Twitter advice from farm diversification businesses

Farmers Weekly asks two successful rural diversification businesses for their take on the social media phenomena Twitter and Facebook.

Sarah MacPherson (above right) – “Well Hung and Tender” Berwick-upon-Tweed, Scottish Borders

Heather Gorringe (above left) – “Wiggly Wigglers” and “The Great British Florist” Herefordshire

What’s your business?

HG Wigglys sells garden supplies and GBF is a florist. Both are based on our farm and many of the products we sell are home-produced.

SM My husband Donald and I are farmers and sell fresh Aberdeen Angus beef at Edinburgh farmers’ markets and catering at events and festivals throughout the UK.

When/why did you start using Twitter?

HG We started using it for GBF about 15 months ago; Wigglys, about five years ago.

SM Because it’s important to keep up with social media. We feel this has superseded websites as a way of keeping our business current and keeping our customers, followers and “likers” informed.

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Were you initially apprehensive about taking the plunge?

HG No, just confused. The benefits of using social media tools are not always easily explained and are completely different to advertising. They take a few moments to get your head around. It’s more like a new pub opening than a new marketing media… you sort of need to check it out. Listen to conversations and understand your way around before you go on a wild night out.

SM I’m 50-plus, so yes. It has a whole new dictionary of words, which is difficult, and I love good spelling and proper grammar.

How does it help your business/ brand?

HG First, and most importantly, people who we meet in real life remember us more. They are in touch without being hassled. This builds awareness which, in turn, builds our brand and our relationships with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

SM It tells people where we are going to be and what we are offering. It also means we can see what others are up to, allowing us to adapt to changes in the industry and see which trends are popular.

Any benefits, other than the pure business ones?

HG It can be fun. You can use a hashtag to follow a particular subject matter as it happens so I have followed events such as the Oxford Farming Conference. But more than that, watching Downton Abbey with the hashtag on Twitter running at the same time really does tickle me.

SM Twitter is like an instant news feed. It keeps us informed. We have also used it to find other businesses and groups in our community and hopefully we can all help promote each other.

What kind of tweets do your customers like best?

HG They like a bit of humour or a relevant photo. They like real-life adventures – for example, we were at a wedding fair recently and got lots of reaction from showing the catwalk and the flowers.

SM They like information, a bit of humour and photos.

What kind of voice do you have/ impression do you try to convey?

HG Trying to fashion a voice or make an impression is pointless. That’s for the PR companies. I stick to my own voice, which is much easier and, I think, more entertaining and honest.

SM We try to keep it relevant to the business and don’t express personal views… except about the Scottish Rugby team being so bad just now.

But surely relationships have to be forged face-to-face?

HG Don’t be daft. What about your supplier in the States? Or your customer online? There are different types of relationships – all valid. In fact, when you meet someone who you have a Twitter relationship with you can cut out a lot of pleasantries as you already know quite a lot about them. Twitter is also brilliant after you meet someone to help maintain a relationship without having to have direct email or phone contact (until either of you needs something specific).

SM Twitter can act as an introduction service leading to face-to-face relationships, but some people prefer not to have personal contact.

Do you need to be a techie person to use it?

HG No. Full stop.

SM It’s pretty simple to use… must be, or I wouldn’t be using it.

How much time does it involve?

HG It usually takes me a good 15 seconds to tweet. Boil the kettle, check Twitter, tweet…

SM It could take over your life, but one or two 10-minute sessions are usually enough in a day to send your relevant tweets and look through those of the people you follow. I find it quite relaxing to set aside some time to sit and read what’s going on in the world.

Give a newcomer one piece of advice

HG Set up your profile before you start following other people. They will not follow you unless they understand who you are and what you are about.

SM Don’t be afraid… embrace new technology, it keeps you young.

Twitter or Facebook or both?

HG Both – but Twitter is faster, more selective and more fun.

SM We use both. Twitter moves quite quickly so is useful for information you want to put it out there quickly, but Facebook lingers a bit more when you have news or info that you’d like to get to more people.