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Once your phone’s pound sign, hashtags are now are the most popular way to categorize content on social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest, allowing your content to reach a larger audience and making it easy for you to find relevant content from other people and businesses. Hashtags allow you to connect with and engage other social media users based on a common theme or interest.

Hashtags make your posts more searchable, and easier for others to find.  Anyone will be able to find what you wrote by searching for the hashtag that you’ve used in your posts. On most social networks, you can both search for a hashtag, or click on one in a post to find all of the posts that have been marked with that particular hashtag.

Knowing how to use hashtags is fundamental to your success on social media. Here are a few suggestions to help you achieve that success.

Be specific when using hashtags
Hone in on passionate communities that shares an interest in one specific theme. The more specific you can get with your hashtag, the more targeted your audience will be—and a targeted audience generally means better engagement. Find one or two existing hashtags that really fit your photo, post, or tweet. Twitter has created this helpful infographic to help you choose the right hashtag.

Cater your hashtags to the social network you’re using
While hashtags on all social networks have the same fundamental purpose, the use of them still varies by network. For example, Instagram hashtags, are focused on the description of the photo. On Twitter, hashtags tend to be more focused a topic, or a group of people that you would like to engage.

Research your hashtags
It’s always a good idea to do some research to find out about the established hashtags on the topic of your tweet, Facebook update, or Instagram post. Chances are good that a social network’s community has already created a hashtag for the topic you’re posting about, and especially if you want to use a hashtag to get more people to see your post, it’s important to make sure that you’re using a hashtag that many users know or follow already.  The extra time you invest in research will pay off in engagement down the road.  Most networks will have guides for hashtag use and selection.

If you are a business come up with relevant, unbranded hashtags for your business
They don’t have to mention your business name, but should represent what your business stands for.  For example, a cattle feedyard may use the hashtag #wellfeed, with photos of their feedlot. Encourage followers to share their own photos using the same hashtag, which can start a growing movement to promote your brand. 

Hashtags shouldn’t be too long or too clever
In general, try to keep it short and sweet. Hashtags are supposed to make things easier to find and engage with, but long, complicated hashtags can actually be more arduous. Being too clever or offbeat will make your hashtag harder to search for and you want people to naturally search for your tag. 

Don’t use too many hashtags
Many consider it a hashtag “best practice” to never use more than two hashtags in a tweet or a Facebook update, since using too many hashtags may annoy or confuse your friends or followers.  On Instagram you can use up to 30 hashtags, but still be specific so your message isn’t diluted or comes off as being desperate for likes.

Don’t hashtag everything
Hashtags serve to make your content discoverable to a wide audience. If your Tweet, post or comment isn’t adding any substance to the wider conversation, you might want to consider leaving the hashtag off. For example, if you simply share an industry news update, leave the hashtag off of it. If you write a blog post that analyzes the impact of that news, then absolutely use a hashtag when you share it.

Using hashtags will allow you to make an impression on a wide social media audience. Make sure you’re sharing the best content, and making the right impression.

Just in case you haven’t seen it, here’s how you sound if you’re using hashtags the wrong way (I apologize in advance for the rude word at the end of this video):
 
 
Last week we discussed how to develop an awesome social media strategy for video.  As with all marketing it’s important for us to know if our efforts are worthwhile, or if we are beating our heads against a wall.  When it comes to video, what does "success" really mean? And what statistics should you be keeping tabs on to determine the performance of a video?

Beyond the number of views your video receives there's actually a lot more to be considered. Getting 50k views is great, but what did it really do for your business?  We will discuss several statistics that will help you find the true value of video marketing. 

Each social media platform can give you several pieces of valuable analytical information.  They can tell you how many people your video reached, how many views, and how your video rated among other types of posts.  This information is valuable in determining if your video is the right content for you audience.  You can also compare which video topics your audience likes best by looking at the engagement of your video.

Video Views
Obviously this is a pretty straight forward explanation here - video views are the number of people that click play.

Why It Matters
If you have a video on your website that contains an amazing message, but no one actually clicks play, no one will know that your business is super awesome. 

How to Improve Your Video Views on Your Website
There are several placement considerations of your video on your website including thumbnail selection, size, and where the video is placed that can affect your play rate. Experiment with different variations.  As a general rule of thumb, always use thumbnails with human beings in the picture, 400 pixels x 600 pixels is the ideal size of videos without overwhelming your web page, and placement of the video closer to the top of the page will help increase views.  You may also need to improve your video title or description.

Across all of your social media platforms, you will want to measure views over time, to help you determine the lifetime of your videos.  You may find that videos need to be refreshed every few weeks or months to stay relevant to your audience.

Audience Retention and Repeat Views
Do viewers watch all of your video, or do they leave before watching it in it’s entirety?  What percent of your video was actually watched?

Why It Matters
Research has shown that viewers who watched a video in it’s entirety are more likely to purchase the product featured in the video, and the higher the number of repeat views, the more engaged your video viewers are.  This makes audience retention and repeat views actually more important than video views.

