It’s important to keep in mind that when posting to social media or creating content online, our messaging will not just reach those within the agriculture space, but the wider public as well. According to ongoing in-depth studies conducted by the Canadian Centre For Food Integrity (CCFI), when it comes to food, the average Canadian consumer trusts farmers more than academics, food processors/manufacturers and even government bodies. This level of trust demonstrates the impact farmers can have with the general public. To help you, we have crafted the following best practices for social media and online content. These are not definitive but are meant to act as a reference and starting point to help start conversations.

1. Make a plan.

  • What are your goals on social media? Conduct an audit of your practices. Set key performance indicators or goals to measure if your efforts are working.
  • Key metrics can include: follows/shares, comments/mentions, clicks/signups, and sentiment.
  • Anticipate what negative comments or actions you may see because of your social activity. Prepare a handful of responses to ready yourself for these comments.

2. Be in the right place.

  • Find the social media platform that works for you and your personal brand. Also, consider engaging your audience on platforms they’re already engaged on (i.e. Facebook).
  • Each social platform requires a unique approach. Posts that will do well on Instagram will not necessarily resonate on Twitter or YouTube.

3. Create value for your audience.

  • Social media is a highly visual medium – prioritize images and video versus text copy alone.
  • Use hashtags for driving consumer action, promoting discovery, or leveraging existing conversations.
  • Give users a reason a to respond and engage. Create a shareworthy experience.
  • Include a call-to-action! This should be the primary action or message you want your audience to retain.

4. Identify your brand voice.

  • Be authentic—your social presence should be unequivocally “you.” Consumers are curious to see how farmers farm. Opening your farm gate, practices and lifestyle goes a long way in building consumer trust in the people behind their food.
  • Does your tone and content fit with the persona you have cultivated?
  • Your audience follows you for a reason. Identify it and lean into it!

5. Design for mobile.

  • Convey your key message quickly within the first 3 seconds of a video.
  • Use short, simple text copy that reinforces a singular message.
  • If you can, invest in high-quality visuals and production to stand out in a user’s feed.
  • Consider a platform’s contextual environment – what comes before or after your content in the user experience? What ads or other content will be surrounding your posts?
  • Sound on or off? Many users on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram may not have sound enabled when viewing your content. If you can, include subtitles or captions. On the other hand, users on platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube will predominantly have the sound on.
  • Maintain a consistent visual identity across your platforms.

6. Think “now”.

  • Connect your content to news/moments to drive relevance.
  • Use claims and news from credible sources when appropriate.
  • Stats, research, and news can help drive home your storytelling when used sparingly.
  • Watch your competitors and peers. Adapt their wins and losses and make them work for your own content plan.

7. Use the tools at your disposal.

  • Paid amplification works. Setting up boosted posts on most social platforms isn’t as daunting as it may seem. You can more easily target your key audience and set your amplification to match your budget. Plus, you’ll see more in-depth analytics and results.
  • There are plenty of social media tools to aid you with your content plans:

8. Use analytics and metrics to see if what you’re doing is working.

  • Are you reaching the right demographics with your content? Learn your audience and experiment with your content until you’re reaching your desired demographic.

9. Be transparent.

  • Partnership disclosures, especially if compensation is involved, should be simple and unobtrusive using #ad or #sponsored
  • Do not bury disclosures under hashtags or other visual elements.

10. Things won’t always go your way. Should a problem arise – from audience blowback to misunderstood messaging to an all-out crisis – be sure to:

  • React rationally and empathetically, without anger in a public response. Step away to regain your composure and then come up with a response. Have someone review it if you’re uncertain.
  • If you’re a part of a larger institution, you may wish to consult your legal team.
  • Don’t delete the posts. Nothing truly ever disappears on social media and the problem will not go away by removing/ignoring it. It’s better to take a cautionary approach and determine how to manage and handle the issue.
  • There is a need for speed, but not at the expense of being hasty, getting it wrong, and/or being inaccurate. If you need more time, it is perfectly fine to make the initial response, a “placeholder” response. This lets your audience know you are aware of the issue and have acknowledged it and provides a timeline on when a response can be expected.