How Farmers Use Social Media and How to Target Them

Ben Pindar
9 months ago
Farmer using mobile phone

How Farmers Use Social Media And How To Target Them

Last Updated: 27 July 2023

While agriculture was perhaps perceived to have been slow to adopt social media and wider digital activities, that simply isn’t the case any more. Agribusinesses need to have a strong social media presence and a strategic approach to digital marketing as farmers now expect to be able to engage with brands and research products and services in a variety of ways.

There are a range of surveys out there about how farmers are using social media, but the general agreement is that around 80% of farmers are now using social media platforms regularly.

Regardless of the statistics, the inevitable truth is that social media use among farmers is growing fast. Agribusinesses need to be harnessing its potential to engage with their audiences and to secure sales because you can guarantee your competitors are already working hard to build their own social following.

Another key consideration is that the next generation of farmers are digital natives and rely heavily on social media for their information and decision making. By building relationships with this engaged audience now, agribusinesses can have a significant presence in their inner circle as they become the key decision makers on the farm in the years to come.

But, what social media platforms are farmers using? How do you engage with farmers on social media? What are farmers using social media for? Is organic social media a good strategy for targeting farmers? And, should you be using paid social media to target farmers?

In this blog, we explore best practices for using organic and paid social media when communicating, marketing or selling to farmers and also put each of the main social brands under the microscope to gauge the relevance of each social media platform to farmers.

 

Why is social media important to farmers?

For years, most agricultural brands have relied on print and exhibitions to market to farmers and these still have a place in an agribusiness marketing strategy. However, they must form part of the mix in a multi-channel approach.

Farmers now consume information in a wide variety of ways and are savvy buyers. They will do their research, check to make sure it has a clear business case in the majority of cases and you can guarantee they will speak to other farmers to seek their opinions and experiences. All of this will happen before you are even aware of any interest in your product or services and they make an initial enquiry.

Increasingly, the majority of this will be done using social media channels. They’ll view videos online, discuss options in forums and groups, they’ll ask for opinions and other user experiences amongst their social network and, most importantly, they’ll want to understand who you are and if you can be trusted to deliver on the claims you make.

Relationships are still key in farm buying decisions. Many farmers still buy from the same brand or dealers because they’ve had a relationship with the family for generations. This is where social media can transform your brand. A well-executed social media strategy ensures farmers can get a feel for your brand, they can get to understand your values and meet your people.

Get it right and farmers will feel like they have a good relationship with your brand even before they make physical contact with you. If you are generous with your insights and experiences, are showing how you are helping other farmers and sharing their stories and, most importantly, showing how your products or services can benefit their own farm, you can become part of the farmer’s inner circle and help influence their decision making.

Again, all of this has to be delivered in a variety of ways and across a range of platforms. If you are being seen to be trusted, helpful and generous across all of the channels the farmer is using, you will be at the forefront of their mind when it comes to finding a solution to problems or investing in a new system or method on the farm.

 

What social media platforms are farmers using?

As we’ve discussed, farmers are using a multitude of social media platforms to consume information, seek the views of other farmers, learn new ideas and connect directly with brands.

However, some are more popular than others and we’ve explored the key pros and cons of each social media platform below to help inform your marketing decisions. The key, however, is to understand your own audience demographic and target your social media marketing to them. There’s little point spending time and energy on a social media platform if you’re customers aren’t there so make sure you understand who your buyers are and where you can find them.

As a rough rule of thumb, if it’s a general, middle-aged farmer, look to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. If it’s major farm businesses and organisations, add LinkedIn to the mix. If you’re targeting younger farmers or trendier, more cutting-edge crowd, consider TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Below is a breakdown of each social media platform and how farmers are using them:

 

Facebook

Despite a few wobbles along the way, Facebook still remains the dominant force in the social media world, and this is the same for farmers.

You will find the majority of farmers on Facebook and it’s a great way to engage with them in a variety of ways. Farmers on here span a wide age gap but may lean more towards the older end of the spectrum, with younger farmers preferring other platforms, but this is where the bulk of decision makers can be found.

Facebook is primarily social and farmers are using it speak to other farmers, asking for advice, opinions and learning from their own experiences.

It’s important to have an active and engaging page on Facebook, sharing lots of useful information, providing advice and obviously promoting the benefits of your product or service. Farmers want to hear from other farmers so make sure you are sharing engaging and interesting case studies from farmers who have benefitted from working with you.

