Social media for farmers markets

Disclaimer: The FMANSW does not receive any payment from any of the resources mentioned in this post. All advice and information is provided in good faith. We do not accept any liability should you experience any financial hardship after following any of our recommendations.

In our blog series “How to market your market”, we’re covering the basics of how markets and stall holders can make use of the promotional tools available to us at no or low cost. We’ve looked at Google My Business and how to make use of the Google Website and Google Reviews features. Now we’re going to take a dip in the shallow end of the social media pool.

For markets, social media is essential. For stall holders, particularly farmers, social media can feel like a drain of time and energy.

Truth is, it can be. But investing some time at the start to learn how to get it set up to work for you, understanding the principles of creating social media content and what it’s intention is, then getting into a habit that doesn’t interfere with actually doing the thing you do will pay dividends.

There are loads and loads of people out there who will happily separate you from your money to teach you how to use social media for your business. Don’t. Unless you can afford it and can absolutely justify the expense (it has to pay for itself), then don’t.

The Australian Small Business Advisory Service frequently offers free short courses, often in webinar format, that will guide small businesses and not-for-profits through the labyrinth of social media and get you up and running. We let our community know when courses are available, so make sure you’re subscribed to our mailing list and are following our Facebook and Instagram accounts to see when we announce these.

Basically, social media is used to get people’s attention for a brief moment and remind them that you exist. It’s about that buzz-word “engagement”. For stall holders, customers really are interested in you – the person – not just the business. In the case of market operators, people are interested in your stall holders. In both cases, people also want to know the story of their local food system and how you, either as a market or a stall holder, are contributing to that system.

Don’t just throw up a photo of a product and announce it’s in season or on special. Give it a story. Who grew it? Why do they grow it? Where’s the farm? How long have they been farming? Or making cheese? Or whatever it is that makes this product better than something similar at a supermarket?

At every opportunity, communicate your point of difference to your customers. In the case of farmers markets, points of difference include freshness, flavour, seasonality, supporting farmers directly and knowing the face behind the food. There are many. Take time to clearly understand what your key messages are and weave them into every post you make on social media.

Use photos!!! Don’t just throw up a post full of words. Whether it’s a quick post or a long one, always include a photo.

Show your face! Markets: your stall holders are your face. Stall holders: don’t hide behind your products. Almost no one feels comfortable showing their face, but anyone worth their marketing salt knows that customers respond much more when they see the face of the person behind the product. You don’t have to be magazine-perfect (although there are courses out there that can teach you how to take a great selfie)… just put yourself out there.

Whatever social media you use (and you’ll probably need both Facebook and Instagram, you can give Twitter and Pinterest a miss), make sure you keep your about and contact information up-to-date. Make sure you’re linking to your website.

Also make sure you’re responding to people trying to contact you. If you find you’ve got too many channels for people trying to reach you, whittle them down and guide people towards your one preferred contact. Social media can become overwhelming, but if you take advantage of all the available settings to turn things on or off as they suit you, it becomes very manageable.

The settings are too much to cover in one blog post, so you’ll need to find this help elsewhere (start with the Australian Small Business Advisory Service, above), but it’s worth getting your head around it all.

Once you get the hang of it, narrow down your best hashtags, maybe 5 or so, and use them frequently when you post. Keep a memo or note with a shortcut to it on your phone’s home screen that has your hashtags saved, so they’re easy to copy and paste instead of typing the damn things out every time you post. There are loads of little shortcuts that, once set up, can make using social media a lot less painful.

One of the most important things to remember with social media is to be regular. Posting once a day really makes it work for you. Radio silence for a week, then blasting out 5 posts at once is wasted effort. Really think about your social media marketing. Treat it seriously, make a plan, then execute it. When it’s used properly, it’s a valuable free marketing tool. If you don’t put thought into it, you’ll resent the time you spend on it.

The best – and perhaps most overlooked – aspect to social media is the networking power that it offers. There’s no need to publish in a vacuum. Interacting with other markets and stall holders on social media is one of the best ways to raise your profile and increase exposure to your market or business. Leave a comment on your stall holders’ posts. But don’t hijack a post by including your opening hours in the comments, for example… just say something supportive and encouraging.

Remember: someone else’s post isn’t there for you to co-opt for your own marketing purposes, but you can promote your association with each other by interacting in a positive and mutually beneficial way.

Liking, commenting and sharing is an easy way amplify both your own and your stall holder’s messages. Just make sure you do it thoughtfully and respectfully. Don’t rely on other people’s posts for your own content. You need to be creating your own original content as well.

The perfect ecosystem of social media for a market is one where a market regularly features stall holders and stall holders regularly mention that they’re about to be or are at the market. This cooperative approach to social media can reach a huge audience of potential customers.

Once you’ve created your Facebook page (don’t use a group!) and your Instagram account (make sure you set up as a business account), pay attention to the “insights” provided by both platforms. You can discover when and on what days you get the most engagement. You’ll also see which posts get more attention, helping you narrow down the sort of posts your customers like to see.

If you’re new to using social media beyond your personal account, take your time with learning how to use these platforms for your market or business. It’s a different ball game. You don’t have to master it instantly, but do make sure you’re spending time learning how to make use of it.

You can set up Facebook on your phone or tablet by downloading the app, or if you prefer a computer, then go here:

For Instagram, you’ll need to download the app onto your phone or tablet. It’s less computer-friendly. You can only publish posts via the app on your mobile device.

Keep your login information the same for both. You will find that you can actually connect the two platforms, so when you post to Instagram, for example, you can automatically cross-post to Facebook.That’s a big time saver. If you haven’t set up social media yet, put some time aside (maybe ask a young person to help you) and get onto it.

While social media is needy and requires lots of attention, there are other ways to get exposure that only need occasional attention, like the various directory services available. In our next post, we’ll look at two that we think can provide a benefit to markets and stall holders: Tripadvisor and the NSW tourism website, Destination NSW.

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