How to Improve Audience Retention
There are several reasons why your visitors might not be watching the entirety of your video. First try making your video shorter.  Watch your video and see what’s going on in the video when most people stop watching it.

Also by paying attention to which portions of the video were re-watched, tells you which sections of the video are most interesting to potential clients.  People who re-watch your video are that much closer to being your next client.

Engagement Rate
Engagement rate tells you how interested your audience is in your company, message, as well as, how compelling your video is. To calculate take the number of views, and divide it by the total reach of your video.  Also break down your total engagement by likes, comments, and shares, to get a clear view of what works well for video content and what doesn’t.  Which will be valuable in helping you determine future video marketing strategies.

Why It Matters
Think about the last time you made a big purchase.  Did you do any research about the product before purchasing?
Did you read online reviews, or ask your friends, and co-workers.

When making a purchasing decision, 92% of consumers value recommendations from friends and family, over all other forms of advertising.  

Social media shares serve as the equivalent to a recommendation. Each time your video is shared, you've gotten a positive endorsement for your brand or product. 

How to Improve Video Social Sharing
Make sure your video is sharable by ensuring that the social share buttons are highly visible and easily accessible.  Also, don’t forget to ask your friends and fans to share your video if they find it valuable.  Use hashtags (which will be our topic of discussion next week) to reach a larger audience.  In your post or in your video, prompt viewers with a discussion question.

See Agri-Marketing Solutions previous blog post on creating engagement.

Conversion Rate
Whether it's subscribing to your video updates, liking or following your social media page, or calling your business to get more information, conversion rate refers to the percentage of people that follow through on your videos intended action. 

Why It Matters
Conversion rates are what drives real business. 

To prove the effectiveness of your video, it's important to keep track of the number of leads each video generates. With this information, you'll can tailor your future video format or content to help drive sales.

How to Improve Conversion Rate
Make sure you are including a clear and compelling call to action at the end of your video!  Make sure that your call to action is relevant to your video.  For example, if your video is about your stallion, maybe offer a discounted stud fee for those who follow the link from your video to your website.  Keep it simple, get to the point quickly, and use action verbs in your call to action like - start, stop, build, join, learn and discover.

Using video as part of your marketing strategy is not a one time, done deal.  As with all of your marketing efforts it is something to consistently measure and iterating on your ideas, formats, and promotional efforts, in order to get the most out of your campaigns.

We would love to hear how you measure your marketing efforts!  What have you found to be the most effective methods in measuring your marketing success?
 
 
Before you start sharing videos on social media platforms, you should have a plan that helps you achieve your marketing goals.  For example, if your goal is to get more people to download an ebook, you could create a short teaser or how-to video and post the full link to your website landing page.  

It is also important to understand what works best for each platform so that you can build a strategy for each.  Different social platforms come with different marketing strategies.

YouTube
YouTube is huge and the second largest search engine, after Google, which means it’s a great place to be if you want to expand your business ratings in search engines. It is also a great place to build an audience and establish yourself as an expert in your field, which can ultimately lead to increased traffic to your website.

What’s important to remember is that, on YouTube, viewers don’t want to watch ads, they want to watch videos that are useful to them. For this reason, creating a series of How-To videos and otherwise educational videos around your business can be a great way to attract new viewers.  It is also a great place for community development-focused videos like Q&As, contests and giveaways.  The key to building an audience is creating regularly scheduled videos to keep viewers coming back.

Vimeo
Vimeo’s audience requires high-quality videos that are edited and well-produced. The goal is to create video that impresses rather than to show off your skill with a webcam.  Vimeo screams professionalism in the same way that LinkedIn does. If you want to show your business off to people who pay attention to good film production, engage audiences on Vimeo.

Facebook
Facebook is the ideal platform for reaching and engaging with clients and encouraging them to share your content with their friends to help spread the word about your business. Because of the fact that video auto-plays in Facebook’s News Feed, it’s a great way to stand out and grab the attention of your fans as they scroll through recent updates. Additionally, it provides a great opportunity to show off your personality through behind-the-scenes looks into your business.  Facebook now also offers live videos are real-time video posts on Facebook.

Twitter
Twitter is the go-to social network for conversations, and video is a great tool for getting the conversation started. The most popular video hosting platforms, including YouTube, Vimeo, Vine and Animoto, will play directly in the Twitter feed. 

Because of the “right now” nature of tweets, Twitter is a great place for sharing current updates, which means that videos of events and special promos work great here.  Make use of the @ replies and # hashtags to bring your tweets to the attention of influencers and communities for increased engagement.

Vine
If you can keep your video to six seconds, you can upload it to Vine.  Vine is an app owned by Twitter.  Some of the best ways to utilize a Vine video is to show off behind the scene work area or features of any upcoming product that you are planning to launch or maybe giving your audience a sneak peek into an upcoming event.

Instagram
Instagram has a 15 second non-looping video service. It serves as a better advantage over Vine since, Instagram comes with editing capabilities and other features that help you share your posts across different platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc.  

Instagram works best by using visual media for telling a compelling story about your business. It offers a unique platform to showcase your culture and people in addition to your products and services. The mobile nature of the app lends itself to quickly capturing moments, giving followers a chance to interact with your business in a way that can feel more casual and instantaneous than on other networks.  It is a great place to share company news.

