When it comes to talking about social media, It’s unfortunate that so much focus remains on big brands and is concentrated around the numbers. Numbers (fans, followers etc) are by themselves a poor indicator of social media success.
So when I came accross a small business called Oldfarm Pork really proving this point – I knew I had to share their story. Here’s Margaret O’Farrell on how social media is helping her to grow their wonderful business:
In September 2008, we started with three ‘boy’ pigs. The initial plan was that we would grow them on for 5 months, so as to have our own ham and/or bacon to share with friends and family.
My husband Alfie had grown to enjoy his three pigs so much that he could not resist, so between the following September and March that year he bought 4 sows. We now had a production plant, as not long after we had 42 baby pigs! Some of these piglets/bonhams were sold as weaners, to people who wanted to grow their own food. The rest we kept to grow-on ourselves.
A business is born
In March 2009 we sent our first pig to the abattoir. The meat was delicious and while we shared most of it with our family and friends we also sold some on, and got great feedback on the meat. While initially the pig-rearing was for our own benefit. Our employment circumstances changed in late summerof 2009, which meant that Oldfarm Pork has now become more of an artisan business.
- We raise rare-breed, free-range pigs, and sell pork/bacon via a ‘box’ system.
- Customers order a ‘box’ of €50 or €100 in which they get a mix of pork and/or bacon.
- We have chosen the box system as the optimum selling instrument for us, in that we are small producers, killing only when we have sufficient orders.
Our initial ‘marketing’ campaign started with texting and emailing friends and family, and asking them to pass the message on to their contacts.
We are constantly looking at new ways of promoting the business, attending ‘food’ related conferences and seminars, networking, etc.
Starting out on Facebook
I will admit that I did not come to Facebook easily, I perceived it as intrusive and lacking in privacy! Eventually, I had to succumb to Facebook. I am still skeptical and only use it on a personal level as a means to play Scrabble with friends at home and abroad!
I started the Facebook page on 18th January 2010 to promote our free-range pigs and pork. Being a newbie to Facebook I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It has been an interesting learning curve for me since.
- Again I used the ‘family and friends’ route to get our initial fan base, within a week or two we had c 20 fans.
- Since that initial flurry our fan base has built slowly, but consistently.
- At this stage we have 394 fans, which may not seem like a lot of fans when compared to the big corporate sites who have thousands of fans.
- However, the best part of our fanbase is that it is generating orders!
In January this year (2011) I started a Twitter account. We have 280 followers on twitter. There is very little overlap on the Facebook and Twitter fans, so these are almost 700 people that I would not have been able to target otherwise.
It’s not about the numbers
I know other small businesses that get obsessed with the ‘numbers’ of fans. However, I would rather have a lower number and have fans that engage and of course, order! I have had a marketing expert tell me that I should stick to only posting about the pork and not anything else that happens around us, but I find that people do engage on a variety of topics.
I can honestly say that we are now receiving orders from people who we don’t know, and who are fans on our Facebook or Twitter pages.
- I would estimate that on most delivery runs now 50% of orders are coming through both these media.
- On a recent run, we delivered to someone who has been a fan on Facebook for over a year, and he finally got around to ordering now!
What I’ve learnt so far:
- Having a Facebook/Twitter business page, is a time commitment. You do need to devote time to it every day.
- It is a challenge to find something interesting and worthwhile to upload on a daily basis. I am constantly looking at other websites, and using other social media outlets to find things that I consider worth posting on the site.
- You want to keep it ‘business-like’ but you also want to generate, conversation, debate and comments!
- Recognising the ‘right’ time to post is critical. You need to know your customers and figure out when they are on line, so that you can post when they are likely to comment!
- You also need to devote time to looking at other Facebook business pages, and to comment on them – again just to raise your profile.
As I have previously said it has been a learning curve! But Facebook in conjunction with other social media outlets like Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging can be useful for a food business….. you can reach your consumer and have a conversation. I can only recommend social media as a good marketing tool especially for food producers.
Please share your experience in the comments below