Farm Marketing: Using Facebook to market your meat box business
Meat boxes are one of the most common direct sale options for livestock farmers, and they are a popular farm diversification option. But to get the most from these direct sales, you need to have a clear farm marketing strategy.
Regardless of the type of meat box you offer, the key to success is selling the boxes before the meat even goes to slaughter. To do this, you need to build strong customer relationships. Creating strong customer relationships can take time, but one option to speed up the process is to use social media to create an engaged following of loyal customers. One of the top platforms for doing this is Facebook. However, many farmers are still not confident using Facebook for their farm marketing, which is where we can help.
Facebook is not always the best platform for your farm marketing: the best platform will depend on who your ideal client is along with your farm marketing strategy. To work this out check out this free download. However, Facebook is a very accessible platform for many new farm businesses and its popularity made us want to dedicate a whole blog to it.
2022 Facebook updates
We have been hearing from many people who have previously had good rates of success on Facebook but are now struggling to get any form of reach. This is not an isolated issue. Facebook is currently going through a number of algorithm updates. We don’t yet know the exact outcomes of these changes but while they are happening, and for some time afterwards, you are likely to find that your post reach and general business visibility is somewhat limited and/or unstable.
Please don’t panic about it: things are likely to improve soon, once Facebook has finished the updates and we have all worked out what has changed.
Similar updates are also happening on many Facebook (or Meta) owned platforms such as Instagram. Our best advice is to keep an eye out for online updates and use trial and error to test out what works for you on the new updates.
One of the new changes we do know about is the introduction of Instagram-style Reels for Facebook. This is in part to compete with TikTok and to also encourage TikTok creators to engage with Facebook using the same or similar content.
Farm marketing goals through Facebook
The key to success of any farm marketing strategy is to have clear goals and objectives. The same goes for your Facebook strategy: what do you want to gain from marketing your meat box business on Facebook? Possible options could be:
Sales through Facebook
Website visits from Facebook
Messages from customers
All of these goals will require slightly different strategies and tactics from your farm marketing. You should also consider how these goals align with your wider goals for your meat box business. For example, increasing views or “reach” on Facebook won’t necessarily lead to a direct increase in sales. So consider how these goals play into your wider meat-box business strategy.
Facebook boosts vs Facebook ads
Many people don’t understand the difference between Facebook boosts and Facebook ads. In fact, some people aren’t even aware there are two paid options on Facebook for advertising. So, what is the difference and why does it matter?
When you post on Facebook, your post will only be shown to a small percentage of your business page followers. If these followers engage with the post, then Facebook will show the post to more of your followers and so on.
Facebook boosts are essentially you paying a fee for your post to be shown to more of your followers, their friends and those that Facebook deem to have similar interests/demographics to your followers. This can be a very useful tool if you have a large well-engaged follower base who fit your ideal customer well and are likely to have friends who also fit your ideal customer.
However, this is rarely the case for small and new farm brands on Facebook. There is a good chance most of your followers are people you know who you have invited to like your page to help gain some exposure. If this is the case, boosts will have little benefit for you, particularly as you have no control over the targeting.
Facebook ads on the other hand can be targeted and controlled by you. These work independently of your current follower base: you choose the content of the advert, you choose the targeting and you can get a far more detailed analysis of the results. You can also exclude people from viewing your adverts such as excluding those who might be offended by your advert (yes, that does mean vegans if you are a dairy business, or possibly veggies if you are a meat business). For more information on Facebook Advertising check out this blog.
On top of this, as part of the changes Facebook is making as they become ‘’Meta’’, they have streamlined and improved the Facebook ads interface, making it easier to duplicate and edit adverts. The downside is the new system can be a little daunting as it is geared more towards marketing professionals. But once you know the basics, it is actually far easier to get good results from. We offer Facebook advert training as part of our coaching package which you can check out here.
What to post on Facebook for your meat box business?
We are seeing an increasing number of young farmers and farm successors taking to social media to either market themselves, their farms or to educate the public about agriculture. This is fantastic to see and can have real value in raising awareness with the public. But for many farmers and landowners, using social media as part of their farm marketing still seems like an impossible task.
Broadly speaking, content for social media falls into a few categories; the names often vary depending on where you read about them but we like to call them the following:
Education – this could include information about your processes, why you do things a specific way, or tips relating to your product, for example, the differences between organic and high welfare.
Relationship building – this covers posts that build a relationship with your customers and could include background on you and your farm, or information about your ethos and values. For example, if you chose a specific breed of animal, why was this?
Social proof – this refers to reviews, testimonials and case studies. It shows potential buyers that you already have happy customers, hence the name social proof.