Google+ 
Google Plus is similar to Facebook, but owned by Google, which owns YouTube, so the integration is seamless. You can either upload your own video or link to a YouTube video and it will be embedded right alongside your text.  Google Plus is a great place to network strategically within your circles of interest.  Don’t forget to use #hashtags here as well.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network online, with over 347 million members around the globe. It’s the ideal spot for business to business companies to reach professionals in their industries. Videos can be a nice, authentic way to share company updates, bring life to events and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Snapchat 
Snapchat is growing by leaps and bounds with now more than two billion video views a day.  It’s also one of the only platforms in which you can draw creative on top of the video, making for some awesome Snapchat exclusive artists.  Most importantly, videos have a maximum life of twenty four hours, or less if the users choose to make it so. The urgency to see something before it disappears can be a huge factor. People respond to that urgency.  Gear videos to teens and young adults. It’s one of their main forms of communication.

We would love to hear what strategies you have used to share video on social media?  Stay tuned next week we will discuss how to measure your social media success.
 
 
There’s no doubt that videos are everywhere these days. Even the most seemingly uninteresting subject has a video.  With today’s technology, creating professional video is actually easier than you think.

If you are an Apple disciple like I am you can easily do it all on your Apple device.  The newest versions of the MacBook, iPad, and iPhone have a built in movie making app called iMovie where you can film 1080p, HD-quality videos and edit them.

I also use my DSLR cameras to film videos with both my Nikkon D5100 and my Cannon EOS Rebel.

There is nothing more distracting than a shaky video so before you start filming make sure you have a method of holding your iPhone, iPad, camera, or other smart phone steady.

I use a standard tripod that can be used with both of my cameras and if filming on my iPad I use a Makayama’s tripod mount.  You can also purchase tripod ready attachments for your iPhone or other smart phone.

Next your video needs great audio.  Viewers will watch a video even if the production isn’t great, as long as the video is interesting and they can hear the audio clearly. 

Don’t rely on the built in microphones on your devices, especially when filming outside or in noisy locations.  Living here in South Dakota the wind seems to blow constantly and can be very distracting on video.

Invest in a high-quality microphone that you can plug into your computer, phone, or iPad.  There are many options out there and your best bet is to do as much research as possible.  I use a lapel mic that I wish I would have done more research on and I also use my Sony digital recorder that I also use for magazine interviews.  I have also used another iPhone directly above my subject’s head and created a simple voice memo.

If you are filming indoors, create a space that will give you control over the lighting and noise to prevent creating a distracting film.  

Set up a dark solid colored backdrop with seamless paper from a photography supply store or with fabric.  Light colors can lead to nasty glare and reflections.

Filming with overhead lights can create nasty shadows on your subject’s face. You don’t need anything fancy.  I use the heat lamps we also use to keep newborn farm animals warm in the spring with a soft white 60 watt bulb or a flood light if I need more intensity.  I have also used our shop work lamps, but they tend to be very intense and often have to be pointed to a wall to let the light bounce off of.  Both of these can be purchased at your local hardware store.  Caution, they both can also get very hot.

The same principle applies to filming outside avoid filming at noon when the sun is directly overhead.  Early morning or evening is usually the best times, two to three hours after sunrise or before sunset.  A cloudy day is also good because the light is diffused as it comes through the clouds.

When filming inside control the sound by shooting in a room that has furniture in it to avoid your film sounding like you shot it in a tin can.  You can also deaden the room by hanging blankets on the wall.  Also, make sure you turn off the ventilation system in the room your filming in.

Now it’s time to create your video.  This is assuming you have developed a plan for your film, including - a purpose, a theme, and a target audience.  Otherwise, you risk wasting time and effort into something that could have been a successful online venture.  

It is well worth your time to do a little investigating. Thousands of videos are uploaded every day – and that’s only on YouTube. You want to stand out above the noise. So the first thing you need to do is research. What videos are your followers interested in? What have they watched recently? What kinds of videos are your competitors making? Spend a bit of time to get inspiration from what’s already working well.

Most videos that make it big contain real elements taken from everyday life. Tiny struggles, funny moments, valuable glimpses – these make content easy to relate to. The most effective way to make videos go viral is to add a human touch.  Make it entertaining, witty, emotional, informative, or insightful.  The trick is to create a video that can stand alone, but also hooks your viewer, investing them in your larger story.

Write out a script, which will keep your film production process organized and your message clear and concise.  Keep your focus narrow, covering too much information can be overwhelming for both you and the viewer.  Make sure you read your script out loud and rephrase anything that sounds awkward or doesn’t flow nicely.  Make sure to end your videos with a call-to-action and an opportunity to create conversation.

While shooting your footage, remember that we live in a widescreen world.  Don’t shoot vertical video with your phone or iPad, the film will look bad on your website, television, computer and your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Also, avoid using the iPhone’s built in camera zoom.  Your phone doesn’t zoom optically it only enlarges the picture digitally and will pixelate your video.  Your phone will automatically focus and expose your shot, which is great for photos but can complicate video quality and creating jittery footage.  To prevent this, use your phones exposure focus lock.

