Times are changing very fast when it comes to marketing your farm. Here are some tips we learned from OSU Extension – Julie Fox & Rob Leeds – at the OPGMA Congress:

1. Become familiar with social media sites.  What sites are out there?  What is your target market using?  Be sure to understand where your customers are to direct your marketing time and dollars. To find out how to use social media or the most popular ones for your customers, do a search and watch a video on YouTube on how to do whatever you want to!
2. People no longer search for the news…it finds us. Your advertising is now created by other people talking about your farm. Then, their social media friends read it. Hopefully, that leads them to visit your farm or buy your produce.  Use tags so people can find you.  Do not use fancy words for tags, be simple and explain exactly what you do in very general terms for tags.
3. When you use social media, you lose control. Try googling your farm. What comes up? Others can post things about you, be sure you know what they are saying. Be ready to react to their conversations to keep your brand positive. So yes, you lose control – but you gain so much more!  Use options like Google Alerts and Social Mention to get an email notification when you are mentioned somewhere on the web.
4. Use it to extend your season. Although you may not be selling during the winter, people can still visit your farm virtually – and feel connected.
5. Embed on your own website. Use the logos for the social media sites you are using for the farm. YouTube actually encourages you to embed their videos on your site to send traffic their way.  Make as many connections as possible in online presence locations.  When you see customers at the farm taking pictures or video, ask them to post it on a social media site with tags mentioning your farm’s name. Prompt the use of social media at picture sites on your farm by posting signs like “post this picture to “Flickr” or “share this on YouTube” so you can gain more presence on the web.
6. Try online coupon deals.  Groupon and Living Social are two such sites.  The deals are usually 50% or greater.  This can drive people to your business on less busy days. Customers get an email each day for the ‘deal of the day’ and can purchase the coupons immediately.
7. Social Commerce.  Some sites are looking into more commerce through their social media sites.  In addition to the dialogue and marketing on social media, more and more businesses are offering special sales/deals to their fans/friends on social media.
8. Use Texting. Many sites are now providing you the opportunity to send mass texts.  All you need to do is collect cell numbers from your customers. Some even have ‘special deals’ posted at the register, with a sign explaining to send a text to “x” to sign up.  Most people under 30 rarely use their email – but they love texting.
9.  Try contests on social media.  Whether it’s a photo contest on your Facebook page or a video contest on YouTube, you will gain great perspectives on what others like or do not like about your farm.  You’ll gain lots of media to use in your marketing.  Use this to evaluate your farm.  Their perspective can help you improve your facilities, offerings and more.
10. As with all marketing – have a plan.  Social media can not be just a fly by the seat of your pants marketing. Plan during the slow season about what you will post, how you will respond to tough questions (like using chemicals or general complaints).  Having this ready will make marketing easy during your busy time of year.

Finally, understand that all of your marketing (social or other) must be remarkable.  What do customers say is remarkable about your farm?  Use what is remarkable to plan your marketing for 2011.