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Social Network Guide | Update June 2016

Top 10 Guide: The Social Networks of 2016

The landscape of social networking has changed in every single one of the twelve years since Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson launchedsocial_networkMyspace, the first online social network sensation. Today, social media is dynamic and increasingly diverse as new networks like Instagram and Snapchat take on Facebook’s dominance.

This guide outlines this year’s top ten social networks: from familiar sites and apps like Facebook and Snapchat to foreign favorites like China’s QZone and Russia’s Vkontakte. These platforms each boast unique features – from the basic to the novel – that let users share their lives online.
 
Rural folk use social media a little differently than the rest. They are, for example,more likely to use the idea-sharing social network Pinterest than the urban and suburban crowd. (What can I say? Do it yourself is the pioneer spirit.) This guide has a rural slant, focusing particularly on trends in rural demographics and on how each network works for you, the rural user.
This online platform and forum will provide trending stories on this category on an ongoing basis. Stay tune!

 

The Finishers

 

#1 |Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth, has 1.4 billion monthly active accounts worldwide. Facebook is the most popular social network in the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania.
 
Facebook is, really, the utility of the social media world. It offers users basic features like a public profile, business pages, private messaging, and text-, photo-, and video-sharing. As is standard with social
Facebook users come from all walks of life, including a diverse spread of ages. Overall, they are the oldest of any social network (and getting older). eMarketer predicts that, throughout 2015, users 65 and older will be the fastest growing group of Facebook users.
 
Because its features are so basic, interest in Facebook is just as high in the country as it is in the city. According to a Sprout Social study, 69% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Facebook. This number is pretty much on par with Sprout Social’s statistics for urban use (71% of adults) and suburban use (72% of adults).
 

#2 | QZone

You may never have heard of the Chinese social network QZone, but it is second in worldwide popularity only to Facebook. The blogging site boasts 630 million active accountsand its parent
social_network
service, QQ instant messaging, boasts 830 million. Most QZone users live in China, where other social media platforms are blocked.
 
QZone is owned by the investment holding company Tencent, which also owns a handful of other social media and gaming platforms. The company maximizes integration between its online services (some of which are paid) so that users need only one login to access all of Tencent’s holdings.
 
Analystscompare QZone’s blog-based interface to MySpace’s. The site’s features – customizable themes and background music – let users self-express in a way Facebook does not. Advertisers, however, find blogging a less attractive platform than microblogging (a la Facebook and Twitter) and Tencent’s revenue falls far short of Facebook’s.
 

#3 | LinkedIn

LinkedIn, the professional networking tool, has 350 million active accounts worldwide. According to a Pew study, half of all college graduates in the United States are on LinkedIn.
 
LinkedIn’s features – a public resume and closed circles for college alumni, businesses, and organizations – support users’ professional development. Recruiters use LinkedIn to find and verify job candidates. A Herd Wisdom study found that
social_network
10.2 million applicants found their job through LinkedIn and that 89% of recruiters have hired someone through the social network.
 
In rural areas, LinkedIn is half as popular as it is in urban and suburban areas. According to a Sprout Social study, just 14% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use LinkedIn. Indeed, traditional rural occupations like agriculture are vastly underrepresented on the site.
 
LinkedIn users are overwhelmingly corporate and, really, that is the intention of the social network. There are, however, pockets in the agricultural industry that do see benefit from LinkedIn. A survey by CropLife Media Group found that, while half of farmers and agriculture retailers have a negative opinion of social media overall, 30% of retailers and 41% of managers use LinkedIn for business.
 

#4 | Instagram

The photo-sharing site Instagram has 340 million active accounts. Facebook bought the social network for $1 billion in 2012, just fifteen months after it was launched. At that time Instagram had thirteen employees and no revenue stream to speak of.
instragamInstagram is a photo and video-sharing app for smartphones. Its features include filters (for easy photo editing) and hashtags. In contrast with Facebook albums, which support a high volume of photos, Instagram streams have users choose quality over quantity.
 
According to a Piper Jaffray study, Instagram was the most popular social network for teens in 2014. The research firm found that, at the end of 2014, 76% of teens used Instagram, while just 45% used Facebook. While other studies dispute these percentages, Instagram is consistently ranked one of the two social networks with the youngest demographics.
 
Add to that the fact that Cowen Group analysts project that the number of Instagram users will double in the next five years and Instagram looks like the future of social media.
 
According to a Sprout Social study, 19% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Instagram. This means rural users are significantly less interested in Instagram than city dwellers, although excluding users under 18 (a significant portion of Instagram users) makes this statistic less relevant. Instagram is, after all, a young person’s game.
 

#5 | Twitter

Hollywood and Gaza’s favorite social network, Twitter, has 290 million active accounts. These users include many celebrities, politicians, activists, and other public figures who interact with the public on the social media platform.
 
Twitter users share short text or photo messages with one another. The site reduces the microblogging platform to its bare essentials –posts are always 140 characters or less. Twitter groups similar messages together based on their hashtags. This facilitates a public discourse on any and every topic.
 
