(Disclaimer – This blog is just an account of our entry into the internet world, and our opinions. These are not the keys to guaranteed success, nor is it meant to take away from how others market their livestock.)
I am writing a two part blog to explain our opinion of the use if the internet to market our cattle and our name. The world is moving quickly to an electronic world, but many do not know how to use it, when to use it, or what to use it for. I do not want to take away at all on how others in the cattle industry are using technology, but more to highlight our philosophy at ZNT Cattle Co and how we use it, and also tips/pet peeves in using.
As you can tell by reading our blog, we 100% believe in the value of websites for cattle operations. Though our website is a blog based website that we setup using Blogger.com, it is still a website. It is an internet world, and if you want to reach customers, you must have a website, and you must make your link available in as many places as possible: i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Steerplanet, Cattle.com, Showsteers.com, etc. Just as important as having a website is to keep it current. This is why we use the blog format. It is very easy to use and to update. I can even make changes from my iPhone, or any smart phone for that matter. Our website is a mix of cattle for sale and useful information that anyone can use as a resource. You can decide exactly what you what to display about your operation.
Here is an excellent blog by RHD on blogs: http://www.ranchhousedesigns.blogspot.com/2012/05/blog-saturation.html
Email was the first taste that most of us got to the upcoming internet age. Email is still one of my favorite uses of the internet. I can give updates to multiple parties, send information, pictures, videos, and documents that can be viewed immediately. I love the way it allows each party to send and receive messages at their own convenience, rather than the phone-tag games we played for so many years. That being said, I have more pet peeves in how people use the internet than any other form of electronic communication. First off, I check almost all my emails with my iPhone, therefore any of these dozens of eblasts that I receive daily that have some fancy Photoshop ad as the body of the email, I CAN NOT READ! If you want the fancy ad in your email, also include in text: who is having the sale, what they are selling, when it is, and where it is. Even better is if most of this information is located in the Subject because I never get past the subject line on 95% of these mass emails. I am actually turned off by eblasts these days, and would rather have an individual just spend the time to put together an email and send it out to group of people, who they know might have an interest in what they are selling, or have a personal relationship with the seller. And lastly, my biggest pet peeve of all is mass FWD’s. This is why Facebook and Twitter exist, so unless you think I will specifically like the email, save it for your Facebook.
Facebook has been a form of social media that we have all been trying to figure out how to use effectively. Since the use is not a science yet, here is how I use it. Number one use of Facebook for me is to make myself more personable and approachable. Yes, I have cattle for sale, and I do advertise these cattle on my Facebook, but more I want my potential customers to know that I am just the same as they are. I like sports, I love my family, I do things that are not cattle related, etc. Pages vs. Individual Profiles – I am still on the fence about separating these two out. Part of it is that I do not want to maintain two separate Facebook accounts, but more, as I stated above, I want people to know me, and that I am the face of ZNT. ZNT is not just an entity that sells cattle, it is a family that puts a lot of time and thought into the operation they run, and it is our family that provides the customer service after a calf is purchased from us.
To the youth! If you choose to friend your favorite breeders on Facebook, do not post DRAMA on your Facebook page. It comes across as immature, and irresponsible. These are the people that you want to sell you their best calves, and they have to trust that they are selling to a young person that will represent their animal the best. Your maturity both on the internet and in person will most likely get you a better animal for a better price. Again, you are selling yourself, just like the breeder is selling themselves and their cattle.
So far Twitter has not been an effective tool for our cattle operation. It is just too random, and too impersonal. I do like to send out tweets containing links to my recent informative blogs. If anything, it does give an opportunity to reach out to potential readers that I may never be contacted in the more traditional ways. Randomness can sometimes be good. I do check my Twitter, so please do not post stupid stuff. If you are going to send a tweet, make sure it is worth my time to read. Thank you.
All I have to say is Steerplanet.com. Jason has a very well-run site that is full of great information, and a great way to meet other people in the cattle business, especially the show cattle business. Use the classifieds! It is free to list, and they are loaded with great cattle from all over the United States. The traffic that Steerplanet receives daily makes the advertising cost very affordable. The best dollars we have spent on advertising came from a banner on Steerplanet. Cattle forums are a great way to get your name out to a very specific market with like interests. Post, and post often, but only if you have good information or good things to say. Every post you make is an advertisement of yourself and a representation of you as a person. Being political correct is not you being fake; it is you being empathetic to other people’s feelings, thoughts, and choices. And always; use proper English and spelling when you post. I myself, have to make a pointed effort to double and triple check my spelling in my posts. Such simple mistakes can take away from the whole point you were trying to make in the post.
I am all for text messaging. Just like many of you out there, I am a busy person, and do not always have time to have a long conversation to answer a 2 second question. If you send a text, make sure you identify yourself in the message, and be specific. Again, text is meant to save time, so don't be offended if the person you are texting does not engage in a long texting session.