Julia Haas

Senior Architect

Generational divides drive social use

It’s impossible not to notice social media in today’s culture. Consider that Facebook, consistently the most popular social media platform, has 1.13 BILLION active users PER DAY. That’s a statistic that’s really hard to fathom, especially when you consider that the company, founded in 2004, is barely more than a decade old.

Yet social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Snapchat have transformed how our society connects. And it is no longer a source of sharing photos of grandchildren, cute house cat videos or news of your latest travels. Social media has weaved its way into everyday life for many, and along the way has become a very powerful tool for sharing news and information on every topic imaginable.

Social media is also a very powerful marketing tool that can make (or break) products almost overnight. We’ve all heard about stories or videos that go viral and explode on social networks, providing a frequency and reach that really can’t be duplicated with any other media outlet.

Marketers have seized on this power. Sometimes, social media is the only marketing platform used. This might work for the general population, but our research shows that the agricultural audience has some key differences that must be taken into account when developing marketing plans that include a social media component.

In our biennial Future of Communications (FOC) Audience Insights Study, 36 percent of agricultural producers said they use social media. That compares with 78 percent of the general population that say they have a social media profile. That’s a huge difference.

But delving further into the numbers, the results provide us some additional, and critical, insight. While only 33 percent of producers in the 58 to 67 age group use social media, nearly 80 percent of producers under the age of 37 use at least one platform. And while most indicated that they use social media for keeping up with friends and family, those under 37 use social media to keep in contact with other producers.

Education was cited as a main use of social media. Fourteen percent of the respondents said social media was extremely influential when learning about a new product or farming technique, and 39 percent indicated that social media was moderately influential.

Facebook and YouTube are the preferred platforms, but agriculture-specific message boards and LinkedIn are also popular for the sharing of business topics. The FOC study showed that nearly 60 percent of producers under the age of 37 used message boards to interact with other producers and gather information on business topics.

Social media cannot be ignored. It is a powerful marketing tool that can provide direct interaction with your audience, faster than ever before. But like any tool, it must be used effectively and with specific purpose. While reaching an older audience may not be the best use of this medium, the data clearly shows that younger audiences — those producers that are growing into management and ownership positions on the farm — embrace this media for both social and business purposes.

Marketers will find it necessary to monitor, listen and test market content on social media to find out what works. That’s why we continue to invest in studies that give us key insight into this dynamic marketing channel.

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