You should also be delivering a mix in the type of content to keep it engaging. Create videos and infographics, share images, media coverage or white papers and talk about where people can find you if you’re visiting shows, farms or dealerships. It is a great platform for sharing your own content and driving people back to your website.

The key is to encourage engagement and make it social. Ask questions, encourage people to share their own experiences, images and videos, run contests – anything to get people engaging directly with you and sharing your content.

There is also a huge range of very active groups spanning all types of farming and this can be a really powerful way to engage with farmers. This needs to be done as individuals, but it means you can find groups that are really targeted to your audience and allows you to engage directly with potential customers.

Groups are about sharing advice and asking questions and most don’t want or allow promotions. However, this can be a great place to demonstrate your expertise and prove to be helpful and generous but can also be really useful for marketing and business insights.

Consider using groups to run simple polls with a target audience to get the insights you need or to help generate possible PR or further social content.

 

Twitter

Twitter again has a wide farming audience and, assuming it survives Elon Musk’s turbulent rulership, is a powerful way to engage with farmers and understand their opinions.

The age range of farmers is again broad, maybe slightly younger than Facebook on average, but has a much quicker, digestible type of content and is usually more opinion focussed.

Most farmers are on here to share their own experiences, keep up to date with latest developments and keep track of topical issues rather than seek advice.

For brands, Twitter is best used for sharing your own content to drive people back to your website but you should again be generous, sharing useful articles and news items or videos, images and infographics that will be engaging to your audience.

Critically, Twitter has a number of major farming influencers on the platform and these have large, engaged audiences of farmers. If you can engage with these influencers either by joining their discussions or encouraging them to share your content, it can be a really effective way to quickly get in front of a qualified audience and build up your own following.

 

YouTube

YouTube is arguably the most influential social media platform in the sense that it will most likely have the largest impact on a farmer, but it is also probably the toughest to get significant numbers of subscribers on board.

Video is undoubtedly the most engaging content you can produce for social media, and YouTube is the king of video platforms. It is, however, best used in conjunction with another social media platform, sharing your YouTube links to Facebook or Twitter for example, as this will drive the most engagement.

YouTube videos are widely used by farmers of most ages and are a really popular format for consuming information, learning new techniques, viewing new products or seeing what other farmers are up to.

This is a great platform for agribusinesses to show off their products or services, giving farmers a true ‘feel’ for how it could apply to their farm. It’s also the best way to showcase case studies, allowing farmers to see your products or services in real action on another farm.

As we’ve mentioned, links to these videos with eye-catching images and text then need to be shared across your social media platforms as this will encourage views and grow your channel while also helping to make content on your other social media platforms more engaging.

Again, there are a number of significant influencers on the platform who have big followings and command impressive viewer numbers for each of their videos. For brands, encouraging these influencers to feature you in their videos, either with free products or by agreeing a fee, can be another extremely effective way of raising the profile of your brand and encouraging people to subscribe to your channel or follow other profiles.

 

Instagram

Instagram is one of the faster growing social media platforms among farmers but is, on average, a slightly younger audience than Facebook or Twitter. That said, the age demographic is growing, but many will use this platform for social interests or for keeping up to date with key individual farmers, rather than seeking information or the latest agricultural tools or trends.

This platform is primarily about engaging images and infographics but is now also heavily investing in video content with reels – videos shot in an upright fashion.

Again, there are a number of major farming influencers on the platform for agribusinesses to target and utilise.

Instagram does have drawbacks in the sense that it has limited ways to drive traffic back to the website, but it is another extremely engaging way to communicate with farmers, allowing you to showcase products or how you are benefitting individual farmers.

Instagram can be a powerful social media tool but it is worth investing time in establishing if your target audience is present before committing to it as a key social media platform for targeting farmers.

 

LinkedIn

While LinkedIn is evolving, it is still very much about business connections and you’re unlikely to find the average farmer engaging with this social media platform in any significant way.

The larger farming groups will have a presence here and key individuals in these organisations will be using it for insights and advice.

For agribusinesses, it is worth having a presence but this platform is more about company updates and promotions and should primarily be used to maintain connections and partnerships with other agribusinesses, associations and wider agricultural organisations.

 

 

 

TikTok

TikTok is increasingly being discussed in agribusiness circles and is undoubtedly worth monitoring to see if, and how, your target audience is using the platform.