Twitter pioneered the use of social media by public figures when it
twitterintroduced verified accounts and following. The verified account feature allows celebrities to use social media with authority (and strips power from fake accounts). The follow feature on Twitter, like on Instagram, lets users follow (one directional) instead of friend (two directional) each other. This lets public figures reach a much larger audience than previously possible.
 
Twitter’s ability to mobilize users, as it did during the “Twitter Revolutions” in Moldova, Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, and Ukraine, make the site vulnerable to censor. Twitter is blocked in North Korea, China, and Iran and has been censored or temporarily blocked during times of unrest in other countries.
 
According to a Sprout Social study, 17% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Twitter. This number is significantly less than Sprout Social’s statistic for urban use (25% of adults). It could be that Twitter’s role as a town crier is not as relevant in sparsely populated areas.
 

#6 | Tumblr

Microblogging site Tumblr comes in sixth, with 230 million active accounts worldwide. The site’s founder, David Karp, built Tumbler’s streamlined, minimalist layout as a reflection of his own personal aesthetic (he famously owns one suit). His design turned out to be the perfect foil for the explosions of creative content that are Tumblr blogs.
 
Tumblr lets users share multimedia content like images, GIFs (a term Tumblr is credited with coining), text, Spotify tracks, mp3s, and video. Content spreads from user to user through the reblogging feature, which also prevents copyright violations. Tumblr hands users a lot of creative control – while most top social networks have rigid design schemes, Tumblr users have the unique ability to write their own page themes in HTML.
 
The site’s features are most attractive to those with creative hobbies like fashion, art, or writing. Emotive self-expression is the name of the Tumblr game. The site is also a platform for crowd-sourced projects like the feel good #PostItForward campaign.
 
One of Tumblr’s most recent #PostItForward posts is dedicated to small-town kids with big-city dreams, a profile that sums up many of Tumblr’s rural users. Indeed, Tumblr is not a social utility like Facebook, but a niche network that attracts artistic, self-expressive users to a like-minded online community.
 

#7 | Snapchat

Mobile app Snapchat has 200 million active users, 80% of whom live in the United States. Every day, users take 700 million photos on the photo- and video-sharing platform.
 
snap_chat
 

Snapshat users take photos and videos with the app, add text or drawings, and send the result (the snap) to one or more friends. Snaps are impermanent. The sender determines how long they will appear on a friend’s phone, anywhere from one to ten seconds.
 
Snapchat was originally marketed to those concerned with onlinesnap_chatprivacy. The company claimed that the temporary nature of a snap protected sensitive content (nudes, etc.) from hackers and surveillance programs. Since then, a number of security breaches and questionable privacy policies have revealed that Snapchat may be the least reliable social network when it comes to protecting users’ information.
 
Although it is not a reliable way to transfer sensitive content, people still use Snapchat because it’s fun. Posts on other social networks are permanent and, therefore, permanently available for scrutiny by friends, family, and coworkers. As a result, users often tightly control their online image on these platforms. Snapchat, on the other hand, lets users be silly or inappropriate. It’s the casual social network.
 

#8 | Sina Weibo

China’s microblog Sina Weibo has 170 million active accounts. Opportunist Charles Chao launched the site in August 2009, a month after the riots in Urumqi and the government’s subsequent ban of Facebook, Twitter, and Fanfou (China’s first microblogging site).
 
Unlike its predecessors, Sina Weibo cooperates with Chinese officials on censorship.
sina The content of both the Chinese and English versions of Sina Weibo is subject to government review. Considering the potential of the Chinese market, Sina Weibo has a relatively small active user base. Analysts have postulated that tight government control discourages users from utilizing the site.
 
Like Twitter, Sina Weibo lets users post up to 140 characters of text at a time.
rewardsThe concentrated microblog format means the network is most often compared to Twitter, but Sina Weibo has many features – threaded comments, imbedded multimedia, a rewards system (rewards seem to be a staple of Chinese social networking, QZone has them too) – that Twitter does not.

Users in the West, whether urban or rural, are most interested in Sina Weibo as a means to penetrate the Chinese consumer market. The site recently announced a collaboration with the online marketing firm Socialbakers, who will be developing a panel (like Facebook Insights) to track businesses’ success on the site.
 
 

#9 | Vkontakte

The Russian social network Vkontakte or VK has 100 million active accounts, mostly in Russian-speaking Eastern Europe. Young entrepreneur Pavel Durov developed the site in 2006 as the Russian version of Facebook.
 
sinaVK’s design and functionality are similar to Facebook’s. Like Facebook, VK supports public profiles, posting, sharing, private messages, groups, and pages. The social network is integrated with both Facebook and Twitter, so that VK posts can be shared seamlessly on either network and vice versa.

Russian copyright law is much more lenient than American copyright law. Russian courts have ruled multiple times that VK is not liable for its users’ copyright infringement on its site. As a result, VK users can upload and share full-length movies with each other without repercussions from VK. It was only last year that VK announced it will seek to legalize its video content by 2016.
 
