“Social media puts the ‘public’ into PR and the ‘market’ into marketing,” said Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs. And while you make think of yourself as a plant person first, if you run a business, you also need to devote time to PR and marketing.

Not everyone jumped on every bandwagon as it passed by and so diving into social media now may feel overwhelming. It can be a lot if you don’t have a plan. To assist those interested in using social media to their advantage, “From Seed to Social Feed” was presented at Cultivate’22.

Discussing both sides of the topic – marketing firm and grower/creator – were Becky Paxton, account executive with Garden Media Group, and Jim Putnam, the video content creator behind HortTube.

Putnam, who noted he’s been in the horticulture industry for 36 years, starting making videos just five years ago for YouTube and people really liked them – and engaged with them. He is what some on the web would call a “plant-fluencer.”

“What is a plant-fluencer? It’s a little bit of the Wild West finding a good one,” Paxton said of the term. It’s a person or account that has enough followers or engagement to influence behavior (and in this case, purchasing behavior specifically).

A macro influencer has more than 100,000 followers; a micro influencer, more than 10,000. “People think more is better but the sweet spot is in the middle because they’re tailoring their message to their followers,” Paxton explained.

The goal of good social media is often selling more of your products. Partnering with an influencer means that followers know you’re trying to sell something, but the content they create isn’t recognizable as an advertisement, Putnam said. Paxton added they can be successful with subtlety.

Want to nurture your seed of an idea for social media content by partnering with an influencer? The more specific you get, the better results you’ll see. Before anything else, though, figure out what your goal is. It can be something as simple as brand awareness, content creation, more followers, more clicks or more sales.

Paxton noted that content creation is a great way to get new images for your brand. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Next, define who your target audience is by looking at region, demographics, age and platform. You’ve heard it before, but Facebook is for older users and TikTok is for younger users. The YouTube audience is often looking for very specific information with the videos they search.

Before pursuing a social media campaign or partnering with an influencer, ask yourself if you have the resources to do so. This is not just money, but also product samples, time to process everything and staff bandwidth.

“A multi-month process to do well,” Paxton said. “The budget varies from free or just one of your products to $6,500 for an Instagram post – you have room to negotiate.”

That budget needs to be spent on the right person too. “Make sure the person has some base knowledge (to protect your brand – enthusiasm does not equal knowledge),” Putnam said. “And have the content look authentic.”

Because horticulture is a seasonal business, Paxton suggested working in waves with social media campaigns too.

Jim Putnam’s HortTube has made him very popular online. With more than 181,000 subscribers, he is able to share some best practices about how those in horticulture can take advantage of social media. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

The Steps of an Influencer Campaign

The first step in finding a good social media partner is doing your research and making a list of possible accounts that seem like a good fit with your business. Start following them as soon as you’re interested. Also seek out references in the industry. Paxton said many influencers have worked with multiple brands before.

Remember that many of these popular creators receive over a thousand messages a day, so when reaching out, make sure you’re actually following them; be up front and clear with your request; know your budget; use their name and not just their social media handle; and request their media kit.

Paxton said to also include something personal in your message, both about you and about them.

Next, set up a chance to meet to fact-find and finalize plans. Obviously, this doesn’t have to be face to face, but a phone call or video conferencing session is better than just direct messages or emails.

Once you have a project in mind, get the specs on space, create a schedule, finalize the price and deliverables (things to be provided) and finalize re-use rights. “One great project can launch a thousand ships,” Paxton said. (Putnam said his was a 1950s house that he totally redesigned; his followers adored it.)

With the right people in place, the next step is crafting the project. Paxton said there are generally two kinds of projects: educational or inspirational. You can use either to build enthusiasm. Educational projects are “Google-able how-tos.” They are typically more expensive to create but they are reusable as inspirational projects (such as before-and-afters), with plans so people can replicate them at home. Putnam stressed that you need to have both kinds of projects to be successful.

When everything else is in place, setting a go-live date is next. Create a calendar with your partner highlighting key dates and send the assets (likely plants, in your case) when it makes sense to do so. Communicate for the best content timing and take advantage of replays. Also provide common frequently asked questions (and their answers) so the influencer can handle those.

The replays are very useful, since creating content takes time, money and effort. “Help everyone by reusing and repurposing content across platforms,” Paxton said. “Use high-resolution screen captures for Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest posts.”

Your campaign isn’t done once it’s out there, though. The last step is tracking the content and its results. You’ll want impressions or reach one week out, one month out and three months out to see how it’s doing. You’ll want to track your website traffic, social media platform insights and the sales of the promoted plants and products. The results should include more followers and engagement and reposts on other sites and outlets.

Putnam said you’ll probably see some instant results followed by interest petering out, but then big swells can also come months later. “And every single post should require engagement,” he added. “Ask questions!”

Both presenters noted good options for tracking content and results via third party apps, such as Sprout Social. Putnam said Social Blade is also good, as is TubeBuddy, where you can see the analytics of your YouTube content.

Paxton mentioned use VideoLeap and Adobe Rush, which has templates for video and can make photos into a video. She also shared that those interested in trying this strategy can use Garden Media Group’s free influencer dashboard, available at bit.ly/GMGFreebie.

by Courtney Llewellyn