Mastering social media on the ranch | TSLN.com

Mastering social media on the ranch

If the idea of using social media to promote a farm or ranch enterprise is intimidating, Zoetis and SDSU Extension hosted a webinar on May 1, featuring comments from Anna-Lisa Gianni, owner of A-L Outreach, on Social Media 101. Gianni is a social media consultant based in California. She offered tips for small businesses to develop strategy and management plans in her presentation, Social Media 101.

"Telling your story simply means sharing what's going on at your ranch," opened Gianni. "It can be as simple as a photo with a caption."

An example is a photo of cattle in a blizzard, with the caption, "Texas White Out." Gianni listed a few do's and don'ts for online posting.

"Be consistent – whether that means posting once a day on your Facebook day, or three times a day; either option is great, but be consistent. Also, remember to post factual. This is important because your credibility online directly relates to your credibility in person. Be sure to listen more than you talk; answer questions honestly and encourage transparency. Avoid whining, complaining and ranting. Don't overshare in details that aren't necessary. Don't let social media replace the importance of face-to-face interactions, particularly with customers and the community. And, don't be afraid to just get started."

So, what's in it for a rancher to be on Facebook?

"Cow-calf producers can gather new information, network with potential customers, communicating with current and potential new customers and take advantage of new opportunities," she said. "There are countless ways the beef industry is already using social media. Getting started is easy. Simply, set up a page with your business or organization's name, and start uploading photos with bulls for sale or what you have going on your business. One example is a facebook page called Cattle Exchange, where they are constantly uploading information on cattle for sale. Also, Hay Connection lists hay for sale. You can also boost fans on Facebook depending on your budget; many businesses pay to advertise their page and earn new customers. Another way to get good traction is by doing giveaways or contests, as well."

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Gianni shared examples of cattle operations, university Extension and cow-calf units, editors of popular magazines and seedstock producers that are all sharing and exchanging information, as well as communicating with customers.

Twitter answers the question, "What are you doing right now?" So, what? Who cares? Is it worth the time? Gianni explained that this outlet can be used for ranchers to promote beef, their cattle for sale and their family business with just a sentence or two on Twitter.

One example of a tweet from Zoetis Beef reads, "From @BEEFMagazine see how commercial #cattle producers built back their herds using #DNA market technology bit.ly/YEukMw."

"Twitter is like a coffee shop, and there are several shops on Twitter," she explained. "You can find the conversations by searching the hashtag (#) you are interested in. There are a lot of great conversations going on at Twitter."

A quick search of the hashtag beef pulls information on what people are saying about beef and the cattle industry on Twitter. It helps find relevant information and people who are interested in the same thing.

Giannini also discussed Pinterest and Instagram.

"Instagram allows people to expand to new audiences because there is a new group of people on there than on Facebook or Twitter," she said. "Pinterest is another great way to drive people to your website using visuals, which are more appealing than just statements."

Instagram is an online photo diary, where people can take a photograph on their phone and quickly post it with the click of a button. Popular instagram photographs by ranchers include images of baby calves, a steak on the grill, planting corn and more. The things ranchers do on a daily basis can really appeal to folks outside of agriculture.

Pinterest is like an online bulletin board, where users can "pin" things they like. Users do everything from collecting recipes, to planning weddings, to getting ideas for crafts, to finding information on agriculture facts. The "pins" are then links back to websites. An example would be a recipe from Certified Angus Beef's (CAB) Pinterest page. Clicking on the image of the CAB steak takes the user back to the CAB website.

If a ranch or small business decides to start using social media – whether it's YouTube, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter, the most important thing, Gianni said, is to just get started. For questions on using social media for your business, contact Gianni at annalisa.gianni@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @annagiannini or on her Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/ALOutreach.