When filming with your phone or iPad remember that you are filming with a fixed lens.  In order to get a wider shot indoors or in a small space you will need to purchase a clip-on lens adapter.  There are several models available in a wide variety of price ranges.  Again, I would suggest you do your research.

There’s no need to worry when it comes to editing, there are plenty of free resources online.  If you are not using Apple devices you can edit your videos online on YouTube, WeVideo, Loopster, Magisto, PowToon, Wideo, Weavly, Kaltura, Mixmoov, Shotdip, or Video Toolbox.

Editing is what makes a video look professional. Standard streaming capabilities are such now that video for social can have exceptional production value. 

There are many apps available to edit video on your iPhone, but editing it on your computer will give you more professional results.

If you are using iMovie, plug your phone or iPad into your computer and drop your footage into iMovie.  You can easily add music or other special effects.

It can get tedious for viewers to watch the same static shot of you or someone else standing in front of the camera and talking. You can add stock video or images to help break up the monotony of the video, illustrate a point or create a memorable scene. Websites like Video Blocks and Shutterstock can help you create those types of effects.  Pricing can get expensive, so make sure you shop around multiple stock video sites for the best rates and options.

I also personally use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit videos which is also very user friendly.  

The product suggestions in this article are based on my personal experience. I’m not affiliated with any of these brands or products, and I’m not officially endorsing or suggesting you should purchase them over something else.

Your video length is incredibly important. When focusing on social media, “long” means anything over 15 seconds.  Videos longer than that can’t make it onto Instagram, Vine or Snapchat in their entirety. Don’t get carried away, however. Remember, the definition of long in this case is “greater than 15 seconds.” Best practices still dictate to keep video content as short as possible. 

Use YouTube or Vimeo for longer videos including short films, documentaries, and tutorials. On average, videos spanning three to ten minutes are best because they can be comfortably viewed on mobile or desktop devices.

Social media networks including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest require shorter videos.  Keep videos somewhere between six seconds to two minutes for maximum effectiveness (do take note of the different time limits for these social media platforms).

In my opinion making shorter videos are, in fact, more challenging thanks to time constraints. This is where creativity and resourcefulness play a huge role.

Don’t forget that on social media, sharing is everything.  Professional, strategic, on-brand content is only as good as its reach.  Your video is only valuable if people see it and share it. Make your video content shareable by adding links to post your content to viewers’ networks. More importantly, craft content that is innately shareable.

Anticipate questions that your users/followers will have, and create content that answers them. Identify trending topics relevant to your industry, and publish content that puts your voice in charge of the conversation. Encourage your viewers to interact with your content and even participate in the creative process.

What do you think?  Have you used video to humanize and market yourself or your business?  Are there other video related tools, tips, or tricks not mentioned here that you can’t live without?  If so, please share in the comments!

Next week we will discuss how to create and implement a video social media strategy.

 
 
Most elements of communication have moved in the digital direction. Video creation is no longer the complicated process it once was and offers big benefits in marketing your business.

The statistics don’t lie.  YouTube receives more than 4 billion views every day.  In addition, 78% of people watch videos every week, 55% of people watch videos online everyday.  Social media posts with videos in them boost view by 48%, and visual content on Facebook specifically increases engagement by 65%.  More than 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute.  This means more people seeing your content and going to your website just by adding a video.

All major search engines give a lot of value to videos.  Your video will rank higher every time than an article on the same subject.  YouTube is also the second largest search engine next to Google.

Here are some easy to implement tips for your business to integrate video into your marketing strategies:
  1. Potential customers or employees are going to go to your website to find out more information about you.  Often, websites undervalue their most important online real estate, as well as the time of those who visit their website, by having websites that are too wordy.  Tell your story by creating a short one to two minute video to explain who you are, what you do and why your business matters to your clients to put on your homepage of your website.  Video often can explain what your company does in a clear, concise and personable format, setting the perfect foundation for lengthier in-person conversations.
  2. E-mails with a video have a 53% higher click to open rate.  Even a 30 second video shot from your mobile phone can make a huge impact on getting people to read your e-mails.
  3. Use a video  posted on social media to promote your blog, e-book, white paper, or other content you’ve created.  Create a video that is not just promotional but also educational.
  4. Live stream events, podcasts, or start discussions.  Share thoughts you have about developments in your industry and get immediate feedback from you social media audience.
  5. Create video interviews or web series.  You might interview an expert or thought leader in your industry.  Or create a regular series in which your company answers frequently asked questions.  You can even syndicate the audio on iTunes and use the video on your blog reaching more people in multiple formats.
  6. A video review of your products can show things to the viewer that simply cannot be conveyed in writing.
  7. Use videos to guide your website visitors to different sections of you website making the experience similar to visiting an actual store. 