Beginning in 2011, founder and CEO Durov began resisting requests for information about VK users from the government. An outspoken opponent of surveillance (he famously offered Edward Snowden a job), Durov made users’ privacy a priority. Then, amid the unrest in Ukraine, shareholders sympathetic to the Kremlin bought control of the company. Facing pressure to hand over information about opposition leaders, Durov resigned in protest.
 

#10 |Pinterest

The idea-sharing social network Pinterest has 73 million active accounts, mostly in the United States. A childhood love of collecting inspired the site’s founders who, with Pinterest, created a way to collect the Internet.
 
Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board for images and, less frequently, video clips. Users, and brands like L.L. Bean and Martha Stewart
mdedia
Living, add these images and video clips (called pins) to Pinterest. Users search or browse pins and build their own idea boards on subjects like weddings, gardening, cooking, travel, and fashion. Users can also follow other users’ boards instead of creating their own.
 
Many pins are “how to”s. There’s a tutorial on Pinterest on how to do anything from braid a fishtail braid to fold a fitted sheet. Because Pinterest is visual, the platform lends itself to material projects best (more building and less pondering). Because 80% of Pinterest users are female, the content is overtly or inadvertently curated for a female audience.
 
old_carAccording to a Sprout Social study, 30% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Pinterest Rural adults are more likely to be on Pinterest than urban or suburban adults. The site’s content – gardening, home improvement, rustic charm – reflects and attracts interest from rural dwellers.

 

Honorable Mention

 

#11 | Google +

Google+: Infamously unpopular, Google’s social network has 4 to 6 million active users. As Google dissolves the social network (the most recent extraction: Google Photos), its parts are proving to be more than the sum of its whole.
 
When it comes to online platforms, integration is usually considered a
intragrationgood thing. The struggles of Google+ (alongside the success of dis-integrated app Snapchat) reveal the limits of integration. It turns out few people want to comment on YouTube with the same profile they handle professional or personal emails.
Google, however, hasn’t yet given up on Google+. Stay tuned for another redesign this year.

Social Network

Rural Influencers Reach People Through Live Video Streaming

As the world transitions from traditional network television to online video streaming, one aspect of television has, until recently, been conspicuously absent: the live broadcast. While video streaming offers customers the

Live streaming allows rural businesses to serve up products and services to customer instantly

convenience of on-demand choice, it hasn’t been able to offer up the urgency of live sports or breaking news. Today, new initiatives from network television, Facebook, Snapchat, and other online platforms are changing this. Businesses in rural areas can take advantage of these new live features to engage with followers in real time.

By using a tool like Facebook Live or Snapchat’s Live Stories, anyone can establish a live video stream that gives followers a view into an ongoing event. Right now, social media often draws us out of the present. We scroll through posts of things our friends have done and, while we’re actually doing something, we sometimes think more about taking the perfect photo for a future post than about actually enjoying the moment. Live streaming keeps social media users in the present. Much like watching a playoff game on television, a live stream makes viewers a part of the experience.

5G™

Live video streaming event from Twitter impacts marketing

Live video streaming can dramatically expand the reach of experiential marketing campaigns, like events and sponsorships. For businesses reaching out to rural customers, a live stream connects rural dwellers with events happening in cities hundreds of miles away. A live stream also does the opposite. It helps rural influencers deliver their messages, in real time, to followers all over the world. An event in a remote location, like an isolated farm or the top of a mountain, is, then, suddenly accessible to billions.

In October of this year, for example, a new land vehicle called the Bloodhound will attempt to meet or exceed 1,000 mph. The attempt is meant to inspire young people to pursue science and technology, but most young people won’t have a chance to watch he attempt in-person in the South African desert. In 1997, a successful attempt on the sound barrier was broadcast on network television. This year, a live stream from inside the vehicle will give anyone with access to the internet a chance to watch the historic feat as it unfolds.

For businesses that offer a service, like education, live streaming gives more people direct access to that service. Distance learning makes education accessible to a whole group of new students that want to learn, but can’t relocate to do so. For organizations, live-streaming platforms like Ustream and Skype also let companies connect with remote associates, conducting business as if the two parties were in an office together.

In the past, a television network made a significant resource investment every time it filmed a live broadcast. While high quality production still takes equipment and expertise, you no longer need to spend a lot of money or time to go live. Sometimes all you need is a smartphone. Here are three easy ways to stream your event live to the world:

All you need today is a smartphone to do a live streaming event to your audience

Via smartphone: Services like Facebook Live and Snapchat Live Stories are optimized for smartphone. With a smartphone, one person can walk your viewers through your event. Because the production value of a smartphone video is typically low, however, it’s best to have an engaging narrator or a talented director on board to make up for shaky, low-quality video.

Via webcam: A webcam is low-maintenance, but effective for a spatially static event like a concert or performance. Just set it up facing the stage, establish a live stream, and, essentially, you’re done. It requires no dedicated manpower.

Via connected camera: There is room for high-quality production in live streams. News outlets have begun broadcasting breaking news simultaneously on the network and on Facebook using internet-connected video equipment.

Do0 you think you can add to this story? Please do so and share. Thanks!

