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There are many ways in which businesses can successfully use web-based tools to promote their businesses. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and email newsletters allow you to actively reach out to and engage with customers. As with any other marketing tool, you must evaluate each of those options by thinking about what they can do for you and what they require of you to be used effectively. You might also want to check out our list of Web Resources.
Websites are not technically social media; they are static and passive. However, if you intend to have an online presence, you should have a website as a home base. Websites are flexible and expandable, and can provide a permanent home for all your content (such as newsletters, recipes, photos, etc). Having an attractive website also provides more credibility than just having a Facebook page, for example. See the section on website design for more information.
Blog software has gotten sophisticated enough that a blog could function as your website, if it was laid out in a traditional website format and used like a website. A blog can also exist in addition to a more traditional website and be used for timely updates or musings. If you are thinking about using a blog in this way, consider:
Email newsletters can be used for updates throughout the seasons about new products and markets, and to give existing customers some insight into you and your business. Note: do not buy an email list or add people without their consent. You MUST have an opt-out option on every email.
Facebook is free, intuitive to use, and can be an excellent way to build a rapport with customers.
Twitter is relatively new, and has not been adopted by small businesses in the way that Facebook has. Like Facebook, Twitter is appropriate for short, timely updates. It is much faster-paced than Facebook multiple daily tweets is fine, and possibly even necessary if you want your page to be noticed. One feature that distinguishes Twitter from Facebook is that it allows topic-based interactions, so people can find you either through personal networks, or through discussions about specific topics.
The challenges of Twitter are that it is fast-paced and dense, making it easy to get lost in the stream of information. It requires active use to yield results, and real effort to build a following. If you already use Twitter, there is no harm in using it for your business. But if you are interested in experimenting with social media, we recommend using Facebook.
Robin Hollow Farm uses Facebook and Twitter, and they have an email newsletter and recently added a blog. Polly says, “Facebook and Twitter are so satisfying – you just snap a picture of whatever you’re doing, and you don’t even have to come up with anything brilliant to say. The picture does it all!” Facebook, Twitter, and the blog are all used as showcases for whatever flowers are coming into season, as a way to draw people to the markets. The new blog is specifically devoted to listing the crops that will be available that week, while Twitter and Facebook are used more for one-off photos of flowers in the field, links to wedding photos, and the occasional musing. The newsletter goes out regularly, but not on a set schedule. It is used to promote specific events or purchasing opportunities. For example, the switch from summer markets to winter markets, the enrollment period for the flower CSA, or the plant sale.
This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2010-49200-06201.
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