Video can turn heads and is a key component that shouldn’t be ignored.  Now, take these tips and apply them to your own business, considering how you might utilize video geared toward your specific market. Use video to breathe life into your products. Try something new. Have fun. Explore.  If you would like some assistance in starting your video marketing campaign, then consider putting Agri-Marketing Solutions to work for you.  Below you will see a video we produced for Plus One Manufacturing.

We would love to hear from you!  How have you used video to promote your business?

Stay tuned next week for how to easily create videos to market your business.

 
 
A lot of people work hard in their business, but in today's competitive business world, you have to work hard on your business as well.

Where do you start to transform your business from mediocre to great?  One of the best ways you can transform your business is by upgrading your website.  If your website is not a functioning system that is digitizing your brand, building customer relationships and working as a powerful marketing tool, it’s time for an upgrade. 

Most business websites are not ready for a mobile world, nor have been designed with ROI in mind. Don’t let your business be part of the massive disconnect between you and your customers due to poorly designed, under-performing websites.  

I have recently upgraded Plus One Manufacturing, Inc. website and the difference is night and day.  Their old website was not user friendly and your customers bad online experience negatively affects your bottom line.  These statistics prove it:
  • Over 75% of web users decide whether to do business or not with a company based on how its online presence looks.
  • 90% of customers go to a company’s website first, before calling or emailing.
  • 48% of people feel frustrated if a company doesn’t have a mobile-friendly website, and 52% are less likely to engage with companies that have no mobile presence at all, according to Google.
  • 80% of consumers say they are more likely to consider products and services from brands they follow on social media, it is clear you have to make social media a key component of your website.
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Plus One Manufacturing, Inc. old website.
Agri-Marketing Solutions can help you get the most from your company’s web investment and transform your current website into a real powerhouse that helps you expand profitability, achieve organizational objectives and boost your marketing and sales efforts for the mobile world. 

We can help you:
  • Aligning your online presence to your business goals.
  • Design a responsive website that will ensure that your company’s information displays correctly no matter the device it’s viewed on with a fluid design, easy navigation structure, search and filtering options for larger sites.
  • Develop a website that will grow with you, allowing you to incorporate the technologies you need, when you need them without having to start from scratch every time you want to add something new.
  • Assist you with a social media marketing plan and integrate social media on your website for user interaction.
  • Develop a custom design to fit the personality of your brand.
  • Enhanced the visual imagery of your website with good quality pictures and illustrations, giving your site a complete hi-end look.  
  • Showcase your products to meet your client’s expectations.
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Plus One Manufacturing, Inc. new website.
 
 
Advocating for agriculture, otherwise known as agvocating has become a trend in the past several years. 

With fewer and fewer agricultural workers every year and as Americans continue to move from rural to urban areas the American population’s understanding of agriculture and where their food comes from has steadily dropped. In many areas of this country, people are fundamentally disconnected from the way their food is produced.

Agriculture communicators are trying to successfully communicate the many messages of agriculture and food production using social media to combat the detrimental and costly messages being spread by anti-agriculture organizations.

Why Agvocacy is Important
For most families, food is one of their top expenditures each month – just behind housing and transportation costs. Still, a 2011 study by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance found 72 percent of consumers knew nothing or very little about farming or ranching.  While not everyone farms, everyone does eat and wear clothes, so it’s important that more people understand where their food comes from.  

There is a lot of misinformation and propaganda found on social media. It just takes one person who knows little to nothing about the agriculture industry to start a frenzy. One of the most recent posts I’ve seen was a picture of a farmer pulling calf with the headline “this farmer is strangling this calf inside its mother.”

In 2012, social media attacks about Pink Slime were able to bring ground beef sales down to a ten year low and put Beef Products, Inc. and AFA Foods, companies with limited social media literacy out of business.  Read - Pink Slimed: The Beef Industry Learns The Importance Of Social Media Literacy

As more and more pressure is put on farmers and ranchers to produce the food needed to support a growing global population as a humanitarian issue; agvocacy will not only be critical to sustaining agricultural practices around the world, it will also become a necessity of national security.

During a congressional hearing late last year, John Negroponte, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and then Director of National Intelligence, explained that the need for more food “could affect political stability” and could “fuel further instability in the Middle East.” 

“The world must increase food production by 50 to 60 percent to satisfy expected global population growth and changing consumption patterns by 2050,” he said.

Unfortunately many agvocacy discussions on social media are only reaching other farmers, ranchers and agvocates.  A study by Meghan Cline at Oklahoma State University found that “agvocates are mainly preaching to the choir by seeking out like-minded individuals and organizations,” and not reaching the target audience, consumers without a connection to agriculture.

The study further states, “to successfully agvocate, agriculturalists must first understand who is receiving the benefit of the information. The utilization of social media has altered the dynamics of how communicators, agricultural communicators included, connect with their audiences.  Therefore, an understanding of who and what organizations American consumers rely on for agricultural information is imperative to the agricultural communications industry.”