Social Network

The “Big Five” Social Networks: A Quick Reference Sheet for Rural Businesses

When it comes to social media, consumers have high expectations for businesses.

Hubspot, the digital marketing firm

Hubspot, the digital marketing firm

According to research conducted by HubSpot, the digital marketing firm found that most consumers expect businesses to maintain a presence on three to four social networks [1]. Given modern social media is little more than a decade old, it has quickly become a staple for businesses everywhere.

Consumers not only expect businesses to be present on social networks, they also expect businesses to use social media as an advertising, information, and customer service tool. A survey by The Social Habit found, for example, that 42% of consumers expect a response within 60 minutes when they reach out to a business on Facebook or Twitter [2].

Although there is less pressure on rural businesses to compete with surrounding establishments for attention on social media, consumers still turn to social media in rural areas to discover businesses, check business hours and events, and leave positive or negative customer feedback.

Social media in rural communities can identify business hours and upcoming events

Social media in rural communities can identify business hours and upcoming events

In 2015, for example, a Pew Research Center study found that more than half of rural dwellers are on at least one social network [3].

According to the HubSpot research I referenced earlier, the top social networks consumers expect to find their favorite businesses on are, in order from most to least important: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn [1]. From this list, I extracted the five most important for rural businesses. Results and reasoning below:

  1. Facebook. With over a billion daily active users [4] and 40 million small business pages [5], Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth has to be the most important social network for rural businesses. Facebook is, really, the utility of social networks, offering basic features for both individuals and businesses.

    An exemplary motorcycle brand ambassador

    An exemplary motorcycle brand ambassador

    Because so many people use Facebook every day, the network is a great platform for spreading the word about your business by acquiring fans. Most often, fans like your business page because they’ve had a good experience with your business, meaning they are loyal and genuine brand ambassadors [5].

    If you’re interested in paying for patronage, there are two types of paid Facebook advertising: display ads and newsfeed ads. The average click through rate (CTR) for a display ad is 0.04%, quite low. The average CTR for a newsfeed ad is 2.09%, comparable to AdWords [6]. The average cost per click (CPC) for Facebook is around $0.30 [7].

  2. Google+. While Google+ has just the smallest fraction of the daily active users Facebook has [8],

    Google introduces Google + June 28, 2011

    Google introduces Google + June 28, 2011

    the social network is important because it is integrated with other Google products like Google Search.

    Numerous studies show that a significant percentage of visits to all business websites are referred from Google Search. Search displays Google+ business pages at the top of search results, complete with photos, Google Map directions, and a blurb.

    Maintaining a Google+ business page with, at least, your business’s hours makes it easy for Google Search users to find information about your business quickly.

  3. Pinterest. Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board for image and idea sharing. Users, including brands like L.L. Bean and Martha Stewart Living, “pin” consumer products to Pinterest.

    Users search or browse pins and build their own idea boards on subjects like weddings, gardening, cooking, travel, and fashion.

    Pinterest is disproportionately popular in rural areas, which is why it made number three on my list. Thirty percent of rural internet users are on Pinterest, compared to 29% of suburban and 25% of urban users [9].

    There is currently a waiting list for paid Pinterest advertising. For those businesses able to purchase advertising, the average CPC for a Promoted Pin on Pinterest is around $0.60 [10].

  4. Twitter. Although people in rural areas are less likely to use Twitter [9], users are typically highly engaged, as the microblogging platform promotes exchange over browsing

    People in rural areas are less likely users of Twitter

    People in rural areas are less likely users of Twitter

    (i.e. users will be posting more than they’ll be creeping). It’s a great way to crowdsource opinion from your customer base, for example, or to announce sales, specials, or changes in business hours.

    At approximately $0.30, Twitter’s CPC is comparable to Facebook’s, but marketers praise Twitter’s traffic as higher quality [11].

  5. Instagram. Instagram is a photo and video-sharing app for smartphones. Its features include filters (for easy photo editing) and hashtags. Businesses use Instagram to promote visual information about their services or product.

    An Instagram Filter of a jogger in the fields on a very sunny day

    An Instagram Filter of a jogger in the fields on a very sunny day

    According to a Sprout Social study, 19% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Instagram [9]. This means rural users are significantly less interested in Instagram than city dwellers, although excluding users under 18 (a significant portion of Instagram users) makes this statistic less relevant.

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Social Network

How to Build Viral Marketing Campaigns for Your Rural Business

At Rhoonet, we write a lot about how rural communities are left behind in the internet age. Telecoms are slow to, for example, deploy fast, reliable networks in sparsely populated areas.

Hay farmers checking their email in the field

Hay farmers checking their email in the field

The internet, and in particular social media, can, however, also catapult rural businesses to success locally, nationally, and globally.

As social media manager for a small, rural midwifery school, I’ve learned it’s more important to focus on establishing a consistent, reliable social media presence than chasing that one rags-to-riches viral post. In general, social media serves the persistent advertising needs of small, rural businesses (even on the small scale) since advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter is both affordable and can be locally targeted.

