Why use social media? Communicating with others online can be a powerful tool for marketing your products, but Jason Parks of Parks Brothers Farm also uses it to keep up-to-date on the world outside the greenhouse. Here’s an inside look at who he communicates with over social media and why.
1. Why use social media?
JP: The best reason to use social media is so you can converse with people in your networks who are customers, potential customers, competitors and trolls (look it up). We use social media as a communication tool that has customer service, advertising and sales benefits depending on who you are talking to and how you are conversing with them. Customers and consumers want to talk to the people who make or grow the products they buy. They want to be able to get on their computer or smartphone and communicate with someone who is involved with product or service they just paid for, whether it is to tell them that they love the product or why they will never buy another one again.
The key to social media is the conversation. You pretty much need a flowchart or infographic to show how one comment can go through the various potential paths of communication to reach a specific outcome. Any type of social media communication has the potential to lead to a positive or negative outcome depending on how a social media manager replies. With social media, a company can have a conversation with one or 100 million consumers at once. These conversations can be a simple conversation, a complex customer service discussion or a targeted advertising campaign that leads to sale conversions.
2. What social media networks are you using?
JP: We currently use a WordPress blog, Twitter and YouTube for our wholesale social media, and we use Facebook and Pinterest for our retail side. We also have Flickr, Google+ and Foursquare accounts that are used less often. I have personal social media accounts that sometimes pull double duty, like my Twitter and Instagram accounts. There is also some overlap with wholesale and retail followers among all the social media accounts.
3. Why are you using these networks in particular? What are your goals?
JP: I use WordPress, Twitter and YouTube because I can link Twitter to my YouTube channel and WordPress blog on our website, and new blog posts and videos are automatically posted to Twitter. I mostly use Twitter to keep up with news and events. I am not as good as I should be on being part of the conversations on Twitter or any social networks, and I usually read more than I post. Using YouTube is a great way to show my customers my products, which gives the customers more confidence in us. Posting blog updates, pictures and videos tells and shows them that we are not afraid to put our plants out there for everyone to see. I post tons of pictures and embed the YouTube videos in the posts for our customers.
Regarding the Facebook and Pinterest accounts we use for our retail store, if we post a picture on Facebook, we will sell more of that plant for the next few days or get a spike in traffic both on Facebook and in our store. We have visually appealing products, and pictures help sell the plants. We use Pinterest because just about every woman on the internet is addicted to Pinterest. I am not sure yet how to categorize its benefits other than to say we are part of the conversation there. I avoid Pinterest as much as possible and delegate that to a couple of ladies in the office who are more than happy to pin stuff. I feel my testosterone level bottom out every time I have to do something on Pinterest, although the dessert pins are pretty darn inspiring.
Our goals for all our social media conversations are to increase customer confidence, encourage more communication and increase conversions through whichever calls to action we have included in our conversations.
4. Who is your audience? Are you trying to reach consumers or your direct customers? Both?
JP: With so many social media networks, we are reaching out to everyone. However, our wholesale customers seem to be the least involved in social media. So we are basically bypassing them and going straight to the end consumer. If we talk about how great a certain plant is or post a picture or video that consumers can, and they see something they want, they go to the garden centers and ask for it.
In the past, we have had friends on our networks who live in other states ask where they can get a plant, and we have sent them a list of stores where they can find it based on who bought that plant from us recently. We have also coordinated direct to consumer sales through independent garden centers. A consumer has asked for a specific plant from us, and we coordinated the sale and delivery to the IGC who in turn sold it to the consumer.
5. How are you measuring the success of using social media? What’s the ROI?
JP: We measure our success by site traffic and conversions (clicks or calls to action). We do not measure our social media work with ROI. In my opinion, basing your social media goals on ROI is the wrong way to approach it. The benefits of social media are too intangible to be able to set an ROI. Social media is a conversation with communication going both ways. If you approach social media as a sales tool and keep pushing sales and products to your networks, people are going to leave. They don’t want the constant pressure to buy something. Folks in social media networks are looking for information, connections and conversations, which is why it’s called “social.”
6. Who is actually doing the posting? Is it you, someone else or a team?
JP: I do the majority of the post for everything except our Facebook and Pinterest pages. I have three other people who post part-time to Facebook and Pinterest, but I do post there occasionally especially when I see that it has been a few days since the last post.
7. Are there any tools that make using social media more efficient? Any scheduling tools, websites or content sources?
JP: I use the free version of HootSuite to keep up with my Twitter accounts and monitor my Instagram and YouTube feeds. I am currently considering upgrading to HootSuite Pro to start managing more of my networks. I am currently looking for a site or app that will allow pinning to multiple Pinterest accounts. Facebook makes it easy with the page administrators function and all the networks off certain levels of links that allow posts across several networks. Once you get past four to five networks, it gets a little complicated. I don’t use scheduling tools but I probably should.
8. If you had unlimited time and resources, what else would you do with social media?
JP: If I had unlimited time, we would be doing a web video series and conversing more on Twitter. I would also do videos featuring specific products and varieties. I would do more blog posts with more information that gardeners can use to be successful with our plants. Lastly, I would do a bunch of goofy, fun stuff that I think about and never have time to do.