Reaching out and actively searching for users that do not share the same mindset about agricultural issues was only one of the recommendations Cline’s study made.  I also suggested: 
  1. Agvocates should try to reach people of different ethnic backgrounds.
  2. Agvocates should reach out to more people who are not located in the top agriculture producing states, engaging people who have   never worked/lived on a farm. The top 10 agricultural producing states are: California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
  3. Further research should be conducted to determine what actions are being taken by anti-agricultural organizations to harm the agricultural sector and what should be done to combat those actions.  At the time the study was conducted The Humane Society of the United States was determined to be the top agricultural threat.  Other threats included: the United States government, corporate farms/agribusinesses, mis/uninformed consumers, and Monsanto.

The studies list of other threats, interests me, because there seems to be some differences in perceptions even amongst our own industry -between small family farms and corporate farms; organic farmers and farmers who use Monsanto seeds and weed control products.

Nicole Kenney Rambo also found that true while attending the Women in Agriculture Conference hosted by University of Minnesota Extension.  She found that there were differences in perceptions between different animal industries.

She came to the conclusion that the differences were due to the level of the level of exposure the attendees had of the different industries.  Which tells me that agvocating to those in other industries is also important so we as a whole in the field of agriculture can be on the same page with our messages.  You can read Rambo’s story here - Agvocating: More than just sharing the story of agriculture.  

How to Find the Appropriate Agvocate Audience on Social Media
It’s well worth spending time thinking about who you need to connect and engage with on social media. Then think about who those people might be associated with.  For example, what people might be associated with The Humane Society of the United States. 

Then think about who these people are, which industries they work in, what they like, what they read, what motivates them, age ranges, personality traits, where they hang out, technical know-how, how likely they are to use social media.

Also identify who your target audience key influencers. These could be people that stand out within your communities, people that others listen to, people that create action (not necessarily those people with thousands of Twitter followers). They could be bloggers, journalists, or thought-leaders. People with game-changing opinion and ideas. People who challenge the norm.  This is often easy to find with a Google search.

Once you’ve profiled the people you want to connect with, you need to find them. This is an on-going process and takes a little time. This will give you a good idea of which social platforms you should have a presence on, so keep your mind open to niche sites instead of just Facebook and Twitter.

As for finding people, there are a bunch of tools you can use to help you find them on the main social networks:

Finding people on Twitter
  • Search.twitter.com is a favorite. It has a wide criteria range to search on, including location. Also use this tool to find the key influencers in your industry and browse their follower/following lists.
  • Twitterrel lets you find people talking about related topics.
  • Twellow is the Twitter equivalent of the Yellow Pages, a directory sorted by occupation.
  • Just Tweet It is a directory sorted by interest.
  • Tweepz help you find people nearby.
  • Also pay attention to hashtags being used for events, you could find some people there.


Finding people on Facebook 
  • Search for fan pages in your subject area and browse other fans there.
  • Once you’ve connected with some key influencers, browse their friends and connect with people that way.
  • When using the search function, filter your results to drill down to the people you’re looking for.
  • Keep an eye on the suggestions that pop up on your news stream.

Finding people on LinkedIn 
  • Search for the names of those people you’ve already identified by name using LinkedIn’s search box. Also make the most of the advanced search feature.
  • You can also use this search box to search for keywords that will be included in profiles. Make the most of using OR or AND in these searches to include a few keywords (OR allows you to look for any one of those terms in the profile, AND allows you to look for a number of words).
  • You can also search for people using their email addresses.
  • Join groups that fit your target audience’s interests or industry. Once you’ve been accepted as a member, browse the member lists.
  • Use the Questions and Answer function to start a conversation around your key subject area. 


Other Tips
  • Check out the activity on your competitor’s social media profile pages. If you notice that people are commenting, sharing, and engaging with content on a particular social media platform that your competitor is using, then that would be a good indicator that that’s where your target audience is.
  • Listen & Engage: Social media is a two-way street and timing is very important. Therefore, a successful social media strategy is more about listening than talking. Listening is not only a great communication skill for in-person conversations — it’s a golden skill in the social media sphere that you need to take time to do. When you effectively “listen” to the conversations that happen online and interject at the right time to the right person with the right type of message, the end result could be one of your postings going viral. Be sure to remember that when you are jumping into a conversation, you’ll want to add value to the conversation by offering advice, a resource, or providing a solution to a point. 



Do you have a tip that has worked for you to find your agvocate target audience? If so, please share your feedback in the comments. We value your feedback.


You may also like to read:  Overcoming Criticism - which all agvocates will eventually face.

 
 
There is nothing better than meeting with someone face to face to build a working relationship. As I said in my last blog post, I have been traveling a lot for work the last couple weeks.  I thought it might be of interest to some of you to hear about some of my experiences, upcoming projects and what I’ve learned about our human need to connect with others. 

The first week of March my husband and I travelled together.  We left our home in Lodgepole, South Dakota in route to our first stop in Aberdeen, South Dakota to visit Greg Tople, a colleague, friend and our agronomist.  I was interviewing Greg for an article in Feedlot magazine on insect and pest control.  Greg not only has a pesticide company, but is also the owner Precision Ag Solutions which provides precision agriculture technology to farmers in North and South Dakota.  My husband was meeting with Greg to go over field maps and creating prescriptions for our upcoming corn planting season. 

