By Lauren Chase
My grandfather was a corn farmer and raised cattle in Iowa for the majority of his life. Now that he is retired, he and his fellow farming buddies head to the local coffee shop at least once a week to brag about grandkids and analyze what’s happening in society. While this type of gathering is still useful and enjoyable, the younger generations are finding other ways to communicate with each other and to market their cattle.
As the beef industry continues to innovate, so do the ways of doing business. Social media has changed how every company markets and brands themselves, as well as public figures, artists and athletes. In our business, it should be no different.
Here are a few ways that social media will help your cattle operation:
1 – Peer Recommendation
If our friend has it, we have to have it too, right? In most cases, the answer is “yes”. What social media has created is a space for your friends, family and acquaintances to share how they feel about all sorts of things even if they enjoyed your bull sale. If a rancher down the road posts on Facebook that he bought a good bull from XYZ Ranch, I’m more inclined to check out the bulls at that ranch because I trust my friend’s opinion. And thus begins the word-of-mouth, free advertisement for XYZ Ranch.
2- Beef Business Online
Today, there are so many ways for a person to contact another person. If I want to reach a friend, I could call, text, tweet, Facebook message, email, instant message, SnapChat, Instagram them, etc. As chaotic as this sounds, the upcoming generations of beef producers will conduct business through a variety of these forms, and because social media allows for instant contact and an easy way to share visuals, it becomes another way to conduct business.
Are you trying to get people to your bull sale? Post photos of the bulls on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Potential buyers are out there and could message you for more details. Are you trying to make people aware of a legislative issue affecting cattle producers? Post the link to your sites and spread the word. Are you trying to communicate with members in a committee? Develop a group forum on Facebook to keep everyone up to date.
3- Telling the Beef Story
Not only can social media be used to do business, but it is a great way to reach networks of people outside of the beef industry and teach them about agriculture. You become a spokesperson and a face for beef, essentially “humanizing” the industry and making it relatable to the consumer.
Also, the photo of the bull you posted may be geared towards buyers, but it could also catch the eye of your wife’s cousin in New York City who doesn’t know how his steak is produced. Maybe the photo makes him think: “Hmm, I wonder why the bulls are sold like that,” and then messages you to learn more about your sale. Advocacy is a collective effort and the more we can reinforce the beef lifestyle through imagery and social media, the better we can tell the beef story.
4 – Other Advantages
Social media is free and it is relatively easy to produce content. If you have a smartphone, you’re golden. Cross-promotion of content on major social media sites is also easy and will only increase your marketing.
5 – Tips
Carefully consider your content and be ready to engage in conversation if people comment. Reciprocity is key — when you go from being a “talking head” to allowing your customers to have a voice, your interaction will greatly increase.
Watch trends and be willing to try new things. Hashtags are huge on Twitter and have become more frequent on Instagram and Facebook. For those who don’t know, hashtags are like “key words” and can help you engage in the conservations you want to be in. For example: #ranchlife #beef #Texas
6 – @GoBrangus
The IBBA has done a terrific job of establishing itself on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. As a Brangus producer, utilize the services they have provided for you. For example: If you are out checking cows and snap a photo of a new calf, tweet it and include a mention to the IBBA (@gobrangus). Most likely, you will be retweeted by them. What does all of this mean? Not only will your photo go out to your followers, but once it’s retweeted, it will go out to all of IBBA’s followers. People who follow IBBA on Twitter, most likely have some interest in Brangus cattle. One of those followers could be a potential buyer for you. It’s a win-win!
Understanding these trends and new marketing techniques is essential for the beef industry in the upcoming decades. Even though our businesses may look different than how our grandparents ran it, we all still share the same passion for the beef industry and want our operations to be successful for our own grandchildren!
About the Author:
Lauren Chase graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in journalism and anthropology. She now works as the multimedia outreach specialist for the Montana Stockgrowers Association, working to tell the story of Montana family ranching.
Lauren can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @LaurenMSea