It does have a farming community present on the platform, but these are typically younger, in the 16 to 30-year-old range. The majority use the platform, which features short-form, portrait videos, for entertainment but will also use it to view brand products, offers and values etc.

For agribusinesses looking to utilise TikTok, content has to be dynamic, interesting and engaging but this can have a significant impact if done well. On the plus side, any content created for TikTok makes for great content that can be shared or repurposed on most other social media platforms.

At this stage, TikTok probably doesn’t offer a huge amount of value to most agribusinesses, but it is definitely one to keep an eye on as it evolves and grows.

As we’ve said, video is the most engaging content you can produce, and it wasn’t that long ago that Facebook was just for the youngsters.

 

WhatsApp

While WhatsApp is officially a social media platform, it’s not something that can be used in a traditional social media way. Despite this, you’ll often see surveys proudly claiming WhatsApp as the biggest social media platform used by farmers.

Yes, WhatsApp is widely used by all farmers and, yes, it is arguably the most effective way of communicating with them.

But, and this is a BIG but, you realistically need their phone number to be able to communicate with farmers via WhatsApp. If you have their number, WhatsApp can be very effective and is seen as a trusted and personal form of communication.

For agribusinesses, it means you can create groups promote your content and marketing materials directly to the farmers’ phone.

More features are coming to WhatsApp and these may allow you to broadcast to a wider audience, even if you don’t have their number, but this will most likely have to be used with caution. Due to the personal nature of WhatsApp, many may find marketing sent in a direct message a bit too invasive.

This blog explains more about the evolution of WhatsApp and the most effective ways to use it.

Paid Social Media

Although a good organic social media strategy executed well can increase brand awareness and help to get your messaging and product offering in front of your target audience, the reality is that relying on it alone will make it more difficult to reach the maxiumum amount of prospective customers.

It’s widely known the average reach of a Facebook business page for example is around the 5.2% mark. To put that into numbers, if you have say 3,000 likes of your page, only 156 people on average will see that new post you carefully crafted and spent time sourcing a great image for.

However, an easy way to increase reach dramatically is by putting some budget behind your efforts and buying impressions on platforms such as Facebook which, in our opinion, is the best place to reach farmers and get them to take action.

The easiest and most basic way of taking the first step into paid social activity is by post boosting. Facebook make the process quick and easy, and you still have targeting options available to you to get in front of a qualified audience.

If you’re serious about making paid social media marketing work for your agribusiness though, you’ll soon be wanting to explore the additional features that the platform offers via Meta Ads Manager.

Here you’ll find a wider range of options in the categories of goals, creative, targeting, and optimisation.

It’s important to note at this point that jumping in with two feet without any expertise can be a slippery slide towards a lot of wasted ad spend. Your activity should have a strategy behind it, a clear set of goals, and the means to fully interpret and optimise the results.

Planning is key when it comes to successful paid social campaigns. Having strong assets, creative, messaging, call to actions, and effective conversion mechanisms are essential to success.

Planning paid social campaigns

So where should the planning process start? We always recommend working backwards from your objectives so before you do anything, set out exactly what it is you want to achieve with the activity.

The four main top level objectives are:

  • Sales
    • If ecommerce, this could be online purchases
    • If not ecommerce and you have end-to-end tracking in place so you can see what resulting sales have been made from the paid social activity, then sales is a valid metric in that scenario too
  • Leads
    • Leads is a very common objective in agribusiness as it’s a B2B environment and the majority of purchases take place offline
  • Event/webinar sign-ups
    • If you’re running an event or webinar, paid social is always a good option to promote it
  • Customer loyalty
    • If your product lends itself to customers making repeat purchases, this might be one of your objectives
  • Market insight and gathering data
    • Paid social activity can be a great way to promote surveys and to test what messaging and offers work with different customer segments
  • Brand awareness
    • Slightly less specific than some of those listed above but brand awareness is still a very valid objective. If a prospective customer doesn’t know you exist or what your offer is, they will never buy from you

 

The offer

Once you have established one or multiple objectives, the next step is to think about the hook – what messaging or offer do you want to promote in order to meet your objectives.

This is where the lines can get slightly blurred based on your objectives.

