Could social media boost your farm business? We asked a social media-savvy Northern Ireland dairy farmer for his top tips.
Samuel McElheran, a 30-year-old dairy farmer who runs a 320-cow herd in Stranocum, has thousands of followers on social media. Here, he shares advice for farmers wanting to get the best out of social to boost their business.
1. Choose the platform that works for you
Facebook is best for promoting your business across Northern Ireland as you can connect with people locally. Twitter can be national or international. It’s the place for buying and selling. There are farmers selling minerals, foot-trimming products, straw, silage and cattle. There are even farmers with holiday lets on there. If you need to work out where to get a product Twitter is the place to go.
2. Interaction is key.
Social media is two-way communication. If you don’t tweet, you won’t get followers. Reply to questions on your posts as soon as you can to keep conversations going. And experiment with hashtags. Use #teamdairy for general dairy posts and #farm24 to share a day in the life of a farm.
3. Change up your lingo.
Remember, different countries tend to use different farm terminology. Take feed pellets for cows - in Northern Ireland, we call them “nuts” while farmers in England call them “cake”. I change up my lingo to reach different audiences and make sure there are no misunderstandings.
4. Connect with new people.
Connect with people who do the same type of farming as you, even if you don’t know them. When I first joined Twitter in 2011 I started talking to a couple of farmers from England and Wales. Since then we’ve visited each other’s farms and attended farming shows together. It helps to share the ups and downs of farming life with them. I consider them friends for life.
5. Be sensible with your posts.
Promote your work in an honest way and don’t be afraid to use emotion. But try not to tell other people they’re wrong. Not everyone will have the same opinion as you. And don’t engage with negative comments. The person will get tired once they realise you’re not reacting.
6. Learn by asking questions.
Twitter is the place to go if you have a problem. When my dad, who’s also a farmer, asks me a question I’ll post it on Twitter and have an answer within two minutes. It might be about cereals, medicines for cows, foot-bathing products or government things. You’d be surprised how many people will want to help!