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Agrimarketing : September 2009
38 Agri Marketing September 2009 RURAL LIFESTYLE MARKET UPDATE REACHING THEM WITH SOCIAL MEDIA by Chelsea C. Hammond, The Pert Group One question that is on the mind of every marketer is: How can I reach my target consumers? The surge in social media use makes it an innovative and ideal tool for reaching consumers. In a recent survey conducted in coopera- tion with the Country Living Association and its members, Market Directions, a member of The Pert Group, investigated how social media is used by the Rural Lifestyler. ON-LINE TIME The study focused on understanding social media use of Rural Lifestylers and how social media responds to connections with their family, community, and land. Not surprisingly, the products of greatest interest to Rural Lifestylers include home improvement prod- ucts, home/lawn care, and animal products. They are savvy and well- informed consumers, with a majority stating that they research products before purchase. And like many other consumers, they're using the internet to find this information. Rural Lifestylers spend quite a bit of time on-line, reporting an average of 13 hours per week on the internet --- with just under half of that time spent on social media sites (6 hours per week). Similarly, 15% of this group is spending a whopping 11 or more hours per week using social media. Given their heavy reliance on social media, and the propensity of Rural Lifestylers to use the internet to find consumer information, social media becomes a viable communica- tion resource for agri-marketers to reach this group. USAGE Like other consumer groups, the majority of Rural Lifestylers use social media for fun and to connect with others; they enjoy the diversity of topics and people to connect with. Rural Lifestylers tend to use a handful of social media sites: Facebook and YouTube garnered the most usage, with a smaller number using MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Rural Lifestylers report using the various social media sites for different reasons. The majority use YouTube for entertainment purposes, while using Twitter, MySpace and Facebook to keep in touch with far- flung friends/family, and LinkedIn for networking. Clearly, each site has a perceived purpose and it is likely that Rural Lifestylers will interact with those sites based on these unique functions. REACH Social media holds a wealth of opportunity to reach Rural Lifestylers. Clearly, they are using the internet to gather information that will subsequently influence purchase decisions. Likewise, they are using social media, with many spending a considerable amount of time engaged with these sites. However, the current study found that very few Rural Lifestylers appreciate getting messages from advertisers on social media sites. To successfully leverage social media, marketing communication on these sites should be consistent with con- sumer communication on the site --- social and friendly. In addition to communication style, several other things can be done to increase the success of reaching Rural Lifestylers with social media. First, a brand pres- ence must be established within the specific site community. Depending on the site, this may come in the form of having an account, profile and screen name, and consistent postings of text or video. Establish- ing the company or brand as a community member will facilitate a social connection with the commu- nity and individual consumers. Second, capitalize on the infor- mation seeking behavior of Rural Lifestylers by communicating useful information about products and ser- vices. This communication should be more helpful in nature, rather than an overt sales presentation. Recently, Best Buy began using Twitter for customer service exchanges and to communicate other company information. In this case, Best Buy is taking the stance of "helpful provider,"reaching con- sumers with useful information com- municated in a friendly, no-pressure manner. When reaching out to Rural Lifestylers focus on communicating information that will be most rele- vant to them, like tips about how to use products to make property care easier or more enjoyable. Lastly, communication on social media sites should be targeted to Rural Lifestyler perceptions about the particular site. If the site is per- ceived to be most useful for network- ing, marketing communication should be relevant to that purpose and perhaps have a more formal, professional tone. Conversely, sites perceived as entertaining will be more conducive to marketing com- munication that is fun, light and visually engaging. Overall, social media offers a great opportunity for generating awareness and relevance, establish- ing a relationship with consumers, and increasing sales. Effective use of these sites requires targeting com- munication to both the needs and expectations of the consumer, and the culture of the site itself. AM HOURS PER WEEK USING SOCIAL MEDIA
Best of CAMA 2009