Date: Jul 18, 2018
Magazine:
July/August 2018

By Stephanie Metzinger

The spread of “fake news” has caused a significant rift between the public and media. Consumers used to look to their media allies for guidance and the truth, but this sweeping phenomenon has changed where trust is placed.

As consumers’ demand for authenticity increases, the rapid rise of social media has created a network of influencers that have the ear of the public. These influencers are everyday people who have established credibility by becoming expert in a certain topic and posting about it online. Through engaging content that inspires, they have built a large following and have the power to persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. This can be the home cook who garners hundreds to thousands of views a day on their how-to videos; the mommy blogger who shares her journey of parenthood with her expansive readership; or the fitness guru who reveals tips to their extensive Instagram following on how to live a healthier lifestyle.

According to a recent Nielsen Survey, 90 percent of consumers noted that they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted customer opinions posted online. This means that people are tired of seeing traditional advertisements and are now gravitating toward like-minded people who present them with trustworthy information.

Tapping into the loyalty and trust that these influencers have established with their audiences can be a powerful weapon for brand growth. Additionally, their organic reach is something the agricultural industry can utilize to help bridge the gap between consumers and where their food comes from.

Some in our industry have already jumped on the influencer marketing trend and are changing the conversation about agriculture. For example, the California Strawberry Commission has hosted a #PickReal farm tour for the past several years to give food and lifestyle influencers a behind-the-scenes look at the care that goes into strawberry farming in California communities, as well as debunk strawberry and strawberry-farming myths.

Similarly, the Alliance for Food and Farming recently launched a “Facts, Not Fears” three-day tour where nutrition, diet and science bloggers visited farm fields and facilities to hear the truth about produce safety. Through presentations, tours and workshops, the bloggers learned that misinformation about pesticides can breed fear and confusion, and the best thing consumers can do to benefit their health is eat more fruits and vegetables. The result? The bloggers penned posts sharing how “produce shoppers’ guides are a disservice to consumers and confusing because they are not based upon sound science and are often in direct conflict.” They also dispelled myths noting that “many think that the term ‘organic’ means that produce has been grown without pesticides [but] this is not true.”

Just this June, Western Growers partnered with the California Farm Water Coalition to host a farm tour where four bloggers visited ag operations throughout Monterey County to learn what it takes to feed a nation. These lifestyle, mommy and food bloggers had the opportunity to hear about the labor challenges facing agriculture, learn about innovations being developed to help solve the industry’s most pressing issues, see how food gets from the field to the store and interact with the family farmers who grow the food they feed their children every day. Throughout the tour, each blogger posted on social media in real-time showing their audience exactly what they were seeing and experiencing. At the time of this writing, the social media posts had already garnered nearly 300,000 impressions.

Though blogger tours are effective, the creativity with influencer marketing goes well beyond a field visit. Take, for example, Taylor Farms, which reaches out to food bloggers for “blog takeovers.” These notable foodies creates recipes using Taylor Farms’ products and post videos, photos and stories about their creations on their own channels. They then take over Taylor Farms’ blog and social media accounts to post similar content, resulting in more exposure for both the influencer and Taylor Farms.

Influencer marketing is a trend that is likely to ramp up in the coming years, and this is our opportunity to build a bigger community of ag advocates and ambassadors. Through authentic storytelling, these influencers can share the truth about ag and help deliver our key messages. For this reason, we encourage you to start incorporating influencer marketing into your business strategy.

 

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