Wednesday, January 15, 2020
By Casey Mills & Jim Hoke

Now more than ever, the ag industry has extended its breadth beyond physical acres into the digital landscape. 

While that hasn’t been a rapid shift, it’s been a real one. Beef, dairy and pork producers—typically stalwart supporters of magazines and print media—are now as engaged across the spectrum of digital media as they are in print media. And for a more colorful example out of Kansas, three farmers made a parody music video about ag life that has now surpassed 17 million views on YouTube.

The traffic, the interest, the opportunity, it’s all there. So, as agriculture hybridizes with the social media realm—and all the comment storms and conflicts that come along with it—there’s a way to wrangle all of that chaos into consumer confidence, connect real with your audience and till this fertile digital landscape to grow your brand equity.

That means developing a social media strategy.

And by “strategy”, we mean doing the mental work first: Mapping out your needs, setting goals and seeing the big picture. Social media can’t and shouldn’t be expected to do everything for your brand. But social media is really good at supporting a number of your larger objectives. Understanding this from the start and employing social media correctly as a communications tool is crucial. You don’t build fence with a spatula and you don’t put unreasonable expectations on social media programs.

Create a gameplan.Before you fire, you aim. Instead of rushing in and making social posts for your brand, set clear business objectives and achievable, measurable goals. Who are the audiences you want to reach? What are they talking about online? What valuable information can you offer them? What do you want them to do: Simply offer you a like and subscribe, or rather, visit your company website to engage more deeply with your brand? Keep in mind, social media is about value exchange—you get what you give. So what are you bringing to the table for your audience?

Set community management rules. Create a solid set of boundaries for your community managers to operate. A clear decision tree. Clear directions on exactly what to do in each possible case and scenario. Guidelines for what constitutes an emergency or crisis. It’s just another example of why pregame is huge when it comes to your social game.

Set up pre-approved responses.Part of appropriately preparing your community manager is working to anticipate anything they may be confronted with. Reviewing FAQs and previous complaints is a good place to start. Then develop responses that you’ll have holstered, ready, reviewed, tweaked and internally approved well in advance. Understand that providing customer service on social media is expected, so being prepared saves time, money and heartache.

Talk like a human. To hone your brand voice, develop a brand persona up front. Personas are an imaginary character, look and personality you reference when speaking and writing for your brand. Your persona might avoid a $10 word when a 10¢ word will do. They might shoot straight. They might speak with savvy. They might joke. They might inform.

By developing your brand persona, you’ll have an unwavering manner of speaking that connects with your audiences, from consumers to investors. You’ll be able to engage commenters more presently, confidently, immediately. And that’s how you earn trust and respect for your brand. Armed with a persona and a strategy, you can be here, be now, and be the needle that guides the comment thread. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Gone are the days where brands can be successful on social media by simply passing the task off to interns or younger employees to “post some stuff.” It takes investment, expertise, and strategic planning to be successful—just like any other communication medium. Partnering with an agency on your social media gives you tried-and-true processes that maximize benefits and minimize issues.

Once you get beyond all the technical know-how—you still need a partner who understands the unique position of the ag industry online, who can effectively and authentically help you advocate in the space. You also need someone who can ensure you’re compliant with the ever-changing rules and regulations in the space.

Last year, across all client channels, our account teams published an average of 390 posts per month and monitored an average of 2,258 public comments and replies per month. With Ag brands representing some of our most engaging accounts, we’re online every day in this market.  

If you’d like to hear more about our social expertise, give us a holler.