I am a small-scale farmer and find the idea of social media marketing intimidating. Do you have any tips on how to get started?

Answer: Internet-based communication tools, known collectively as “social media,” are gaining popularity for large and small businesses alike, including farm businesses. Social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are great ways for businesses easily to share information about products and services, network with new people to build a loyal customer base, and stimulate market traffic.The use of social media is growing due to the far-reaching use of computers and wireless technologies. It’s been estimated that four out of five Americans currently use the Internet, creating a vast opportunity for online communication between producers and consumers. Social media allows direct communication with customers that is personalized and targeted. Farmers also use social media to put a face on how food is grown. Farmers share photos and stories about how their farms are operated, making a personal connection with consumers. Farmers can use social media to inform people about agricultural issues that matter to them, using Facebook and Twitter for activism or support of the local and sustainable food movements. Social media also is used to keep farmers engaged with other farmers?sharing ideas about crops, pest control, and marketing strategies.For more tips on social media marketing, read the ATTRA publication Social Media Tools for Farm Product Marketing, found at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=412. Additional resources that you may find useful include the following:The Agchat Foundation supports farmers with connecting communities through social media. It offers an annual training course for farmers on how to use social media and also provide tips on its website, at http://agchat.org/category/social-media-2-0. The Farmers Market Federation of New York put out a series of educational opportunities on social media techniques to help people connect with local farms and farmers markets. The factsheets from the webinars and YouTube videos are available at www.nyfarmersmarket.com/resources/resources-for-farmers/farm-business-a-marketing.html. Information provided includes tips on Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Hoot Suite, and Stumble Upon, as well as general info on social media and marketing.Tractor View is blog that offers several blog posts on how farmers can use social media tools effectively. It is available at http://tractorview.com/index.php. The University of Vermont’s New Farmer Project offers several webinars on marketing and social media, which can be found at www.uvm.edu/newfarmer/?Page=webinars/webinar_recordings.html&SM=webinars/sub-menu.html#marketing_webinars. The University of Missouri Extension office published two reports about how social media can be used for marketing at farmers markets. They can be found at http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6227.