Viral success is not, however, out of reach for rural businesses any more than urban ones. That’s the great thing about the democracy of social media – when the internet discovers its new favorite spectacle, it doesn’t matter where it came from. If you post consistently, build interesting and visual posts, and think outside the box, fans will respond to your efforts.

Consistent posting visually will get you more followers in your social media campaign

Consistent posting visually will get you more followers in your social media campaign

While social media is an accessible and intuitive advertising platform – even for the less than tech savvy – here are four things to keep in mind every time you make a post:

  1. Be consistent. Posting on social media consistently (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest – three times a week, Twitter – every day) will steadily grow the fan base you need to launch viral content. It will also help you mature as a social media marketer, since you’ll be able to gauge your fans’ reactions to each post you make.
    Large media outlets and other big businesses often use hundreds of organization-controlled accounts to launch viral content.

    Organic traffic is naturally acquired

    Organic traffic is naturally acquired

    If your marketing department (aka you) doesn’t have the resources, the money, or the sleaze-factor to do this, you’ll have to build a following naturally over time.

  2. Cut the fluff. Content is key. Post consistently, but always value quality over quantity. Never post uninteresting, untrue, or repetitive information. It will only alienate your fans. If there is truly nothing exciting happening at your business to post about on social media, focus on engineering exciting business projects in real life before you focus on engineering exciting posts.
  3. Be visual. Humans are visual beings. Although reliable studies on the issue are difficult to find,

    Visual works for humans

    Visual works for humans

    most of us find it easier to process, understand, and remember visual data than raw text or numbers. Including photos, illustrations, or data visualizations like infographics in your post will make it easier for your fans to understand, analyze, and respond to the information in your post.

  4. Think outside the box. It’s an obvious and incredibly ambiguous thing to say, but thinking creatively is more likely to result in viral content than imitating other businesses’ social media strategies. There are certain conventions you should abide by – keeping the post short, linking to your website, using graphics – but constantly trying new things is how you’ll end up stumbling on something spectacular.

Social Network

Microsoft to Pay a Pretty Penny for LinkedIn, the Professional Social Network

What It Means for Rural Internet Users

The tech giant Microsoft and professional social network LinkedIn announced that Microsoft would acquire the social network for $26.2 billion.

Microsoft campus

Microsoft campus

The acquisition is, by far, the largest in the tech giant’s history. Microsoft will pay three times more for Linked in than it did for it’s second largest acquisition, Skype, which it purchased for $8.5 billion in 2011.

Under Microsoft ownership, Skype (alongside its voice over internet protocol competitors) experienced massive growth in user traffic. Between 2012 and 2013, for example, Skype saw a 36% increase in international Skype-to-Skype traffic [1]. Although growth is always good news for companies, Microsoft likely has different motives for acquiring LinkedIn, which is growing slowly.

Microsoft continues to make most of its money from enterprise software and services like OfficeSuite. LinkedIn, then, is as much a network of potential customers for Microsoft’s software as it is a separate project.

LinkedIn with 100 million active users

LinkedIn with 100 million active users

LinkedIn currently has 100 million active monthly users [2] and, according to a Pew study, half of all college graduates in the United States have an account on the social network [3]. LinkedIn users are also overwhelmingly corporate, which means many use – or can be convinced to use – Microsoft software and services.

People use LinkedIn to find a job, certainly, but they also use LinkedIn for professional networking and development once they have a job. This is where Microsoft is likely to find the greatest benefit by marketing Microsoft software on the social network or, better, integrating software and services like Windows OneDrive into the social network experience.

Microsoft is often criticized for being slower to adapt to changes in the online technology marketplace than competitor Google. The LinkedIn acquisition is an opportunity for Microsoft to be a pioneer in online integration. LinkedIn is a much more successful social network than Google’s Google+, which is integrated with the cloud service Google Drive. Integrating LinkedIn with current Microsoft offerings could attract new customers to old products.

Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn is, likely, not particularly good news for rural users. Integrating LinkedIn with Microsoft software will reaffirm the social network’s corporate identity and be of little benefit to traditional rural occupations like agriculture.

LinkedIn with 100 million active users

LinkedIn with 100 million active users

Traditional rural occupations are already vastly underrepresented on the site [5]. In rural areas, LinkedIn is half as popular as it is in urban and suburban areas. According to a Sprout Social study, just 14% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use LinkedIn [6].

There are, however, pockets in the agricultural industry that do see benefit from LinkedIn. A survey by CropLife Media Group found that, while half of farmers and agriculture retailers have a negative opinion of social media overall, 30% of retailers and 41% of managers use LinkedIn to network.

So, how can rural farmers and markets benefit from this acquisition? Please feel free to charm into the conversation. Let’s talk…

Social Network

A Low Maintenance Twitter Guide for Rural Businesses

Maintaining a social media presence on multiple platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. – lets your rural business engage more potential customers online. For
 

 

high volume networks like Twitter, however, it’s easy to end up putting more into maintaining your account than you are actually get out of it.

