The landscape of social media is a swiftly moving target — a target most businesses in our industry haven’t clearly set their sights on yet. Not all social media platforms are going to be right for your business, or worth your time. That said, skipping social altogether means you could be missing out on key brand exposure on platforms such as Instagram. Given that so much of what we do is visual, Instagram might just be the best fit for produce growers. Food is beautiful, right?

We do need to acknowledge meaningful engagement, on any social platform, is tough for most brands right now. Engagement numbers are down across all popular platforms and paying to play no longer seems effective. Even so, Instagram is still considered the darling of social media, free for the moment from the political and social discourse that has driven many from Facebook and Twitter.

Do your research.

If you haven’t yet jumped into the deep end of the pool with Instagram, where should you start?

First, figure out who is doing Instagram well. It’s easier to get a handle on using a new platform when you have good examples from users in your industry. While there aren’t a lot of produce growers taking advantage of Instagram, there are a few up-and-comers you should check out, such as Big Marble Farms (Editor’s note: Learn more about Big Marble Farms), Circle A Lettuce, Windset Farms and Metrogrow Hawaii. The point of this comparative research isn’t to copy other users, but to learn how they represent their brand visually, and what seems to be reaching users.

Don’t forget the hashtags, which are a useful search and discovery tool. What hashtags are other growers using regularly, and what hashtags are used regularly by food and cooking enthusiasts?

Growers can use Instagram to better reach their target audience, reach new customers and tell a story about their brand. It can also help to post several times per day.
Screenshots taken by Karen E. Varga

Be relevant.

What to post is totally up to you as a brand, but your content ultimately must have personal relevance to your target audience. Remember, this channel isn’t as much about you as it is your viewer and it’s a relationship-building exercise. Obviously, beautiful images of your produce are a great place to start. You should also include behind the scenes images of how your produce is grown, where it is grown, who grows it and how consumers can use it. Big Marble Farms has done an excellent job of posting a good rotation of exactly that type of content, as has Windset Farms.

One thing you’ll notice on both of their feeds is the consistency of photo quality and attention to composition. Photo quality is a must on Instagram, and most successful brands use filters on their posts to boost the aesthetic quality.

Video, stories and live stories posted in Instagram often get better traffic than static image posts — even though they only remain visible on your profile for 24 hours. If you aren’t in the habit of taking short videos, now’s the time to start.

Post often.

You can’t slouch on quantity or consistency when you commit to an Instagram feed. The best engagement and exposure seems to come from posting 1 to 2 times per day. Not per week, not per month... per day. Otherwise you’re out of sight and out of mind. This ideal frequency may change over time, so you’ll need to pay attention to Instagram trends.

Post strategically.

There’s no sense in posting when the bulk of your followers or target audience aren’t on the platform. You’ll need to research when your followers are most active. Instagram offers a very easy-to-use native insights section in your account that tells you exactly what days and times of day the biggest percentage of your followers are active. It also tells you which posts were seen by the most people and that have the highest engagement. Pay attention to this data.

For example, on my Instagram feed @lesliehalleck, Wednesdays and Thursdays are currently the highest-traffic days. I see spikes on Sundays and Mondays as well. 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., with the highest percentage of users online at 3 p.m., is generally the peak usage time for all seven days of the week. Your feed data may look very different, depending on your brand and content. Traffic trends are not static — they change over time, so you’ll need to monitor them continually.

You should plan to target most of your posts during the peak usage days and times, but don’t be afraid to randomly post at completely opposite times or days. Posting a random late night or very early morning post now and then can help serve your content to new users who may not yet be aware of you.

Be inspirational.

Telling the story of your produce and your business, in ways that matter to the end consumer, is how you get attention on Instagram. You don’t need to preach about how you’re the expert or constantly throw facts at your users. If you’ve done a good job with your branding and take great images, then it should already be apparent that you’re the expert without telling everyone every day. Your job on Instagram is to visually inspire your viewer and give them nuggets of information that make it easy for them to visualize incorporating your product into their lives.

If you can incorporate user-generated content (make sure you pay attention to users who tag you in their posts), that’s even better. If you currently work with a local chef, restaurant or recipe tester, then you’ll want to leverage their social media influence in your market. Never share other user’s images without permission and tagging their feed; it’s better to use an app such as Repost to do so. Always respond to users who comment or tag you.

Instagram might seem intimidating to new users, but with a little effort, you can grow a useful platform for inspiration and meaningful consumer conversations.

 

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies. lesliehalleck.com