Harnessing Social Media
In the few short years since the debut of Cultivating the Web (a print and online book about the ways social media tools are used by grassroots organizers), mainstream social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have shown how valuable they are for sustainable food enthusiasts, advocates and producers alike. Here are some basics on how to best – and most simply – put them to work for you.
Personalized pages help harness the power of the world’s most influential online community.
Facebook is a social networking site that allows you to create a personalized page for your farm, restaurant, nonprofit or cause. Much like a website, a Facebook page contains relevant information, but it also allows you to be a hub for your community as people “like” your page. Post status updates to your Facebook “wall” and share information so your fans can instantly be in the loop.
If You're a Farmer
- Give us a taste. You can post nearly any type of media to your Facebook wall – text, photos, even a quick informal video from your phone will help tell your story.
- Talk to us. Use your status updates to facilitate discussions – and be sure to ask questions to generate answers. Be sure to tell your fans where you are selling your products.
- Get social. Be a hub for your community. Share articles, post information and promote events on your wall.
If You're Restaurateur
- Showcase. Post photos of your best dishes and watch out for the stampede of hungry customers.
- Demonstrate! A quick video on anything culinary – from breaking down a whole hog to the perfect sautéed greens – won’t make your customers stay home and cook for themselves; it will enhance your authority and gain loyalty.
- Network. Use your page to support local farms, regional wineries and nonprofits.
If You're an Activist
- Find your voice. Be consistent with your tone and your message. Let people get to know you and trust the information you are sharing.
- Spark conversation. Unlike Twitter, Facebook lets you go in depth about issues right on your page. Share intriguing news stories and policy updates and watch the comments roll in.
- Stay active. When a page is dormant, people will assume your cause is too.
Reach and grow a loyal, motivated audience – 140 characters at a time.
Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows you to connect with people all over the world via tweets, which are quick bursts of information in 140 characters or fewer. Twitter is a great way to network with other like-minded individuals, promoting community and topical information. With Twitter, your main goal is to collect followers and garner retweets, pushing your message to a widening audience.
If You're a Farmer
- Share. What may seem mundane to a farmer is exotic to customers. Broadcasting (some – not too much!) news of daily life on your farm can help promote products or events, and gives you an opportunity to explain a bad growing season or other challenges.
- Show. Tweet photos to give patrons a sense of place.
- Tell. Don’t keep your recipes a secret. Link to recipes and give ideas on how best to cook whatever is in season. If you rotate your sales at different farmers' markets, tweet where you can be found.
If You're a Restaurateur
- Tempt. What’s for dinner? Tweet your menus and get patrons' mouths watering.
- Connect. Highlight the farms where you source your ingredients. People love to know the stories behind their food.
- Invite. Tweeting incentives (read: coupons and deals) and events will attract new customers and bring back old ones.
If You're an Activist
- Be real. Let your followers know that there is a real person (or team of people) behind your organization.
- Inform. Tweet powerful stats and breaking news. Become an invaluable resource.
- Use #hashtags (wisely). Hash tags focus your Twitter conversation. Gain new eyes by jumping onto related trending topics.
Resources to Consider
- The Meatrix! The Meatrix movies are a great way to introduce the evils of industrial food production to people who are new to the topic. The movies are available for free on The Meatrix website and also on YouTube in English and many other languages.
- QR Quick Response is a matrix barcode, readable by downloadable QR barcode readers on cam¬era phones (many readers are free to download). Many online vendors generate encoded bars that direct visitors to text messages, images and URLs – bridging printed and online communications.
- Mini-Blogging Platforms (Tumblr, Posterous, etc.) allow users to easily post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to their tumblelog (a short-form blog) and follow other users.
- IdealistNews allows participants to monitor and popular¬ize causes. Born of the partnership of social justice network Idealist and Reddit, where users influence the popularity of topics of interest, including food and farm issues.
- LinkedIn Within a few minutes you can post a digital busi¬ness card pointing to your website or blog so contacts can find (and recommend) you to others.
- Social Bookmarking Sites (StumbleUpon, Delicious) Your news of interest will interest others. Bookmarking is a relatively easy way to make niche markets gain visibility.