5 Social Media Trends Shaping Ag Retail

Follow. Hashtags. Likes. Retweets. Timelines. Wall. The social media landscape is ever-changing and dotted with strange terms to the uninitiated. It’s also becoming an important part of business communications — whether you like it or not.

The same holds true for ag retailers. CropLife Media Group’s 2013 Ag Retailer Social Media Survey set out to gain better insight into how our readers are using social media for work purposes. While a number of respondents admit it has a place in the industry, they’re just not sure how to use it. Others, however, remain steadfast against social media (46%). “It’s a colossal waste of time and resources,” said one retailer. “Social media is a poor excuse for good face-to-face contact with customers,” said another.

Despite some uncertainty and negativity directed toward social media, the majority of retailers are using it for business to some degree. In fact, 55% are using it one to six hours per week for work purposes. But how is social media impacting the way retailers work? Here are five key findings that have emerged from the study that help answer this question:

1. Slow to adopt social media. Ag retailers have been slow to use social media compared to other digital platforms. Social media adoption was at approximately the same level (54%) in 2013 as it was last year. Meanwhile, technologies such as Webinars (79%) and mobile apps (64%) have been firmly embraced by retailers. Furthermore, 62% said they are using social media for work purposes “about the same amount” as last year. The biggest reason ag retailers do not use social media more for work is “My growers-customers don’t use social media” (41%), followed by “Do not have enough time to use it” (38%) and “Already communicate enough with my grower-customers” (34%).

2. Social network preferences vary. Wikipedia currently lists 200 major active social networking Websites. With so many to choose from, it’s not surprising ag retailers’ preferences vary across the board. Overall, retailers favor Facebook (31%) among social network sites. It was closely followed by LinkedIn (30%), YouTube (28%) and Twitter (26%). Of those four main sites, “Management” likes to use LinkedIn (41%), while “Sales/Marketing” (46%) and “Agronomy/Consulting” (29%) prefer Twitter, according to our survey.

3. Formal social media policies not catching on. While the explosion of social media has made it one of the hottest topics in the business world, it doesn’t mean organizations are quick to create social media policies. That’s certainly the case in ag retail. Most retailers (71%) do not have a formal policy regarding employee use of social networking sites. On the flip side, businesses that do have policies in place often cite reasons such as “protecting their company’s reputation” and “don’t want to create a productivity-killing distraction.”

4. Retailers recognize value in social media. A growing number of retailers (45%) are finding value in using social media to interact with customers, especially the younger generation of farmers. “It is becoming more and more important to engage in social media,” said one retailer. “You have to be where your customers are.” Other notable comments on social media’s value included “powerful marketing tool,” “a great way to distribute valuable information,” “excellent for sharing agriculture’s story from our perspective” and “another employee recruiting tool.”

5. Service tops the list of social media conversations. If successful retailers recognize the power that comes from being the farmer’s “trusted adviser,” than they’ll likely recognize the potential that social media has in fulfilling that moniker. That’s why it’s not surprising that “Agronomic tips/education/advice” (60%) was the most typical kind of social media post by retailers. As one retailer simply stated: “It’s part of serving the customer.” Other notable types of posts included “market information” (42%) and “weather updates” (39%).

If you wish to receive an Executive Summary of the “2013 Ag Retailer Social Media Survey,” please e-mail me at matt@croplife.com.

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