 

Regardless of the risks, every rural business stands to benefit from implementing, at least, a low maintenance Twitter marketing strategy. Building a simple strategy and using a user-friendly social media management tool to actualize it will give your rural business all the benefits of Twitter marketing, without the unrealistic time commitment.

 

In rural areas, social media use has increased tenfold between 2005 and 2015. While those who live in rural areas are still less likely to use social media than those in suburban and urban areas, a Pew study found that 58% of rural residents use social media [1]. Social media marketing, then, is an up and coming advertising technique.

 

The Potential and the Limits of Twitter Marketing

 

Because it mobilizes people like no other network, Twitter is both Hollywood and Gaza’s favorite social network. Its 290 million active accounts include many celebrities, politicians, activists, public figures, and (yes) businesses that engage with the public over the microblogging platform.

 

In fact, Donald Trump; the GOP leading presidential candidate uses Twitter to not only to mobilize his followers, but to spread his messaging of “Making America Great Again” and attacking other candidates. And apparently it has been working for Mr. Trump.
An example of a Donald J. Trump Tweet:

 

 

 

Donald J. Trump
21h
Donald J. Trump‏ @realDonaldTrump
The American people are sick and tired of not being able to lead normal lives and to constantly be on the lookout for terror and terrorists!

 

On Twitter, users may share short text, photo messages, or links of up to 140 characters. The concise format makes Twitter an ideal platform for live tweeting from business or industry events. Hashtags let multiple accounts comment on the same event, facilitating public discourse and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.

 

According to a Sprout Social study, 17% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Twitter. This number is significantly less than the 25% of adults in urban areas who

use Twitter. It could be that the network’s role as a town crier is not as relevant in sparsely populated areas [2].

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter is a high volume, low quality social media network. Unfortunately, this model has its limits. The number of active Twitter users declined in the last quarter of 2015 [3]. In rural Saskatchewan, for example, one in three Twitter users are inactive [4]. Users, in general, have little patience for low quality content. A high volume of boring or irrelevant tweets could easily have contributed to Twitter’s recent stagnation.

 

An in-depth Social Bakers study concluded that businesses should aim to put out approximately three tweets per day. This number maximizes engagement: any less and your followers might overlook you, any more and you might bore them [5]. Of course, still only tweet when you have something interesting to say. Nobody likes spam.

 

Saving Time with a Social Media Management System

 

A social media management system that schedules tweets and synchronizes Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter posts is a huge time saver. Also, since small rural businesses usually don’t have huge marketing needs, you may be able to use freemium systems without paying.

 

 

There are management systems – Tweepi, SocialBro, TweetDeck, ManageFlitter, etc. – dedicated to Twitter. Because they’re meant to juggle multiple Twitter accounts, however, they’re not especially useful for small businesses. Try an integrated system, like freemium Hootsuite, to manage your business accounts on multiple networks at once.

Social Network

Farms on Pinterest: The Social Network’s Best Rural Living Pinners

voip1Pinterest is a decentralized idea-sharing platform where pins are passed from user to user, often without credit given to the original source. That doesn’t mean Pinterest celebrities don’t exist; popular, knowledgeable contributors are also a crucial part of the Pinterest community. In this guide, we track down the ten pinners who create your favorite country living, gardening, and farming pins.
 
 


Pinterest people are of all types. Indeed, there is a pinner for everyone – from the armchair gardener (Country Living Magazine) to the hobby gardener (see Gardening Know How) to the lifestyle farmer (see The Prairie Homestead) to the professional farmer (see Farm Journal) – in our list of exceptional contributors below.

 
1. Gardening Know How (22,000 followers): Pulled from the blog of the same name, tech-savvy gardeners created Gardening Know How as an accessible question-and-answer resource for new and hobby gardeners. Follow for growing tips by species (both flower and vegetable), weekend giveaways, build it yourself, composting and fertilizing tips, and zoning charts.
 
2. Country Living Magazine (443,300 followers): The ultimate country lifestyle pinner, Country Living Magazine’s pinned content supplements its print magazine. Follow for recipes, craft projects, rustic decorating ideas, a Made in America guide, holiday hostessing, and state fair recaps. Like the print magazine, Country Living Magazine’s Pinterest is geared towards rural females.
 
3. Cabot Cheese (11,500 followers): The New England dairy-farming cooperative uses Pinterest to promote its products, its work, and its philosophy. It is one of many agricultural brands present on the site. Follow for cheesy (literally) recipes, farm profiles, cheese profiles, cow pics, and information about Cabot’s volunteer work.
 
4. The Prairie Homestead (97,900 followers): One of many popular homesteading pinners, The Prairie Homestead chronicles times on a rural Wyoming homestead and provides advice for other homesteaders. Follow for cow breeding tips, canning recipes, home remedies, farming checklists, fermentation techniques, and livestock pics. This versatile pinner covers both the practical and philosophical aspects of back to the land.
 
5. Tennessee Farmers Cooperative (3,100 followers): The Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s boards focus on history, heritage, food (of course), and the rural Tennessee lifestyle. Follow for back issues of the Tennessee Cooperator magazine, farmer profiles, country church profiles, product testimonials, “Ag Inspiration,” and videos of the cooperative’s past events.
 
