Cattle ranchers around the state are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat as an efficient and cost-effective way to reach customers.
Ranchers are using these platforms to market cattle, promote their websites, and build personal brands. They can also conduct sales and make connections with others in the agriculture community through these sites.
Joe Epperly, director of genetics and sales at Wagonhammer Ranches in Albion, said the initial appeal of Facebook was its low cost. Basic posts on the site are free, and groups can pay to have their posts promoted and seen by a wider audience.
Epperly said Facebook also provides analytics that show the magnitude, age demographics, and location of viewers. These tools have been useful in targeting certain areas with specific ads and expanding Wagonhammer’s customer base.
“We’ve really been able to go international with our Facebook advertising,” Epperly said.
Trey Wasserburger, owner of TD Angus in North Platte, said he’s been using social media for five years to reach customers, fine-tuning and adjusting his approach. He’s found that Facebook’s ability to reach customers through ad targeting is very valuable. Wasserburger also contributes to specific groups on Facebook created for the buying and selling of cattle, where he’s met good friends and lifelong customers.
Wasserburger said although he aims to have a large presence on social media and sees most customer interaction through Facebook, he continues to advertise in papers such as the Western Livestock Journal and the Midwest Messenger. Even as social media platforms become more relevant, a customer base that relies on print advertising will remain.
“Whether you like it or not, ranchers do sit down, drink coffee and still read a newspaper,” Wasserburger said.
While Facebook allows users to target specific demographics, Snapchat provides an opportunity to connect with younger customers. Katie Trail of Trail Farms in Nebraska City said social media is the best way to reach customers looking for show cattle. Competitors typically range in age from eight to 18 and are likely to have a presence on Snapchat and Instagram, Trail said.
Wasserburger said using Snapchat is an effective way to reach younger customers. He communicates with them both on an individual level and posts pictures or videos on his Snapchat story, which remain visible on his profile for 24 hours.
The decision to use social media platforms prompts consideration about what content effectively engages audiences on each site. Epperly said when deciding what to post, he tries to vary the content based on the platform.
“We’re gonna do cooler snippets for selling show heifers or steers, and those are going to be for Snapchat,” Epperly said. “Whereas with Instagram, we’re just focusing on the ranch, telling the ranch story and shooting cool pictures. We’re shooting more videos on Facebook.”
Epperly said although he takes most of the photos and videos of the cattle, Wagonhammer Ranches has also hired freelancers to take photos and develop ads. Trail has taken a similar approach, creating content and reaching customers through her personal Facebook account.
Wasserburger said he sees great potential for online sales. TD Angus held a sale in late March, right as COVID-19 panic swept the country. Although in-person turnout was lower than the previous year, Wasserburger said 50% of the bulls were sold online. He said customers have more confidence buying online, as they’ve adjusted to COVID-19 guidelines.
“Once you do get people out of their comfort zone and they figure out how to do it, they’re okay with doing it again,” Wasserburger said.
Looking ahead, Epperly said he hopes an increased presence on social media platforms will make the Wagonhammer brand recognizable to customers. Understanding how users are interacting with posts and what platform they’re viewing content on is an important step in getting people to visit the ranch in person, Epperly said.
Wasserburger said he expects growth in social media use in the Nebraska agriculture community. He plans to continue using these new outlets to connect with customers.
“It’s just becoming more and more prominent every day,” Wasserburger said.