Sales/Call-to-Action (CTA) – these posts include those that relate directly to making a purchase and should always include a direct CTA command which results in a sale, such as “buy here” or “order today”,
To successfully use Facebook as part of your farm marketing, you should include a mixture of all of these content types in your marketing. It can be useful to set a goal of a certain number of each per week. The best mix does vary somewhat between different farm businesses but, as a starting point, aim for 1 of each per week plus 1 extra sales post. This would give you 5 posts per week and you won’t be repeating yourself as they come from different content types.
These content types refer to the content or focus of the social media post rather than the format, so for example, you could have an “education” post that is in the form of a video or a text post or an infographic-style photo post. It’s a really good idea to do multiple versions of your best posts in various formats; this means you get more posts per piece of content or topic saving you time and energy. It also means you will reach a wider audience as some people will consume information better in an alternative format.
Education as a form of farm marketing can be hugely beneficial, but it only works if you are happy to get in front of the camera and create very regular engaging content that encourages followers to keep coming back. If you are able to take this route, then educating the masses can help you to create a farm brand that can be used to accelerate your meat box business.
However, even if you aren’t one for always being the teacher, including some educational content in your Facebook content will help to engage new customers and encourage them to make their first purchase. It also leads to customers having a stronger personal relationship with you and your farm business, which leads to the creation of loyal brand advocates.
We often talk about creating engaging content but what does this really mean? Well, that depends. The first step is to ensure you are choosing a format that your customers enjoy and are likely to react to. For example, some customers will love video content but others may engage better with written content. The second step is to ensure you are creating content that asks the customer for a response. This could include asking questions or directing them to complete a specific action.
Once you have engagement from your audience, make sure you build on it: reply to all comments and, where possible, try to start a conversation. So often I see businesses respond to comments with a simple emoji or with a “thank you”. Try to go one better: can you ask a follow-up question? Or can you give them additional feedback or information?
This need for responsiveness also goes for your messages on Facebook. If a customer contacts you through Facebook messages, try to reply as soon as you can. If you struggle to do this, you can set up automated replies that should answer the most common questions and show the customer that you aren’t simply ignoring them.
Making collaborations and competitions part of your farm marketing
A great way to increase engagement is to look for collaboration opportunities. This could include offering a competition in conjunction with a publisher or magazine that fits your target market. In this case, the publishing company gets free content and you get to piggyback off their online following.
Alternatively, you might be able to team up with another related or complementary business to offer a joint promotion or similar. In this, you can both benefit from the combined impact of your respective audiences. For a meat box business, this could mean teaming up with other meat producers to offer a mixed selection box, or working with a vineyard to offer a matched bottle of wine with a recipe card, or even running an offer alongside a BBQ manufacturer. The options really are endless; just make sure you choose a collaborator who has a very similar ideal client to you but who offers a different product.
Competitions are another good option for a fast form of engagement, though be careful you don’t become overly reliant on them otherwise you will end up with too many followers who are only there for the giveaways.
Farm marketing in a challenging time
The public sentiment for farmers can seem very negative currently, but the truth is this is often the loud minority with the silent majority still keen to support farmers in any way they can; just look at the number of TV programmes currently on air that focus on farming. However, this loud minority is particularly intimidating on social media due to the public and direct nature of these platforms.
We are often asked how we deal with negative comments on social media, particularly those comments that come from a place of intentional harm such as animal right activists, militant vegans and so on. The key is to remain calm and only engage when you feel comfortable to do so in a constructive manner: getting into a slinging match will only do you more damage.
One of the other things we try to do is avoid creating unnecessary provocation. For example, if we run ads, we make sure to exclude groups that could be offended such as vegans/vegetarians. We also monitor comments and block users if needed. Facebook is currently starting to introduce even stronger controls on commenting access for video content.
Utilising Facebook groups
Over the last few years, Facebook has made an effort to reduce the organic reach of small business pages. At the same time, they have pushed content that is high engagement and encourages community interaction. This has included the rise of Facebook groups which are now more heavily engaged than before. Business pages are now allowed to join some Facebook groups and it is worth investigating if this is a good option for your business page.
Groups can be an ideal setting to develop customer relationships, complete market research and build brand awareness. The key is to ensure you are not simply selling to the group. Some groups don’t allow any self-promotion while others will limit it, but you should view the group setting as a place to educate and engage rather than a place to sell. Often you will find potential customers are more likely to make a purchase if you come across as engaging and friendly rather than sales driven.
Consider your ideal customer and find out if there are groups on Facebook where they are likely to engage and that will fit with your business page. For a meat box business, I highly recommend BBQ groups or foodie groups. My top pick would be CountryWoodSmoke – UK BBQ – CWS, which also has a “selling” side group.