Current Progressive Cattle digital edition

Why your ranch needs a social media strategy for livestock sales

Amy Schutte for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 January 2019
Visitors vrom Brazil visit Coleman Angus

People kept telling Larry Coleman of Coleman Angus he needed a Facebook page. But ranching life is busy, and it wasn’t something he was interested in trying.

He dragged his feet for years until a friend set up a business page for him, and even then, Coleman wasn’t going to update it.

But over the past year and a half, Coleman changed his tune and says he wishes he’d started earlier.

“Our customers are growing younger, and so many people don’t even look at sale catalogs anymore. You need to be on social media,” he says. “If we had started six or eight years ago, we’d be so much further ahead today.”

For ranchers looking for a boost in sale attendees or for those who sell private treaty, an online marketing strategy is one of the best ways to boost revenue in 2019.

Here are three reasons growing your social presence can grow your sales:

Keep your customers informed and educated

Santa Rosa Ranch, located in Crockett, Texas, sells Brangus and Ultrablack cattle through private treaty, and for Kelley Sullivan and her family, “every day is sale day.”

“We’ve chosen to stay private treaty, and social media has given us the ability for people to stay informed,” Sullivan says. “We have to serve both parties through our marketing: those who never pick up a printed piece of material and those who never get on the internet.”

Sullivan says social media gave her ranch an opportunity to expand their scope, and her goal is to do more than sell through the online channels.

“It’s important for us to offer an industry perspective,” she says. “I made a very conscious effort to educate on our Facebook page and share more than just our ranch information. People have told me they follow our page to know what is going on in the industry.”

Social media allows ranchers to not only create interest with print or billboard advertisements regarding sales, but follow up with any changes to times or dates on social media. Creating an event and inviting customers online to attend can be a helpful way to get a realistic head count or answer questions in real time.

Rachel Cutrer, CEO of Ranch House Designs, a web design and marketing company, says Facebook is the best way to keep top of mind with customers as your sale approaches.

“If your sale is at the end of the month, you have a long time for people to forget about you after they’ve seen your advertisement somewhere, so if you are using Facebook, you can remind people,” Cutrer says. “It’s really helpful for online sales.”

Increase brand awareness worldwide

The common marketing adage, “People buy from businesses they know, like and trust,” is also true of livestock sales, and a large part of becoming a trusted brand is showing up consistently online and offline.

“Older generations sometimes don’t see the power of a website or social media, but if they put a little trust in it, they can see some really positive results, especially in local community relations,” Cutrer says. “It adds to the branding of your ranch.”

Many people are buying sight unseen these days thanks to the quality of videos and photos posted on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Cutrer, who is also involved in her family’s ranch, says they’ve sold into Paraguay after a man had seen a photo of a bull on Instagram.

“Sales have doubled in the last five years, which I attribute all to social media. The international impact has probably been the biggest change,” Cutrer says. “It’s allowed us to expose our cattle to a worldwide ranching clientele. I had always heard a person is willing to drive within a 100-mile radius to buy a bull, but what I’ve found is that through social media and our website, our client base doesn’t have any borders. If people see something they want, they come and buy it.”

Coleman says the ease of smartphones and their ability to create quality videos have allowed customers to become comfortable buying online without being at the sale.

“You’ve got to have a good product and the best customer service out there,” Coleman says. “We hold an embryo action, and it’s all online. It’s the way of the future.”

Communicate quickly and efficiently with customers

It was 2009 when Norma Jean Bounds decided the Swinging ‘B’ Ranch needed a website, and she quickly realized Facebook would be a useful tool as well, so she started posting photos every day, and their page following quickly grew to more than 37,000.

One of the biggest benefits she found from having a strong social media presence was the ability to quickly respond to comments or messages.

“We get a lot of interest from Mexico. We shipped five bulls there the other day after they saw posts on Facebook and then they go and check out our website,” she says. “When people are buying sight unseen, you have to be really careful you are taking accurate photos. We try to respond to any issues or comments quickly. Trust is a big deal when people are buying without seeing the animal in person.”

Cutrer also encourages her clients to ensure they are following up with messaging and comments on social media.

“You have to be committed to replying to messages since people expect quicker responses,” she says.

The ability to speak directly to customers about your ranch is one of the best parts of social media, according to Coleman.

“Consistency is key, and what you’re posting should be interesting. It’s such a nice way to talk to hundreds of people immediately. What else can you do to talk to people so quickly? It’s so easy, and if someone has a question, they can send you a PM [personal message] real quick and it’s right there,” he says. “I think the ranching family is a big broad family, and we all enjoy what we do, and we like seeing what’s going on with other people.”  end mark

PHOTO: Visitors from Brazil visit Coleman Angus in Montana. The ranch has built connections internationally thanks in part to its social media marketing. Photo provided by Larry Coleman.

Amy Schutte is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

Social media tips from ranchers doing it well

1. Social media works best when it’s part of a bigger marketing plan.

“Facebook is for moments, and your website is for a lifetime. When people look at you on your Facebook page, they’ll see your photos for a few seconds, but hopefully that helps them take the next step to go to your website where you have more information.

Print media is still a huge driver for people to remember your event,” Rachel Cutrer says. “Step one is to see the print ad; step two is to Google it so they find you. It all needs to be part of a bigger cycle so people can learn about your business.”

2. Make sure you operate from a business page and not a personal page.

“My advice is to get a website first – that’s the key. Ours isn’t fancy, but we get so many compliments because it’s simple and has all the information,” Norma Jean Bounds says. “The thing is to get on Facebook and make it a business account. I keep it totally separate from my personal account.”

3. Ensure your information on your social media page is accurate.

“I’ve seen people accidentally put the wrong number on their page, and they missed calls for weeks before they realized their mistake. Make sure all the links and contact information is correct,” Kelley Sullivan says.

4. Represent your brand well with a consistent look across all channels.

“Make sure it looks nice,” Cutrer says. “A nice profile pic and nice cover photo or your logo – something that looks clean and professional.”

5. Your message needs to be very clear.

“Why are you posting? You need to make it clear how to contact you and what’s available,” Sullivan says.

6. Be an outlet of information for people.

“Don’t always be self-serving with your content. Be a resource for people, and put accurate information out there for people who stumble across your page who may not be in the agriculture industry,” Sullivan says.

7. Post often.

“I put up a picture every day. Pictures and videos take time, but I get a lot of response,” Bounds says. “Some are just pasture shots or the little babies or just common occurrences around the ranch. We’re not selling all the time on Facebook. We want people to know you don’t have to buy, just come visit.”