.3%     29.2%  35.4%
 Facebook           33.1%        34.0%     28.6%  33.3%
 Twitter          18.1%        20.3%     15.3%  18.5%
 MySpace          15.3%        17.8%     12.1%  15.5%
 Blogs          18.2%        21.3%    16.4%  18.1%

Nearly 40% of respondents ages 18 to 64 indicated that websites were good fits for on-farm and farmers’ markets compared to 26% of participants ages 64 and older (Table 2).  Hence, this provides some indication that nearly all participants were comfortable with websites. A similar pattern relating to websites being good fits for road-side stands can also be seen in Table 2. Overall, the averages were lower than they were for on-farm and farmers’ markets, but we still see the oldest age group having a lower response than the others.

Table 2.  Percentage of participants, based on age group, who felt websites were “good fits” for on-farm & farmer’s markets and road-side stands.

Age group
On-farm/farmer's markets
Roadside stands
 18 to 24
            40.9%          36.4%
 25 to 36
            42.2%          33.5%
 37 to 48
            39.2%          32.7%
 49 to 64
            39.1%          31.3%
 65 and older
            25.6%          23.9%

When asked about local wineries, over half of survey respondents with incomes of $150,000 or greater were more likely to believe that email was useful as a marketing tool for local wineries than those with lower income levels (Table 3).  As seen in Table 4, a clear positive trend shows that those who have received more formal education were more likely to see email as a good fit for wineries.  Finally, as we have seen before, those in the 25 to 36 year age group were significantly more likely to indicate that Twitter was a good fit for local wineries (Table 5). 

Table 3.  Percent of respondents, by income level, who thought that email was a “good fit” for local wineries.

Income level
Percent response
 $24,000 or less
 $24,000 to $49,999
 $50,000 to $74,999
 $75,000 to $99,999
 $100,000 to $149,999
 $150,000 or greater

Table 4.  Percent of respondents, by education level, who thought email was a “good fit” for local wineries.

Education level
Percent response
 High school graduate or less
 Some college
 B.S. degree
 M.S. degree or higher

Table 6.  Percent of respondents, by age group, who thought Twitter was a “good fit” for local wineries.

Age group
Percent response
 18 to 24
 25 to 36
 37 to 48
 49 to 64
 65 or older

Responses showed that websites and email were viewed as better tools than social networks for direct marketers. While this information might not be surprising, the difference may have changed since our data were collected. Using web-based and social media tools in a strategic way is likely to appeal to a wide variety of customers.

In the next article, we will present data that discusses our respondents’ views of print ads and TV or radio as being good advertising tools for food retailers.  To view the entire YouTube series, please visit


Contact Information

Jeffrey Hyde, Ph.D.
  • Associate Director of Programs
Phone: 814-865-5666
Kathy Kelley
  • Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management
Phone: 814-863-2196
Dana Ollendyke
  • Extension Associate
Phone: 814-863-5567