As a business, understanding your target audience is key in determining how to best connect with them and for pork producers, consumers are your ultimate target audience. Understanding consumers will help give your business a voice and means you'll be able to create and curate content that resonates with your followers, says Shell Robshaw-Bryan on the website socialmediatoday.com
“Managing your reputation online is a critical part of any marketing strategy and social media provides you with a fast and effective way to do this, Robshaw-Bryan writes. “When dealt with swiftly and sensitively, comments and complaints can be dealt with effectively; this instant feedback demonstrates high levels of customer service and can effectively diffuse negativity and resolve any issues that the customer may have.”
Producers need to be where their customers are, and that means they need to be on social media, says Megan Kuhn, Social Media Customer and Content lead for digital communications at Elanco Animal Health. Producers and veterinarians can play a key role in helping consumers and customers understand why it’s important, including these five reasons:
- Recruitment: Kuhn says many customers use social media to find employees. It’s a great recruitment tool.
- Social responsibility: Businesses, including farmers, can use social media to talk about good production practices and community outreach projects.
- Awareness: You should be listening firsthand to what people are saying about you, your business and your industry. “Conversations are happening online about our industry, but they’re not being led by the people directly involved,” Kuhn says. “Whether it’s food companies talking about their marketing and sustainability efforts tied back to production agriculture, or it’s NGOs with agendas that might not be in line with our industry, they’re leading the conversations. We really see a need for our industry to be part of those conversations.”
- Engagement: By expanding your outreach with social media, you’re impacting a much broader audience than you can reach in person. Your family and friends will interact with their friends, and those connections can help create goodwill toward farming and pork production.
- Education: We’re not talking about facts and figures, but you can tell about farming through stories and experiences. Kuhn explains that consumers trust farmers and veterinarians, so social media is a way to establish a direct line with them.
“Anytime we have people who do the actual work as the ones talking about why we have responsible use of antibiotics, and why we raise our animals indoors, or why we have different animal welfare practices, it goes a long way in dispelling some of the myths,” Kuhn says.
For those people who haven’t been active on social media, start small. Here are four basic pointers:
1. Keep it Simple: “Go back to the basics and find your own voice,” Kuhn says. “Make it a conversation and not just a list of facts. Avoid technical terms that your audience won’t understand.
2. Be Genuine: Show people your personality - they want to connect with you. That’s what we’ve seen through our efforts as well as through the research.”
3. Keep it Positive: Avoid being negative or demeaning, at all costs. Pork producer Erin Brenneman suggests you avoid interaction with activists – you’re unlikely to change their minds.
4. Remember, science is not social: Although production practices are based on science, social media is not where science is most effective. Talk about animal welfare and care from the standpoint of comfort for the animals as well as the people who care for them. Keep it personal, Kuhn says. “We provide healthy, nutritious food, so how can we tie that common theme of food into our conversations when we’re talking?”
5. Remember the “Five A’s”: If someone expresses concern about production practices, Kuhn suggests you follow these steps: Acknowledge their concerns (even if you don’t agree, it’s their reality you’re addressing); Accept your role in the industry, and the responsibility to have to consumers to help them understand what you do; Align your language to make sure people understand what you’re saying; Add information and stories to help them understand completely; and Activate by providing additional resources, and asking if they have any more questions. Be helpful and accommodating.
Humans with Heart
Erin Brenneman of Brenneman Pork in Washington, Iowa, says the key to effective social media is to “share the things that make us human. This is what peels us away from the ‘big ag’ image that we are so often stamped with,” she adds.
“That false image has been ingrained into the minds of many consumers and needs to be changed. Only we farmers have the power, knowledge and simply the everyday experience to change it. We need to stand out, not only as elite caretakers of our animals, but also as ordinary people when we step outside the pig buildings. We are humans with hearts. We have a passion for our pigs and we care deeply for our farm families.”
For More Information
You can find great information and resources at www.enoughmovement.com, the National Pork Board (www.pork.org) and National Pork Producers Council (www.nppc.org) also have great material.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel in terms of your social media presence, says Kuhn. Find a platform you’re comfortable with, and begin by sharing other people’s messages or tweets. Keep it simple and heartfelt. “If you see a good piece of information, pass it along and add your own experience to it,” Kuhn says.