After spending the night with Greg and his family,  we headed out the next morning to have lunch in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with our mutual friend, Dave Lydon, a pilot for Net Jets. We continued on to Lincoln, Nebraska.  Unfortunately, I was driving when we hit Omaha at 5 p.m. rush hour traffic, heading east towards Lincoln with the sun setting in my eyes. 

In Lincoln we spent the weekend with the founder of RotoMix, and Bill’s Volume Sales, Bill Pullen, who I was interviewing for Calf News.  Bill was preparing to set out on a National Geographic trip around the world, which was the perfect lead into his many trips all over the world selling RotoMix feed trucks.
I had a few short days at home before I was off again.  This time for some much needed “girl time” to reconnect with two of my girlfriends that I haven't seen in years!  We recreated the sixth grade slumber party, with my best friend from grade school and our mutual friend Jennifer Reisser in one of the most beautiful places in South Dakota; Interior which is a small town bordering the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that is nestled into the sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires of the Badlands National Park and surrounded by the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Jennifer owns a beautiful store called Native West Trading that we will be building a website for.

The next day I met the most amazing Lakota couple on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.  Not only are they traditional Lakota's who deeply love their culture and live it every day they are also ranchers and amazing stewards of the land. The Fredricks, were interviewed for an article in Range Magazine.

I then headed to Valentine, Nebraska to work with web clients at Plus One Manufacturing, who build amazing cattle working facilities.  And then headed to Lincoln County Feeders in North Platte, Nebraska for an interview for Progressive Cattleman Magazine.  I have never seen a more impressive feedlot, and a more perfect fit for this magazine.  They have a state of the art feed mill and an amazing sorting system that revolutionizes how feedlots can market cattle.

With so much drive time, I couldn’t help but think about how social media has changed human connections and how throughout my trip almost everyone I encountered longed to connect in meaningful ways; which is the best part of my job. 

While social media is great for communicating with people around the world, exchanging information, connecting ideas and businesses, I also believe it is desensitizing human relationships.  

How did we get to the point where the artificial content on our phones is more interesting than the world around us?  Facebook has taken precedence over the real people and events scrolling through our daily lives.  We no longer reach out to reconnect with old friends because their entire life is posted to social media.  Yet, online friendships give a false sense of connection and often lack emotion.

I’m not saying we should completely disconnect from social media, but I believe we should be aware of when it interferes with our greatest asset, our human relationships; and there is no genuine relationship without giving of our time and attention.

Only through our relationships can we give and experience love and make a lasting impact on the life of another.  They are the source of our greatest joys and sorrows. They support us through thick and thin and in the end are maybe the only thing that matters in life. 
 
 
I am traveling this week to meet with new web design clients and to conduct interviews for magazine articles I've been assigned to write.  I’m really excited to soon be sharing with you some of the new projects and articles I will be working on.  

There is nothing better than meeting with someone face to face to build a working relationship.  Unfortunately especially with cattle and horses at home, traveling isn’t always an option for me which is why it’s important for me to also build relationships through my blog and social media.

After last week’s blog post on the importance of blogging a reader asked me if I thought blogging was still relevant because she felt like nobody was reading her blog anymore.  With many hours to drive and think I’ve given this question much thought.  While this blog on my website has not received many comments, it has received several comments in the social media sites I have posted it in.  Which leads me to believe blogging is changing.

With smartphones, iPads and other devices becoming the preferred platform for most web users shorter, punchier messages that are tailored to readers now seem to be the trend.  But as a blogger this doesn’t scare me because almost all people are seeking information on specific subjects.  And as long as I keep writing engaging blog posts, I will find an audience even if how they find my blog changes.

Just because your blog has fewer subscribers doesn’t mean that people aren’t reading it.  Today’s readers are more likely to follow your blog on social media, and will scroll through to read the information relevant to them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.  Which is why it’s important to have a presence on social media sites.  

One thing you can do to increase views of your blog link is, post it a couple times throughout the week to increase the chances of people seeing it.  You can also post older articles from your archives.  I have also rebranded my blog calling it the “Thoughts” page on my website instead of a blog.  

Readers are going to interact on social media and not on your blog.  They are more likely to share your post on Facebook and leave a comment there than they are on your blog itself.  I believe we should embrace this and allow readers to take the lead as to how and where they want to discuss your blog.  We as bloggers should focus on building and engaging with our audiences on our favorite social media sites by discussing topics, asking questions, posting interesting links and not just when you post a blog post.

Let’s face it, we aren’t really motivated to write another blog post when it’s not getting reader engagement.  Beside the fact that your reader may never return to your blog getting reader engagement is important for another very important reason.  Bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors who leave your website after looking at only a single page.  If you have a high bounce rate, which you can find out by logging into Google Analytics, your site will be ranked lower in Google search results.

What does successful engagement look like? It is comments, likes and shares of your posts, taking quizzes, entering contests, redeeming offers and writing reviews.  

We as bloggers must first remember that our blog is not about us, but our reader, they are the reason it exists.  Whether they are your readers, your customers or both, you want to create content that caters to your target audience's interests. Post content that is relevant, timely, interesting and of value to your readers.  Infodocket states that the average time spent on Facebook is 20 minutes.  Which leaves you a short period of time to make an impression.  

