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Facebook Now Replacing Mass Media
By Jane Eckert
The days of using just mass media (television, radio, newspaper and print) to promote our farms is now history. Most all farms today understand that using social media and more specifically Facebook has become an integral part of your marketing mix. A recent estimate showed approximately 152 million daily active Facebook users in the U.S. and Canada.
So, indeed, most farms that sell directly to the public do have a Facebook page, and actively try to increase their number of followers. However, even if you do, you may not be aware that Facebook also allows you to purchase additional exposure. First, you can “boost” the number of Facebook users that receive your regular posts, and secondly, you can purchase paid advertising to reach exactly the demographics you want to reach (people with the location, age, gender and interests that are most likely to be interested in your activities and products).
For this article, I have interviewed my cousin, Jill Eckert Tantillo, to discuss how Eckert’s Country Store & Farms have successfully used Facebook to expand their followers and increase restaurant and store traffic in 2014.
Jill is quick to point out that learning Facebook is a continual process because the rules often change, but it is well worth your time to gain the skills needed.
Prior to 2014, Eckert’s had established a business page and like most of us, they focused on increasing the number of followers.
But last Easter, they made the decision to use Facebook “boosts” as their primary means of promoting their Easter Egg-citement activities.
The “boost” is something you may or may not have noticed. On the page where you make a post, notice the blue button on the right just below your post that reads “Boost Post.” On the page that opens, you can begin defining exactly the audience you want to reach. For example, you can designate that the post will be seen only by people living in specific cities. You can define their age range, gender, and you can even specify that you only want to reach people with specific interests, which you define (think “keywords”). Once you have defined your audience, you can specify exactly how much you want to spend, and program will show you how many people that investment will reach. Finally, define how many days you want to boost the post (from 1 to 7), and then click “boost” to begin boosting your marketing reach!
For Eckert’s Country Store and Farms, the boost increase in the number of people coming to this event was overwhelming. The results were so good that they decided that they would divert money from mass media to Facebook for the remainder of the year. Today, they anticipate that in 2015 their Facebook budget will be close to six figures. The Eckert fan base is close to 100,000.
Most small businesses do not realize that in terms of your Facebook business page, your posts do not necessarily appear to all of your followers. Consequently, Eckert’s began in 2014 to “boost” their posts by establishing a budget to expand their organic reach to a larger follower population. Eckert’s makes multiple daily posts on Facebook the entire year. Since they are a year round business with country store and restaurant, it’s always important to stay in touch with their best fans.
Here’s an example of the power of the boost. On a recent January post, the “organic” reach was going to 1,688 fans (“organic” is the term used on the internet when referring to the non-enhanced result, meaning that no additional payment was made to reach a larger audience). When the farm boosted the message, they reached an additional 12,904 followers. While they currently are making approximately 14 Facebook posts during the week, they typically spend money to “boost” 4 of these posts. Much of the money they would have spent on local newspaper advertising is now being reallocated to Facebook.
During the busier seasons last year, Eckert’s diverted money from television to Facebook and will spend money not only on “boosts” but also “paid advertising” to reach those in the area that are non-followers but meet their demographic target audience. Paid advertising is listing in the right hand column of the page, whereas the posts and boosted posts appear in the news feed. With paid advertising, you also have the ability to select age ranges, gender, city locations, special interests and your budget maximum.
The flexibility of your selection on Facebook can be a bit overwhelming, however Jill says, “to keep it as simple as possible because the more parameters you may set up in Facebook the more you limit who will see the ad. Once you set your budget you still have flexibility to change, alter or stop the ad if you see that the weather will be either good or bad this weekend! This certainly offers more flexibility than if you had the money spent on advertising in your local newspaper.”
As Facebook continues to change their parameters, it is important to keep up with these changes and not think that Facebook has stopped working for you. We can no longer expect for Facebook to be just a free source of marketing if you truly want to maximize this marketing tool.
Eckert’s establishes their weekly plan of what they will post and “boost” in advance. Two of the most effective year round non-boosted days are their Win-it-Wednesday and Freebie Friday posts. This allows the followers to either “like” or “comment” to the post and be entered into the free giveaway. At the end of the day, Eckert’s selects a winner and for a $20.00 or so prize they have significantly expanded their organic reach, and, as would be expected, many are never redeemed.
Another successful use of Facebook by Eckert’s has been to utilize coupon promotions to interest their followers to come to the farm. Most coupon offers will require a click-through to the Eckert website and a customer can present the coupon on their cell phone at time of checkout at the restaurant, country store or admission booth, depending on the offer.
While it certainly can be debated as to when the best time is to make a Facebook post, Eckert’s has found that by scheduling posts for 9 p.m. to be the best time to reach their target audience of moms with children. Jill told me that she also tracks several of her favorite companies on Facebook (Fresh Market & Corner Bakery) to see what they are doing, and often follows their lead.
During the winter months, “boosts” are the primary focus of Eckert’s marketing on Facebook. The busier summer and fall seasons are when they spend dollars on Facebook “advertising” to reach non-followers in a larger geographic territory—a territory similar to the market reach of a local television station.
At the end of my conversation with Jill, I asked her if Eckert’s was still using e-newsletters as part of their marketing mix. While their e-newsletter database is about half of their Facebook fans, she told me that e-newsletters are still very important to reach their best customers. “We can’t rely on our customers always seeing our Facebook posts so we have seen that getting direct to their email is still a viable marketing strategy for us.”
Marketing remains a continual challenge for all farm markets. At one time, we all thought that Facebook and other social media were free sources of good targeting and that we could potentially ignore our other forms of paid media. However, now the social media outlets have the clout to charge for ads and boosts to expand your customer reach. Staying up with these trends and other new social media approaches requires time and testing, but can be well worth your while, and a “boost” to your farm income.
Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.