Food Is Social (Media) 101
Yesterday I presented a workshop at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association annual conference called 'Food Is Social: Using New Media to Market Your Food Business'. More people attended than I had handouts, so I promised to reprint my notes here.
Why Invest Time in Social Media?
“Four out of every five people who have access to the internet across the world use social networks in some form, many several times a day, some on multiple devices.” Linda Abraham, comScore Co-Founder and CMO & Michael Lazerow, Buddy Media CEO and Founder
“Consumers trust information they receive through blogs more than Facebook or Twitter.” Social Media Examiner, December 2011
“In the U.S., social networks and blogs reach nearly 80 percent of active U.S. Internet users and represent the majority of Americans' time online.” Technorati, October 2011.
Where and How To Start
Website (4-8 hours to set up) Represent yourself online with a website that contains, at a minimum:
- Information about you, the personality
- Products/Services you offer
- Contact Information
- Links to other pertinent online profiles/social media
If starting from scratch, choose Wordpress for a free, simple, but robust software. Upgrade to ‘YOURNAME.com’ for $12/year. Under Settings/Reading select ‘a static post’ to be your front page. Add other information as pages.
Blog (1 hour per article, ideally updated once per week at a minimum) Consumers trust and share blog articles. Use yours to promote:
- New products or services
- Timely information, such as farmer’s market locations
- Press/reviews received
- Information and articles that support the values of your business
- Recipes featuring your products
If using wordpress.com, this timely information will be entered as ‘posts’. For best Internet search-ability, categorize each post and add tags.
Good blog posts (both in terms of readability for users and search engines) have:
- Specific and catchy titles
- Naturally included keywords
- Length between 200-750 words
- At least one picture, with an alt tag that includes keywords
- A conversation starter if you are looking for blog comments
Google Places (30 minutes to set up, nearly no maintainance) Help customers find your location by claiming a Google Place. Simply click the 'Get Started' button and follow the simple directions to be included on their online and mobile map searches. Be ready to add a few pictures, your hours, payment information, and a short description of your business. You will need a google account to set up this profile.
Facebook Page (30 minutes to set up, 10 minutes maintenance daily) Navigate to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php to set up your page. Be ready to include a profile photo (and a few more if you have them) and share information about your location and products/services.
Once your Facebook page is set up, participate daily, if you can. Each time you check in, respond to any questions or messages. ‘Like’ comments that people give you. Share a status message, which could include:
- Short blurb about what you did that day
- Link to an article about your industry
- Announcement about a future event
- Quote from which you draw inspiration
- Photograph of something around your farm/kitchen/facility
Twitter (5 minutes to set up, 10 minutes maintenance daily) Twitter makes it easy to set up your account and then you can start sharing messages in 140 characters. Share tidbits about what you’re doing right now, links to blog posts/events/facebook, and retweet other’s info. Converse with twitter followers by starting a message with @user.
The real power of twitter, however, is in the search. Go to search.twitter.com and look up keywords related to your business. Answer questions if people are asking, follow competitors and friends, converse with partners like @OEFFA, @4H, seed companies, governmental officials, etc.
Keys for Social Sharing
Simple is better - flash graphics, music, and multi-paged sites can be fun when done well, but customers will understand you better when the message is simple and presented cleanly.
Keep mobile in mind - The use of smartphones is growing. Design your site and messages with mobile users in mind and make sure nothing on your site is too complicated for phones to view. Wordpress is easily viewed on most smartphone devises.
Converse and thank - Think of social networks as a way to have public conversations and share as you would at a dinner party. Thank those who follow you and those who share your information generously.
Promote genuinely - Too much self-promotion is inauthentic. Share a balance of information, news, links to other trusted sites, and fun.
Advanced Social Networking
QR Codes QR codes are scannable graphics that link a mobile device to a designated web URL. The destination can be an introduction page, introduction video, or more info about a specific product or service. Museums are using them to give more details about an artwork. Realtors publish QR codes on house signs to link to online picture galleries. Musicians link QR codes to current videos.
Create yours at http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ for your website or a welcome page for a specific event. If you are packaging goods for an event location where you will not be present, create one for each product variety that leads to more info for customers.
Analytics Once you have your website established, you will want to know who’s visiting.
Set up a free account at http://www.google.com/analytics/ to track data. Learn about your pageviews, location of users, keywords, etc. Use this data to provide information that people request, i.e. write more about popular keywords. You can also track how changes in your website organization or promotion are working and who is sending traffic to you.
Wordpress has their own set of data tools. These are less robust but still useful if you don’t want to bother with Google.
Other social networks Pinterest, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Google+ and hundreds of other social networks are out there. Explore them when you have time and use them if they will work for your business.
Remember that social networks are like all other tools - they only work for you when you enjoy working with them.
Also keep in mind that I offer writing and social media services at reasonable rates. If you want to have a social media presence but don't want to set up and maintain it yourself, contact me and let's find a way to work together.