Grow guides

How to get started promoting your food business on social media

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Getting started in promoting your business online is at times exciting, and at times daunting. But for most businesses, including the types of farmers and food retailers we get at Farmhouse Exchange, it is an essential way of connecting with customers.

Here are some tips we have compiled to help you on your journey of using social media for your food business.

Deciding which social media accounts you should open first

There are many different types of social media you can use to promote your business.

But if you’re just starting out promoting your business on social media, then it’s best to start with only one or two social media accounts. You must be able to maintain a consistent flow of posts for any social media pages you commit to the consistency of your posts is actually more important than the frequency.

Think back: have customers already asked you if you’re on a particular social media channel? If so, it might be wise to start your social media journey there. If not, is there a way you ask your customers what they’d before?

Just make sure you’re familiar and comfortable with the type of social media channel before jumping in. Don’t make TikTok videos your first social media venture, unless you already know what you’re doing and how it relates to your business. 

If you have a reasonably broad, mainstream audience, it can be sensible to just start out by opening up a Facebook page and/or Instagram account. Or, if you can offer a lot of DIY content, you might also consider putting out a blog or original content on Pinterest. 

While you’re at it, don’t neglect the other opportunities you have to communicate with your customers online:

Brainstorm topics that would be interesting to your social media followers

The best social media accounts post about a variety of topics that their community values. To get the mix right on your own page, workshop a list of themes that will suit your customers.

Start with the types of content your customers are already engaging in

Try to find examples of prominent social media feeds that are popular with your customer base. What types of content jumps out to you? 

For example, a lot of farmers have found success by starting with friendly ‘family life’ content, before drawing their followers into their daily farming operations later on

Here are some specific examples of posts that tend to do well on social media, taken from our social media content inspo board on Pinterest:

Next, how can you draw your community into the story of your business?

Think about how you can use your social media content to present:

  • Insights – give your customers sneak peeks into how your business works behind the scenes. 
  • Inspiration – create uplifting posts on how your work relates to nature and the environment.
  • Education – there’s a bunch of things customers probably don’t know or understand about the broader industry you work in. Help bridge that gap.
  • Show the human side of your business – one of the main opportunities of social media for small businesses is showcasing the ‘people behind the business.’ 
  • Moments in your day to day life – your day is sure to be filled with varied tasks, hard work and episodes of fun. Use these experiences to connect with your followers! 
  • Touch on the benefits of your product – what does the product do for you and your customers’ lives? Remember: don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.

Post great content consistently with the help of a social media calendar

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It will take longer than you think to turn your ideas into actual social media posts. If you try to create individual posts one by one, you’re likely to run out of steam. Use a social media schedule to help structure your time creating content. It’s the best way to ensure you maintain a consistent stream of valuable posts to your followers.

Here are the basic steps of creating a social media schedule:  

  1. Make a list of 5-7 themes you will post about. Only a few of them should directly be about your business or product.
  2. Create the content for a bunch of posts for each theme, one theme at a time. You might even want to write the posts on different rows of a spreadsheet.
  3. Copy the content into your social media platform, mixing up the order of your themes. You should be able to schedule the posts to publish in the future. Experiment with things like what time of day to post.
  4. Throughout your week, add a couple of additional posts spontaneously, e.g. photos of something interesting happening ‘right now’.
  5. Monitor how your community responds to posts, and be ready to adapt scheduled content if required. Reviewing scheduled content is especially important if something comes up in the news that might make your posts seem off-topic. For example, take down all scheduled posts if a natural disaster happens. 

For more information, see this guide on Social Media Examiner.

Building a positive online community

Social media can be a scary place – there are lots of famous examples of social media pages going badly wrong, and you may have already experienced receiving some adverse online reactions. You need to build a thick skin managing social media, as there are always risks of drawing negative attention when you put yourself out there online.

But there are things you can do to help build a more positive social media community. One of the surprisingly effective ways is simply focusing your pages on positive topics that suit the social media channel. If you mostly put out positive, uplifting content that unites the community, then your followers are likely to be more positive back to you across all your posts.

In a way, social media is at its best when it encourages people from diverse backgrounds to unite over shared interests. For example, rural farmers have used social media to help bridge the divide with urban followers by focusing on things that unite us, e.g., our care for our families, our animals and our land.

Fighting misinformation online is possible, but hard work, and not always a good option. Whenever you post, make sure you can come across respectful and nuanced to your community. Stay relevant to your social media platform, and remember why your community wants to use that platform (for example, Twitter is excellent for news articles; Pinterest is not). 

The ideal outcome is to keep the positive vibes going throughout all your social media content. Then, you can start to draw your community into wanting to hear more about how you do things. Hopefully one day, you’ll even end up meeting some of your followers in-person, and there will be lots to discuss.

Plan what type of comments you’re going to reply to ahead of time

You probably know the basics of responding to comments, for example, always be:

  • responsive
  • friendly
  • professional. 

But It may surprise you to learn that you should not necessarily reply to every type of post. It is important to respond to different types of comments in a tailored way.

For example, you don’t have to respond to deliberately offensive trolls. But for a sincere complaint, you should try to acknowledge their difficulty and seek to resolve their issue promptly. 

Otherwise, did someone just give you a totally funny/random comment, like “my kids just used your farm’s apples in a home movie about William Tell”? Perfect! Use it and start a conversation for some positive engagement! Show off your personality – and banter skills!

You can use a social media flowchart to plan out your responses to all these different types of comments. You can find many examples of these flowcharts online, including this one, this one and this one. Comparing different examples and developing your own social media flowchart will be a great exercise to help prepare you for the wide range of comments you are likely to get online.

It is also recommended that you come up with social media guidelines to post on your page. That way, you have grounds to remove comments that are considered offensive against your (predetermined) community guidelines.

Tips for responding to negative comments when it happens

No matter how much positivity you create on your page, you’ll still need to deal with negative comments some of the time. Start by following all the same principles you would use to defuse any customer conflict situation

Then, here are some specific tips for responding to negative comments online:

  • Write in a professional, friendly and concise manner. 
  • Stay calm – write like you’re in control of everything, you have heaps of confidence in what you do, and you’re always prepared to answer a curly question or two.
  • Try to resolve their complaint immediately, or give a clear timeline for when you can.
  • Say sorry – find a way to apologise to help them feel better, even if it’s just a way to acknowledge their feelings (and even if you can’t admit liability).
  • Where possible, politely request you both move the conversation to a private message to get more details. This helps you ask for private details such as their address, and also helps avoid escalating the situation in public.
  • Be humble and open to learning from experience. Take comfort from your loyal customers when you occasionally miss the mark on something.

Most importantly – build a thick skin and don’t take things personally. They say ‘everybody is a critic,’ and this is especially true on social media. Don’t let trivial opinions undermine your confidence.  

If you need to, recognise when an online confrontation has unsettled you and take a break. Take a few deep breathes to relax, and maybe even get outside for some fresh air. Then, remind yourself of why you love what you do, and get back to the next part of your day! 

Take lots of photos and videos

So much in social media revolves around good quality photos and videos. So it’s important to get out there and take lots of photography!

Stay tuned for our upcoming social media photography guide for more information!

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