Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Home Place Coordinates


Your farm market and the brave new world of virtual signposts.

A farmer must be aware of his location.  We speak of a farmer's connection to his land, or his acute sense of the passage of time and season.  Location means everything to the farmer, as much as any store owner or real estate agent.  The location of the farm creates the product; the vintner's terroir exists in all agriculture. 

This intrinsic understanding of location is particularly useful now.  Because the world has gone location mad.  Local has become the watchword of the day.  People everywhere are searching for local food production.  While their reasons may vary from ecological concerns about carbon footprints and biodiversity to economic support for communities, the result is the same.  Consumers are searching for farms that share their location.

Nor is it solely a matter of a consumer connecting to farms near their home locations.  Everywhere we go, we track, analyze, connect and announce our positions.

These days we do most of that searching through our phones, tablets and laptops.  Mobile computing is clearly the dominating trend of the 2000s, along with the use of global positioning systems. 

The development of mobile computing and GPS technology is creating a perfect opportunity for food producers.  As consumers examine and discuss their locations with friends and social networks, you can use your own location join the discussion.

Consider some of the ways you might translate your location, your market or farm itself, into a virtual advertisement.

The first step is to check your map listings.  Go to Google Maps and look up your farm or market name, or your address.  Is there already information about your business in place?  Is it correct?  There is a link to Edit this place and one to claim it as a Business Owner.  Use these to fix any inaccuracies.  Go ahead and fill out the listing page.  Add a website if you have one.  Add photos!  These location based listing pages are free and effective advertising.

Now go through these same steps for MapquestYahoo listings, Bing listings, and a variety of other listing sites are also worth checking out.

Have you looked at Yelp?  This site is extremely popular and an excellent way to spread word of mouth advertising.  It is a review site where users are able to rate and share their favorite and least favorite locations.  Look up your listing and verify that (it exists and) it is accurate.

Location based marketing (yes, that is a term) is based around lo-so networks (yep, also a term--location-based-social networks).  Foursquare and Gowalla are the biggest players here, although Facebook and Google are putting their own versions out.

You can easily add your Farm or Market as a venue to these sites.  Once you've done that, you can create some really fun promotions.  Coupons and specials are always appreciated, of course, but you don't always have to rely on discounts to get people to stop by.  Be creative with your rewards!  People do like to have fun with these networks.  They are in many ways a kind of game, as much about earning virtual badges or the title of 'mayor' as anything else.

Last year, CNN teamed up with Farmers Markets and the USDA to create a very successful 'Healthy Eaters Badge' promotion.  The fun of mobile and hyper-local computing is that you don't have to create something on such a wide, national scale for it to be successful. 

Here is a quick overview of some Foursquare tips from the New York Farmers Market:  http://www.nyfarmersmarket.com/PDF2011/foursquarefactsheet.pdf

Foursquare actually has a business page that discusses the many ways business can use their network:  Foursquare for Business.

This article contains some further ideas:  9 Killer Tips for Location-Based Marketing.

Are you pretty tech savvy?  Because Now You Can Design a Farmers Market App!  Think of some of the many creative ways we can all use our locations together to create connections between the world of agriculture and consumers!

If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas: 5 iPhone apps that help you eat like a locavore.

The melding of real locations to our virtual networks is a wonderful way to reconnect a very mobile society with the land and all it produces.  And to reach out to customers and sell some eggs.

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