Facebook. It's almost indispensable to a business's marketing strategy. Facebook is whole-heartedly embraced as a marketing tool by businesses, government, and all types of organizations. Why is this? Primarily because Facebook has gained such popularity among the general population with folks from every demographic and the fact that it is free (except for ads and promoted posts, which we discuss later on).
Combine these two aspects and you've got the perfect 21st century environment for the time honored word-of-mouth marketing tool. People no longer need to meet each other in person to share opinions on products purchased or experiences; they can do all these things online with the added benefit of sharing with a larger audience.
For agricultural businesses, Facebook allows you to take advantage of these aspects with the added benefit of being free (or low cost). In the truest sense, the largest cost to you will be the time you spend creating and maintaining your Facebook presence. This publication will describe how you can utilize Facebook to market your agricultural business and products. If you need assistance with setting up a Facebook account and creating a personal or business profile (which you will need to create a "group" or "page"), please refer to the resource list at the end of this publication.
How Can Using Facebook Benefit my Business?
Ag businesses can use Facebook in a variety of ways for marketing purposes. First, and most importantly, it affords you an avenue through which to keep in contact with customers, and the public in general. By posting status updates, photos, videos, and links, you can let individuals with an interest in your business know what's going on at any particular point in time. Let's say you own a small dairy and process some of your milk into cheese. On days that you make cheese you may want to let people know that it's "cheese-making day" and even post some photos and a video of you making the cheese.
Facebook also allows you to advertise your business, products, and events. Let's say that you own a farm market and that you host an annual fall festival. On your business's profile page you have the ability to create an event posting such as the one shown below.
When creating a calendar event, make sure to create wall posts about the event too; this will get more mileage out of your marketing efforts.
Another way to advertise on Facebook is by developing paid advertisements. Aspects to determine before creating your advertisement:
- Objective - What is it that you want to advertise? Facebook's ad set-up process is determined on which of the offered objectives you choose (though most set-up processes are similar). Current objectives to choose from include: boost a post, promote your page, send people to your website, reach people near your business, or raise attendance at an event.
- Audience - Who do you want to reach with your ad? The audience portion of ad development allows you to define your target audience within parameters including age, gender, physical location, language, and connection to your page. You also have the option to save your choices to create a saved audience that you can choose to use for future advertising, saving you from having to remember your audience parameters in the future.
- Placement - Depending on the advertising objective you choose, you'll have the ability to choose where you want the ad to appear. Your choices include: Mobile news feed, Desktop news feed, Desktop right column, Instagram, and Audience network (apps and other websites)
- Budget - The simple budget set-up just requires that you choose between setting a daily or lifetime budget amount and then whether to set a start and end date for you advertising campaign or to allow the campaign to run continuously from the time it is approved. There are also some advanced budgeting options available which we will not cover here.
- Media & Text - The final step in ad development is the visual side. You'll have an opportunity to choose images or video (depending on the objective you chose). Choose an attractive and relevant image/video for your ad that is appropriate for the product or service being advertised. For text, make sure it is clear and concise that speaks directly to the audience you want to reach.
Finally, through the ability to post and share links and create notes and discussions, Facebook is a great platform for sharing information. You may want to keep people up to date on what's happening within your industry or perhaps share helpful tips for using the products you sell. For example, some ag businesses have included discussion board topics on their Facebook pages that are "how-to's" or recipes for products that they sell at their market. One business provides step-by-step instructions for folks on how to freeze corn; providing knowledge on food storage that many people no longer have in today's world of canned and frozen food purchased at the grocery.
The Workings of Facebook
Now that you know how Facebook can be used as another tool in your marketing plan, you may be curious as to how Facebook works or how to manage your business's Facebook presence. Starting from the most general, Facebook is a web-based application, meaning that it's use requires Internet access. To create a Facebook account and profile, you must use a computer. After that however, you can use other devices (such as smartphones - iPhone, Android) and web applications (such as HootSuite) to manage and update your profile.
Using Facebook as a business tool does require that you first have a Facebook account. Assuming that you have an account and are ready to create a business profile, you'll first be faced with the decision whether to create a "Group" or a "Page." While both appear the same, there are a few key differences which result in Pages lending themselves better to businesses for marketing purposes.
- Search capability - Pages are indexed by external search engines such as Google, just like a public profile while Groups are not.
- Posts - As a Group administrator, posts appear to be coming from you and are attached to your personal profile. Pages can create content that comes from the Page itself, so that content doesn't have to be linked to you personally.
Neat Aspects and Things to Avoid
There are a few other neat aspects that you may be interested in exploring as you become more serious in your use of Facebook.
- Applications/Games - If you have a skilled software developer in your network of contacts (or wish to hire one), you could explore the option of creating an application such as a quiz or game that would appeal to your target market.
- Blogs - Facebook also allows you to import blog entries into the Notes application (see Facebook "Help" for directions). If you have a blog, utilizing this feature allows you to leverage your blogging efforts.
- Places - When users have location services turned on on their mobile device, it allows Facebook users to "check in" at their location and users' friends can see where they are. For your business to been seen as a nearby place, make sure to have provided an address and chosen a category for your Page.
- Personalized Facebook URL - Make it easy to share your Facebook presence with a personalized URL. Let's say your business name is JohnnyCake Farms. You can claim "johnnycakefarms" as your username (assuming this name hasn't already been claimed). Your personal URL would then be www.facebook.com/johnnycakefarms.
In the open and sharing environment that is Facebook, it's easy to get carried away. When it comes to your business profile however, there are a couple of things that you should avoid.
- Posting items that are too personal in nature - While your customers and others interested in your business may enjoy occasional stories about your family vacation or an addition to the farm or business family, there is a line that can be crossed. Posts about things such a messy divorce or a dispute with a non-farming neighbor should be avoided.
- Making negative comments about others (especially your competition) - The somewhat autonomous nature of Facebook makes it easy to post comments that might be critical of another person/business/product. Doing so, however, can cast a poor shadow on your professionalism. Keep in mind, also, how easily shared information posted online is.
Stay Up to Date!
Staying current on the features and capabilities of Facebook is very important if you're going to use it as a marketing tool for your agricultural business. Luckily there are quite a few resources that you can turn to for up-to-date information on changes and additions to Facebook. Mashable.com is one such resource. Their staff of techies is right on top of the latest changes to Facebook as well as other social media, publishing short articles every day.
Prepared by Sarah A. Cornelisse, Sr. Extension Associate in Agricultural Economics