by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

For many farmers, tackling social media seems like another chore on an endless list of things to do. But Amanda Basse, business coach in Providence, RI, wants more farm businesses to use social media, and use it well. She presented “Best Practices for Social Media Ads and Promotions” as a recent webinar.

Basse said using social media begins with choosing a platform, followed by creating an end goal. What do you want social media to do for you? Is it more customers? More repeat sales? A transition into different customers?

She encourages farmers to create an ad campaign, which can include different ad sets based on different audiences, placements, budget and schedule. Ads within an ad set can have different format, media and additional creative considerations.

“The two most important decisions you will make at this level will be the budget and objective,” she said.

The budget (daily vs. total) and objective will decide most of the rest of the decisions. Each campgain should have its own goal. “If you’re strict with your budget, go with a total,” Basse said. She added that most companies spend about 5% to 15% of their annual revenue on marketing.

“Start smaller,” she suggested. “Evergreen campaigns don’t change that much; others, you can be constantly testing. If you have new products or sales, these campaigns are always evolving.”

She said a realistic daily budget depends upon how much the product or service costs. “If you have a smaller budget, it will take longer to get data,” she said. “With the smaller budget, it can take three to four weeks.”

Campaign goals can include awareness of the farm and brand and its products and services; consideration; and conversion.

“Think about it as a funnel. Awareness is the top; conversion is at the very bottom of the funnel,” Basse said.

Conversion is the people who purchase because they’ve been made aware and have taken time to consider a purchase. Conversion depends upon encouraging people to take a specific action on the business’ site, like adding an item to the cart, downloading an app, registering their email or making a purchase. It can also include physical visits to the farm’s physical store or another place where products may be purchased.

Consideration includes a few different elements. Traffic refers to people sent to any website landing page, blog post or app that represents the business. Engagement is about connecting with the public through likes, comments and shares, but it also can include claiming free offers from the page. Apps are also part of consideration. Video views means that people are viewing the video clips you’ve posted.

Lead generation collects leads for the business from people interested in the brand and its products. Messaging may include any contact the public makes with the farm.

When targeting ads, farmers need to think about their audience’s age, location, languages, gender, interests, behaviors and education. Sometimes how they connect to a page, their behaviors on the website and other factors can indicate who’s interested.

Ad placement may be automatic – leaving it up to the ad platform to decide – or manual, where the business owner decides.

“If you want to run a 10-day campaign on a $100 budget, you can say when you want to run your ads,” Basse said. “Each platform has different capabilities as to when you want to run your campaign. If it’s evergreen, don’t use an end date.”

She recommends at least three ads per ad set. Some recommend as many as seven to keep users interested.

“There are two different theories on short form versus long form,” Basse said. “There’s no hard and fast rule on what works better; it takes testing. If you have a product that needs a lot of explaining, you may need long copy or a video ad. When you’re first getting started, you’ll have to do some testing to see what works best.”

Ad copy and imagery should align with the target market. “A 25-year-old who’s interested in entrepreneurship should probably see a different ad than a 55-year-old who’s into journalism,” she said.

Whether video or still photo, Basse stressed that images must be “compelling and all components must be aligned. Make sure your image and ad text/copy aligns with your targeting.”

After posting, ads should remain unedited for three days so posters can ensure they’re working or not working.

“You have to let the system work its magic for 72 hours,” Basse said. “That’s why you need to make sure you don’t have any spelling errors and the image is right.”

Auditing the ads’ effectiveness is the next step. “Reach and impressions are cool to look at,” Basse said. “The primary metrics you want to focus on are cost per lead, cost per view, cost per acquisition, how much is it costing you to acquire a new customers, website clicks – how many are going to your website, the click-through rate – how many are clicking through, and how much time someone is clicking on your site.” If that time is less than 15 to 20 seconds, they’re probably accidental clicks and you likely need to switch up your ads.

She encourages farmers to avoid using “you” too much, as that can get ads flagged for being too personal.

“If now you’re using ‘shop now’ or ‘learn more’ you might want to change your call to action,” Basse said. “Who your audience is and who you’re targeting might not be the same person.”

You can also test placements, Basse said. “Some ads perform better in stories, some better in feed, some in the partners each platform and apps partners with. You may find your ads perform best when running through the weekend or weekdays. Unless you have a very specific product, don’t mess with that because the system does a good job of not showing your ads to irrelevant people.”

Basse believes that social media advertising is “the fastest and cheapest way to connect with your target audience. You can get started with a very small budget and get insights into how your audience interacts with your business.

“If you look at all the different marketing opportunities, social media advertising is one of the least expensive ways to grow your email list, brand awareness and sales. You can start with a very small budget when you get started and scale.”

She believes that 80% of the advertising budget should focus on finding new people and 20% on retargeting people who have visited the website.

“Some ads you think will work don’t. Don’t be afraid to pivot,” Basse said. “It may take a little longer to build, to get that snowball effect. If something’s not working, it’s okay to pause it.”

She likes tools such as Canva, Creative Market and Promo.