Social Media Q&A: An Inside Look At Mid Kansas Cooperative

Kerry Watson, Director of Communications, Mid Kansas Cooperative
Kerry Watson, Director of Communications, Mid Kansas Cooperative

Ag retailers have been slow to adopt social media as a whole. In fact, 46% do not use any social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) for business purposes, according to our 2013 Ag Retailer Social Media Survey. Retailers offered several reasons to why they haven’t climbed on board the social media bandwagon, from “it’s too time consuming” to “we’re not sure how to make it work.”

But one company that is taking the time to make social media work is Mid Kansas Cooperative (MKC). We caught up with MKC Director of Communications Kerry Watson who shared her insight into how the company is successfully using social media.

Q. Why social media?

A. One of the main reasons is to communicate our story in a timely, accurate manner. Another reason…if we’re not telling our story, someone else will.

Q. What is the purpose of the Social Media Committee at MKC? When did you form it?

A. The social media team was formed two years ago as MKC was planning to move into the social media world. We worked with a consultant who has an extensive background in social media and asked several employees if they would be interested in serving on the team. Many of them were already using different elements and had very good insight on what they felt companies were doing right or, in some cases, could improve on.

Different members of our team help post to our sites. And each member has a good understanding about what levels of communication should be done by whom. For example, crisis management will always be done through the communications department — not the social media team.

Q. What social media networks are you using?

A. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, LinkedIn. Just this past month we added Instagram.

Q. Why are you using these networks in particular? What are your goals?

A. We chose these networks as we felt they were most popular with the audience we were trying to reach. Our goals include: to tell our story in a timely, accurate manner; to use as a recruiting tool; and to reach larger audiences through our fans and followers, thus helping to build the MKC brand outside of our footprint.

Q. Who is your audience? Are you trying to reach grower-customers, members and/or employees?

A. Our Facebook fans are split down the middle — 49% men and 49% women. Less than 2% are 13-17 years old; 18% are 18-24; 19% are 25-34; 18% are 35-44; 15% are 45-54; and 15% are 55 years old or older.

Yes, our goal is to reach our grower-customers, potential customers and employees, and those we call “influencers” in the industry (e.g., banker, insurance company, ag extension agents).

Q. What types of content do you find most effective?

A. Content that ties strongly to an emotion evokes the best reaction. Examples of this include “Thinking of those affected by…” posts; introducing the new babies of our employees; and unfortunately, an announcement of the passing of an employee or customer. Photos with fun captions also capture a lot of attention, as well as information about new projects and facility upgrades.

We are just venturing into a Fan Friday promotion in which we will recognize a fan on a monthly basis. We’re excited to see where this will lead. We also produced a very fun video for our YouTube channel which has over 56,000 views.

Q. How are you measuring the success of using social media? What’s the ROI?

A. Each of the social media platforms provide analytics — some are more detailed than others. Facebook provides an excellent source for analytics on our posts and we refer to them frequently.

We’ve not completed an analysis to determine our ROI on our social media efforts. However, we did just complete a Brand Valuation in which our MKC brand was valued at $23.1 million. We believe our social media efforts have played a role in creating our brand awareness.

Q. Are there any tools that make using social media more efficient?

A. Some use HootSuite. TweetDeck is a good tool if you are just assigned to Twitter. Blogger has a scheduling option within its platform.

Q. What are your biggest challenges with social media?

A. Our biggest challenge is we (the social media team) can’t be everywhere all the time. We have to rely on our employee team to keep us informed of what is going on. Many times, an employee has good, timely information and plans to share it via social media that same day, only to get tied up with his or her job and forgets to share. We have missed some great opportunities because of this.

Q. If you had unlimited time and resources, what else would you do with social media?

A. If we had unlimited time and resources, I would probably have one person who spends three or four days a week out in our territory capturing pictures and information.

Q. What would you say to other ag retailers/cooperatives who say social media is a “waste of time”?

A. I would remind them that if they aren’t telling their story in a timely manner, someone else will (and it may not be flattering)! Social media is the tool of choice for communication today.

If one thing were to go horribly wrong for your organization and you chose to use a slower form of communication (i.e., press release, newsletter), someone else outside of your organization most likely has already started posting information about the event.

Q. What advice would you give other ag retailers/cooperatives who want to start a social media program?

A. If you have the budget, work with a consultant and create a social media team from within your organization. I wouldn’t recommend just one person trying to manage multiple platforms.

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