6. Fresh Eggs Daily (24,000 followers): Predictably, this popular pinner is all about chickens (and a little about ducks). Follow for backyard chicken care, chicken health care and home remedies, egg profiles, scientific studies, and nutrition information. Fresh Egg Daily’s guides are straightforward answers to questions like how to check if an egg is fertile and how to secure chicken coops against predators.
 
7. American Farming (Bayer CropScience US) (1,700 followers): Yep, chemical company Bayer CropScience is on Pinterest. Besides using the site to promote their products to farmers, the company pins information about its public outreach programs including its bee health initiative and its #Thankful4Ag campaign. Follow for product demos, scientific research, rotation crop guides, biotechnology debriefs, and crop facts.
 
8. FROM SCRATCH Magazine (11,400 followers): Another homesteading favorite, FROM SCRATCH is the free online magazine for homsteadites that is also a Pinterest pinner. Follow for herbs, recipes (from scratch, of course), essential oils, sustainable community development, sewing, do-it-yourself, and complementary magazine content from FROM SCRATCH.
 
9. Farm Journal (1,500 followers): This 135-year-old agricultural journal isn’t showing its age. It’s on Pinterest right alongside the two-year-old journal above. You can expect sensible, helpful, and knowledgeable pinning from this industry patriarch. Follow for “$100 Ideas” (think irrigation, think tractor maintenance, think planter wiring), tractors, machinery, and farm humor.
 
10. Farmers’ Almanac (7,800 followers): Farmers have spent nearly two centuries thumbing apprehensively through this classic long-range weather predictor. Now the apprehension comes to Pinterest. Follow for the seasonal weather outlook, hearty recipes, weatherizing techniques, and memorable holiday weather event throwbacks.

Social Network

How to Market Your Small, Rural Business on Social Media

The media landscape has changed dramatically with the rise of digital content in the last decade. A Brookings Institute study shows that the number of
 
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newspapers in circulation in the United States has decreased steadily since 1980 [1]. With many local newspapers closed, small businesses must find a new way to reach potential customers.
 

Small Business: Two Advertising Needs

 
Small businesses have two very particular advertising needs. They often have small advertising budgets, which means their advertising platform must be affordable. They also primarily or exclusively seek local customers, which means their platform must be location targeted.
 
voip1Paid and word-of-mouth advertising on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter fulfill both requirements. Helpfully, both types of social media advertising are incredibly accessible, even to those who are less than tech-savvy.
 
Because social media collects and organizes large amounts of information about its users, social media campaigns can be highly targeted. If your product is, for example, one that can only be enjoyed locally (think restaurants or small farms), social media campaigns can be restricted accurately by location.
 
With 167 million daily active users in the United States and Canada, Facebook is the most popular social network in the Americas. Facebook offers two types of paid advertising: display ads and newsfeed ads.
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The success of an ad is measured in the percentage of people that clicks on the ad after it sees the ad. This is the click through rate (CTR). The average CTR for a Facebook display ad is 0.04%, quite low. The average CTR for a newsfeed ad, on the other hand, is quite high at 2.09% [2].
 
There is no minimum advertising budget on Facebook, which means no barrier to entry that prevents small businesses from advertising. Statistically, a business should expect to pay around $0.30 for every click it receives on Facebook [3].
 

Organic Advertising Is Cheaper Than Pay-Per-Click

 
Advertising organically by word-of-mouth on social media is typically less expensive and more effective than paid advertising. Social media is incredibly effective at sharing word-of-mouth messages about businesses to large audiences of eager followers and friends.
 
Asking a loyal customer to endorse your product on social media is an inexpensive way to advertise your business. Often, enthusiastic customers are willing to spread the word about your product in exchange for a freebie or discount, both of which cost much less than the price of paid advertising.
 
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Potential customers also trust peer recommendation more than any other type of advertising. This makes endorsements from Facebook friends more effective than paid advertising at influencing individual sales. In 2013, 25% of people (the highest in the study) said seeing a peer recommendation on Facebook would inspire them to make a holiday purchase [4].
 
Asking for peer recommendations from loyal customers on social media is also a very ethical way to advertise in a small town. If the person who endorses you is a loyal customer already, the endorsement is genuine. Also, sending freebies or discounts the way of your favorite customers is a great way to reward them while they help you out by spreading the good word about your business all over the net.

Social Network

How Farmers Use Six Social Networks

Country folk are universally less likely to use social networks than city slickers. Whatever the reason for this – disparate age demographics, less reliable Internet access, or a difference in the value perception of

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social networks – it doesn’t have to be this way.

Farmers find benefit from interacting on social networks in various ways. This guide outlines the social networks farmers use and how they use them.