Educate your audience on something they may value. Include something in your blog posts that others don’t.  You must know something about a specific topic that others have not already shared. It’s also okay to share or repost content, but users will have more trust and engagement with original content posts. People are also more likely to share content from sources they trust.  Putting some data behind your claims to help build trust, showing that your advice is sound. 

Posting photos and video also increases engagement.  You can also publish different types of content including videos, podcasts, infographics, interviews and group interviews.  This can expand the reach of your blog and access new audiences.

User experience is everything and if you want people to come back to your blog, improving that experience is extremely important. 

Here are a few tips:
  • Deliver a clear message on why your blog exists and how it can help people.  
  • Always use the appropriate writing style for your audience, which is generally either down to earth, warm and friendly or a more formal professional tone.
  • Your paragraphs should be short and spacing out your paragraphs into smaller chunks makes it much easier on readers’ eyes. Long chunks of text often overwhelm readers on mobile devices.
  • If you do use images, use GIFs. Although the image won’t be highest quality possible, it will load extremely fast and look reasonably good. 
  • Display related blog posts in your blog and always at the end of every post.  You may also like to read:

Once your getting engagement try to respond quickly to posts or reviews on your page. Facebook monitors this and highlights how responsive you are on your fan page.  A big part of engagement is networking so comment and leave helpful comments on other blogs in your niche.

Last but not least - don’t simply hope that people will know what to do after they have read a great blog post. Ask for the engagement you want, preferably at the end of each post. One great way to encourage engagement is to ask your readers about their thoughts and experiences with regard to the topic at hand. Ask them what their burning questions are. Ask them to engage.

Over to you - 
We’ve talked through a bunch of tips you can put into action. We would love to hear what has worked well for you and if you have any tips to add. I would also love to hear what other topics would you like to read about next week?




You might also like:
 
 
I love connecting with people. I want to make my customers experience with Agri-Marketing Solutions as personal as I can and this blog is the perfect platform for that. Creating an online brand is about sharing the love you have for your product, service or business, and sharing it authentically from your heart. Blogging is the best way I know to connect with and serve clients. Your product descriptions, website pages and e-mails can never go as in-depth as your blog can and will. There is so much media noise today that it's more important than ever to let others know what makes you and your business unique. A blog will set you apart and grow your following. Your blog is truly your platform. Unlike other forms of social media that you can't control, your blog is yours. You decide what is on it at all times, how beautiful it is and how inspirational your posts are. 

Think about your blog as another segment of your marketing plan. A well-written blog drives visitors to your website, improves your SEO, gives a boost to your Google rankings, and allows editors, producers, gallery owners, and other influential people in your field to learn about you and your brand. 

Blogging can be incredibly valuable to a variety of people and for a variety of reasons and is not just for businesses. My personal blog Montana Ranch Girl (which I've not kept up due to being busy on our ranch/farm/feedlot and developing this business) has benefited me personally, professionally and financially. I was not buying or selling anything but what it did for me was incredible. 

I was able to reach billions of people to promote myself and the farm/ranch lifestyle which created some unique opportunities. I was very fortunate to be featured in Marie Claire France Magazine and to appear on Oprah via Skype. 

Blogs also enhance your professional image, establishing you as an authority in your field. In many ways blogs are the new resumes validating and illustrating to readers, employers, and your network, that you are skilled and knowledgeable. I received job offers and was able to further my freelance writing career because of it. Only 1 percent of Internet users actively create new content, while the other 99 percent simply view it. Blogging helps you stand out and separates you from the herd. Who wouldn't want to hire someone like that? 

Blogging through my cancer treatment also helped me become a better person. In a foggy chemo brain it forced me to organize my thoughts and learn. I had to teach myself what I didn't know and articulate myself in meaningful ways. Writing for me has always been one of the best ways to delve within myself facilitating self-awareness and is a great way to internalize something I've learned or experienced. 

Most importantly, I've also been able to create meaningful personal relationships through the blog with people I would have never met anywhere else. I met the most incredible woman who I speak to on a regular basis. When we met through my blog, I would have never dreamt that my son who is in the Army would someday be stationed just a half an hour from where she lives. My son has recently gone through a rough patch in his personal life and with cows I wasn't able to fly out to be with him, but my dear friend was able to be there for him as a surrogate mom. 

The powerful aspect about blogging is that any type of personality can do it effectively – introverts and extroverts alike, organized or chaotic personalities, with pictures or words, or a little of both. Blogging inspires. It can transform a life with a simple word of encouragement or a breathtaking photograph. 

Whatever your reason for starting a blog, Agri-Marketing Solutions is here to help get you started, please feel free to stop in to discuss your blog idea over a cup of coffee or send us a message, we are here to help you create a blog that opens doors for you.

 

    Author Jennifer Archibald

    Reflections of life and lessons learned in the fields of marketing and agriculture.  A place to shout from the roof tops our clients success and keep you up to date on industry trends.

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