For example, for a lead generation campaign, the focus very much needs to be on the offer – if you’re looking to gather contact information, which psychologically is still a transaction to your prospective customers as they’re giving up something and will expect a fair exchange of value in return, what is it that you’re going to offer? Tip: a sales brochure isn’t likely to cut it here, people expect more value than that. Think ebooks, guides, checklists, cheatsheets, or unique research and data. Remember, if the goal is lead generation, you eventually want those leads to turn into customers so disappointing them at this stage can do more harm than good and your follow up communication will be less effective.

If your objective is brand awareness though, there isn’t really an offer, so the hook is more about your messaging, ad copy, and creative. These things are still important for lead generation campaigns for example, but for a brand awareness objective they’re critical so these are the next things we’ll cover.

 

Messaging and ad copy

The messaging you use in your paid social media advertising campaigns is essential in order to resonate with the people you want to take action on your ads.

Make the message in your ad copy clear, compelling, and arguably the most important thing to do is to speak your prospective customers’ language because by doing that, you are able to demonstrate that you understand their pain points and needs. We go into detail on speaking your customers’ language in this Argi Marketing Mastery video.

Creative

Good ad creative (ie media – imagery or video assets) can be the difference between a campaign being viable or not, so it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Strong creative captures attention and can make your ads memorable.

High-quality imagery and video assets can communicate complex ideas quickly and effectively and stimulate emotions that influence buying decisions. Strong ad creative used if used well and consistently can help to embed your message and build brand trust over time.

Audience targeting

This could be a whole blog if not series of blog posts it’s such a big topic. Demograhics, interests, behaviours, prospecting, retargeting, cold audiences, warm audiences, hot audiences, where should you begin!? Let’s break it down.

Prospecting

Prospecting activity is when you’re trying to reach prospective customers that aren’t yet aware of your brand. These are generally ‘cold’ audiences, named so because at the point when you put your ad in front of them, they don’t know who you are and they haven’t previously engaged with you, unlike a warm or hot audience which we’ll cover shortly.

Prospecting activity is generally done via demographic, interest, or lookalike targeting. Demographic targeting include basic things like age, gender, geographics, etc … or, and is more relevant to us when trying to reach farmers, job titles and the industries in which they work.

Interest targeting is self explantory – it’s targeting people based on what the social platform you’re advertising on thinks they are interested in, which is normally based on the vast amounts of data they collect. In the context of farmers, that might be agricultural machinery, certain breeds of cattle, farming publications, etc … We spend a lot of time building and refining these audiences as we work exclusively in ag and therefore have really dialled in our interest targeting over the years.

Lookalike targeting is putting your ads in front of an audience that the platform deems to have similar traits and interests to your actual customers, again using its vast amounts of collected data to do so.

 

Retargeting

Retargeting is the process of advertising to an audience who have previously had some sort of interaction with your brand.

The levels of that interaction can vary and the audiences can therefore be either what we would categorise as ‘warm’ or ‘hot’. A warm prospect might have watched a certain amount of a video in-platform so you retarget them with some follow up messaging. A hot lead might be categorised as such because they have visited pages on your website with a high degree of commercial intent – the pricing or contact page for example. As you might expect, these prospects need to be treated differently.

High performing retargeting campaigns require careful planning and execution but when done well, they can deliver great results.

 

Should agribusinesses use social media to market to farmers?

Put simply, yes.

Farming is always evolving as it continually faces a barrage of legislative changes. As a result, farmers are innovative and resourceful, but they rely heavily on information, insights, research, advice and new products and services from agribusinesses to continue to thrive, survive and feed a hungry world.

And, as farming evolves, so too does communication with farmers. Today, farmers want to be able to consume all of the information they need in a variety of formats and across a variety of platforms.

Rural connectivity is improving and that means farmers are spending more and more time on their phones in the field or in the tractor. While on their phone, they are scouring social media channels, reading articles, watching videos and communicating with other farmers within their network or around the world.

If your agribusiness isn’t part of these social interactions, you are unlikely to succeed.

You only have to look at the major brands, They have been social for decades, always sharing the latest thinking and ideas, showcasing how other farmers are finding success and demonstrating how their products actually operate on the farm.

These practices were once in print but have all migrated to diverse multichannel sources, with digital and social media at the heart of everything.

Farmers have an inner circle when it comes to decision making and social media now forms a key part of that process. For agribusinesses to succeed, they need to make sure they are part of that inner circle and that means building relationships across multiple social media platforms.

As ever, if you have any questions about creating your own social media strategy, get in touch with me at ben@redstagmedia.co.uk

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