  • fsn2 1. Facebook: Like everyone else, farmers use Facebook as a utility in the social media world. Its features – user profiles, business pages (think farm profiles), private messaging, and text-, photo-, and video-sharing – are functional and basic. Because it’s basic, interest in Facebook is just as high in the country as it is in the city. According to a Sprout Social study, 69% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Facebook. This number is on par with Sprout Social’s statistics for urban use (71% of adults) and suburban use (72% of adults).
  • fsn3 2. Pinterest: Farmers use Pinterest to organize ideas, projects, and inspirations. Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board for images and, less frequently, video clips. Users add these images and video clips (called pins) to Pinterest. They search or browse pins and build their own idea boards on subjects like weddings, gardening, cooking, and homemaking. Many pins are instructional – there’s a tutorial on Pinterest on how to do anything from make killer sauerkraut to raise healthy chickens. According to a Sprout Social study, 30% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Pinterest. Unusually, rural adults are actually more likely to be on Pinterest than urban or suburban adults. The site’s content – gardening, home improvement, rustic charm – reflects the site’s rural values.
  • fsn4 3. Twitter: Twitter users share short text or photo messages with one another. The site reduces the microblogging platform to its bare essentials – posts must be 140 characters or less. Twitter groups similar messages together based on hashtags to facilitates a public discourse on any and every topic, including agriculture. According to a Sprout Social study, 17% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use Twitter. Despite the fact that this number is significantly less than Sprout Social’s statistic for urban use (25% of adults), farming conversations are happening on Twitter. The AgChat Foundation, for example, facilitates weekly conversations between those in the business of growing food, fuel, feed, and fiber. To participate, use the hashtag #AgChat.
  • fsn5 4. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s features – a public resume and closed circles for college alumni, businesses, industries, and organizations – support users’ professional development. In rural areas, LinkedIn is half as popular as it is in urban and suburban areas. According to a Sprout Social study, just 14% of adults (18 and older) living in rural areas use LinkedIn. While traditional rural occupations like agriculture tend to be vastly underrepresented, farmers and agriculture executives do have a presence on the site nevertheless. The Agriculture group, for example, has over 100,000 members (all involved in agribusiness in one form or another) from all over the world.
  • fsn6 5. Farmers Only: Farmers use the dating site Farmers Only to locate available singles in their area. Because rural communities are so isolated, it is often difficult for farmers to find someone to date in their neighborhood. With 100,000 registered users across the United States, this site is one way to significantly widen the rural dating pool. Founder Jerry Miller claims that the site has brought together hundreds of now-married couples.
  • fsn76. Food Hub: This site connects farmers and ranchers in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana with local buyers (usually bulk buyers like restaurants and cafeterias). The site’s 6,000 members include an almost equal proportion of buyers and sellers, plus agriculture associates and distributors. Sellers create public profiles, which buyers browse. Sellers and buyers can also interact in the marketplace, a wall where members post wanted and for sale notifications. Food Hub sends weekly “Fresh Sheets” detailing seasonal products available to its members; the associate version of the Fresh Sheet includes site trends and analytics.

Social Network

Snap, The Job’s a Game: Snapchat Demonstrates Promising Potential for Marketers

After three years of operating without a revenue stream, mobile app Snapchat is making a powerful play for advertisers’ attention. In late June, Snapchat launched an official website dedicating to informing and attracting future advertisers. Less than a week later, sm1the company’s CEO Evan Speigel pushed Snapchat’s advertising potential to a group of 6,000 advertising elites at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Speigel didn’t have to do much to convince Cannes Lions that Snapchat is a valuable marketing tool. The four-year-old app currently has 200 million active users, 80% of whom live in the United States. Every day, users take 700 million photos on the photo- and video-sharing platform. Plus, Snapchat is not totally new to advertising. Brands like Sephora have already run successful viral sweepstakes on the platform.

In the last decade, social media advertising has emerged as a playful alternative to big bucks television advertising. Unfortunately, sites like Facebook have infamously low clickthrough rates. It seems the site’s users, who often source content from a large number of casual friends, are only offhandedly engaged in advertising campaigns including viral campaigns.

Snapchat is a little different. The app does not have a search feature, which means a user can only find someone if he or she already knows that person’s phone number or Snapchat handle. Snapchat also makes it easy for users to be selective about who sees a certain snap, so users can personalize their post for its receivers. Because Snapchat is a more intimate social network, a snap is also more likely than a Facebook post to generate a conversation.

sm2Advertisers know that word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool. That is, after all, the assumption behind using social media for advertising at all. When a potential consumer hears about a product from a friend, word-of-mouth is even more convincing. Forty-seven percent of Internet users say they have purchased products that a friend recommended. Snapchat users are not sifting through a large number of posts from casual friends, leading experts to conclude that viral campaigns will be more effective on the app than on Facebook.

The key to a successful Snapchat campaign? Get on Snapchat’s level. The social network is known for silly selfies and funny videos. That’s what most users expect when they open Snapchat and what they want to see. Sephora’s successful 2015 #MyGuyAtSephoraSweeps had customers send snaps of the men in their life at one of the cosmetic retailer’s stores.
sm3 The sweepstakes poked fun at the self-sacrificing men that women drag into Sephora. Campaigns that connect with consumers over Snapchat’s goofiness, like this one, blend seamlessly into the social network’s user-generated content.

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