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Build business with social media

People who run companies based in rural locations are urged to make social media a key part of their business strategy.
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Use Facebook, Twitter | Online tools help consumers understand and trust the business

HALIFAX — People who run companies based in rural locations are urged to make social media a key part of their business strategy.

Melissa Schenk, executive producer at MS2 Productions and a CTV weather anchor at London, Ont., said web and mobile technologies from Twitter to Facebook allow for a two-way exchange between organizations, communities and individuals.

“Social media is about getting to know you,” said Schenk, who led a workshop on social media and internet effectiveness at the Community Futures Network of Canada conference in Halifax May 31.

Schenk said one to three minute videos offer farmers a chance to show consumers how their food is produced, while also introducing the farm operator.

Ninety percent of online content is expected to be in videos by 2013, Schenk said.

“It helps you to be found.”

In an interview, Schenk talked about a farm operator who created a video that took viewers from the farm where heritage pigs are raised to the restaurant where their higher fat meat was sizzling in the pan. Another video provided a walk through a greenhouse and strawberry operation.

“You have to show it to them and give them the experience you want them to have and create the impression you want to leave with them,” she said.

Schenk said most people shop and research online before buying goods and services.

“You have to connect and have conversations, that’s where marketing is going,” she said. “Your secret weapon is you.”

Chris Dalman of JerkFish said such tech savvy marketing is hard to do in his one-person operation at Arnes, Man.

He finds it difficult to keep up with orders without also having to scope out new markets and improve his website,

“It’s quite time consuming,” said the fisherman and father of two young children.

“I’d like to, but there are too many other things I have to take care of.”

Dalman started JerkFish, his take on an Icelandic hard fish snack, to add value to the walleye he catches. The three varieties, which range from plain to spicy, are sold to retail stores in Manitoba’s Interlake area, home to a large Icelandic community.

Derryl Reid, who operates Green Bean Coffee Imports in Clandeboye, Man., uses social media to network globally and connect with customers locally. He maintains a website, writes a blog, has Twitter feeds and is connected on Facebook.

Social media also allows him to share his business philosophy of creating local food networks and niche markets providing organic and fair trade products.

“Our experience is it’s a way to connect with like-minded business and customer bases,” he said.

Reid said it gives rural business a voice.

“It’s important for the customer base to reach that rural based business and have an understanding of them,” he said.

He’s still exploring the best uses of social media, he added.

“It can’t be all about business, but more about yourself, your philosophy, who you are as a person,” said Reid.

“If you’re not being real, people quickly identify that and lose interest.”

The company buys green beans from growers and co-operatives, mainly in Spanish speaking countries. Green Bean roasts beans and sells coffee to retail and wholesale markets in Winnipeg and rural regions.

Reid has linked Twitter and Facebook to reduce the effort needed to update these sites.

He is also considering producing short videos online and opening a coffee shop in Winnipeg.

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