One silver lining to the Covid-19 crisis is the renewed public awareness and appreciation of food production, as a result of supply chain disruptions and shortages of staples at grocery stores. At the same time, consumers are spending more time online consuming information and communicating due to shelter-in-place orders.
Agrifood tech startups can seize upon this moment to boost their online presence and name recognition by using social media posts to explain how their technology can make our agrifood system more productive, efficient, sustainable and secure.
We’ve selected posts by two AgStart member companies, one post-revenue and one pre-revenue, to illustrate some effective approaches to leveraging free social media platforms. The posts come in a variety of different categories, each of which can effectively tell a firm’s story and drive traffic to its website as part of an overall social media strategy.
WaterBit helps growers optimize water usage, improve yields, and save on labor costs with its autonomous precision irrigation management system that captures real-time data. WaterBit leverages the three major platforms - Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - to reach potential customers as well as other audiences.
- Posts on technical product information
WaterBit effectively publicizes its free technical webinars on social media. Take this LinkedIn post, for example.
Here, general hashtags like #PrecisionAgriculture and #agronomy are used, because the post is geared towards growers of several crop types and others interested in agtech innovation.
LinkedIn started out as, and remains a great place for, professional networking, but it also has evolved into a medium for companies to post both evergreen-type and time-sensitive content, like WaterBit’s webinar.
- Posts about benefits to specific customers
This Twitter post links to a technical report on WaterBit's website that shows the benefits of using WaterBit in a specific vineyard.
This case study is for wine grapes. Hashtags for this post include those specifically for the wine grape industry, as well as for big data (#agdata) and water (#agwater) for growers and agronomists who follow precision irrigation posts.
Twitter remains a great medium for short, time-specific news items. Waterbit uses this post to attract audiences to its website, where details can be found about the study.
- Posts that link to industry press
In this Facebook post, WaterBit links to a Western Farm Press article about the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and the 'Certified Sustainable' denomination. Although WaterBit is not mentioned in the article, WaterBit is part of the suite of best management practices that growers can adopt to obtain this certification.
These types of posts help build a company's reputation as having industry expertise, which is critical for gaining new customers in agriculture. In addition, because the article is in a general farming publication, WaterBit included hashtags like #foodsupply and #sutainableagriculture in co-posts on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Posts geared towards potential new employees
In this Twitter post, WaterBit used recent news about UC Davis' ranking to highlight some of their current employees. This is an effective way to generate interest among students and others potential future hires, especially when appropriate hashtags are included.
Pheronym is an ag biotech startup that uses nematode pheromones to control beneficial and parasitic nematodes. Pheronym is developing two products – NemaStim and PheroCoat. Nemastim increases the effectiveness of beneficial nematodes that control insect pests in a variety of crops. Their second product, PheroCoat, protects plants from plant parasitic nematodes.
Pheronym's founders effectively use both company and personal social media accounts to message a broad audience.
- Posts that link to peer-reviewed research articles
This Facebook post links directly to a recent research paper proving that Pheronym's pheronomes work in cooler weather, which is significant, because it shows that NemaStim's potential market is over a broad climatic range. The post restates the title using hashtags so that anyone searching on these hashtags will come across the post.
In the following Twitter post, Pheronym co-founder Dr. Fatma Kaplan uses an effective graphic to summarize the research results from, and to link to, the same paper. Relevant hashtags, as well as potential retweeters are included.
- Posts linking to company mentions in business or news articles
As a graduate of the IndiBio Accelerator, Pheronym was hailed in a 2019 Forbes article by SynBioBeta founder John Cumbers as offering an alternative to environmentally damaging pesticides. In the following tweet, Dr. Kaplan quotes the article, which references earlier research demonstrating the effectiveness of NemaStim.
- Posts that link to longer form articles in LinkedIn, Medium, etc.
LinkedIn and Medium are great resources for posting longer form articles. In this post on her personal LinkedIn page, Dr. Kaplan links to Pheronym's recent Medium article describing the many adjustments - both personal and professional - that the founders have made to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
Here, Pheronym discusses the process it went through to adjust to the crisis and explains that the firm has had to delay important field trials for one year. The article shows Pheronym's thoughtfulness and ability to manage a crisis, which is an important characteristic that potential investors look for in founders and managers.
This post illustrates another important point about social media. While social media posts are great to express short messages, they are not geared towards lengthy stories or complicated concepts. Longer form articles can include details and set a tone that simply can't be captured in a short post.
Posting effectively on social media takes a commitment, but it’s relatively easy and is gratifying when one begins to build a following and see results. It's useful to study others' approaches, but developing your own social media strategy and style is key. With so much current attention on food security, this is prime time to begin using these valuable platforms for your startup.
About the Author: Leanna Sweha, JD, is Program Director of AgStart