Stressed

This article was originally published at Forbes.com

One of my job’s joys is to talk with bright, inquisitive agri-marketers. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the hard-working marketing and communication professionals in agriculture and rural industries have faced challenges unique to our industry. They balance messaging about food supply chain disruptions with food safety and availability, promoting their team as essential workers yet working to keep them safe and communicating with customers amid natural disasters and significant commodity market swings.

And now, they’re being faced with a new challenge. In a recent discussion with an especially savvy-communicator, I was asked, “Should I be pulling my advertising spend from Facebook if my farmers aren’t using that platform anymore?”

What a great question!

TWITTER BAN

While the drum was already quietly beating for alternative platforms, the official ban of former President Trump by Facebook and Twitter precipitated the rise of several social media platforms.

Regardless of your political beliefs, successful agri-marketers continually evaluate digital advertising performance. If communicators are worried about recent events impacting their social media ROI, here are five questions for formulating a plan.

Map

Who Should Be Asking Themselves the Question?

For those who characterize their customer and influencer base as “conservative,” we recommend closely monitoring social media advertising performance. In the agriculture and rural living space, that’s often a majority.

Are Your Users Changing Platforms?

Before adjusting social media spending, agri-marketers should first consider the performance of their current advertising buys.

  • Are there changes in impressions, reach and/or engagement?

  • Have click-through rates changed?

  • Have target audience groups fluctuated in size?

Where Might Your Users Go? And Does That Platform Offer Advertising?

The pace at which social media platforms are rising and declining is almost maddening; Parler, of course, being the most widely reported. However, alternatives remain.

Social

MeWe

With a user experience comparable to Facebook, this platform describes itself as “provid[ing] an uplifting social media experience in the spirit of human camaraderie.”

Agri-marketers should consider Facebook Group members departing (or additionally) joining a MeWe specialty topic group used as a forum for discussion, photo sharing and comments. A potential plus for your users: feeds are not curated based on algorithms.

As an example of the size of MeWe Groups versus Facebook Groups, a MeWe “Homesteading Group” currently has 4,092 members and a similar group on Facebook has 111,000 members. The MeWe Group “Cattle for Sale” has 1,576 members and the Facebook Group “Cattle for Viewing” has 40,000 users.

Clubhouse

This platform is based on voice. You must receive an invite link to join this site which bills itself as the place “where people around the world come together to talk, listen and learn from each other in real-time.” Today, access is available only on an Apple device and by invitation. We think of Clubhouse as a live podcast while others describe it as a forum for those who miss conference presentations. Today, advertising options are not available.

A quick search of “agriculture” turns up a group called Food Growers United which boasts over 3,000 members. The Future of Food has almost 20,000 members and followers. While there is interest in food and farming on the platform, for now, we recommend just listening in as the conversations evolve.

Vimeo

This site, often used by video production teams and marketers such as ourselves, bills itself as the “world’s leading all-in-one video solution.” Monetization is available. For those users already posting content on YouTube, this is an alternative, well-historied place for professional and amateur level video sharing and linking. Today, a search for “agriculture” boasts more than 40,000 videos with this keyword.

Rumble

A video platform billed as an alternative to YouTube. Its website states, “Rumble provides video creators a way to host, manage, distribute, create over the top feeds and monetize their content.” A search for “agriculture” on this platform results in just a few dozen hits, with many international videos.

While you can’t advertise, this site monetizes in a unique way. Users can “easily license viral videos for [their] TV show, social media page or website.” Just filter for what you want to buy, pay for the clip, download and go.

Gab.com

This site, visually much like Twitter, “strives to be the home of free speech online.” A search of their 2019 annual report infers they do not allow advertising. Once signed up, users can “find your people.” A “rural living” group had more than 62,000 users but a “farming and ranching” group had only a couple of hundred members. You will find a large number of politically-charged groups.

Signal

Scrolling through the homepage, users will read, “There are no ads, no affiliate marketers and no creepy tracking in Signal.” Downloaded on your phone, this app will ask for access to your contact list so you can chat with them on an encrypted platform, so your users will need to bring their own network to this platform.

Telegram

Part-Twitter, part-WhatsApp, this messaging app describes itself as “secure, superfast, simple and free.” A review of their FAQ did not indicate advertising is available.

For both Signal and Telegram, rural customers and farmers may like the idea of encrypted messaging especially for sending sensitive operational information.

Should Your Advertising Spend Follow to a New Platform?

As of today, the only recommendations we would make for moving to an alternative platform is if your target audience undeniably and solely fits that platform’s target audience.

Based on what we are seeing, we have not recommended that our clients move away from their current course of action on their social media advertising plans. While there remains some jostling among platforms with some users, much more information will be needed before agri-marketers can, or should, consider investing in alternative approaches.

Much like our savvy agri-marketing friend who posed the question, ask yourself our five questions. If they point you to a change, agency partners like ours stand ready to create a new plan of attack. Otherwise, we would watch and wait.