Is Growth Hacking the Missing Ingredient in Urban Agriculture?

by Dominique Bernier,

Many urban agriculture projects and small-scale urban farmers tend to struggle financially. When it comes to marketing their products, they often use outdated, costly and inefficient methods. To survive, urban growers definitely need to improve their digital presence and leverage e-commerce opportunities. That’s where a bit of growth hacking mojo could make a difference. Time to think differently!

Growth hacking is a marketing process. It uses mostly low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing. It aims to quickly experiment and identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. Ultimately, it wants to generate massive traffic online that converts into sales of products or services.

Some individuals are able to generate six-digit revenues in their niche using this technique. If it works for others, why not using it to sell urban agriculture products?

Let me share with you a few lessons learned from Vin Clancy during his latest talk in Montreal.

Vin is an extravagant internet and social media guru, who got noticed for his growth hacking techniques about 4 years ago. Of course, he has nothing to do with urban agriculture, but he knows for sure how to attract humans online. He made his name by generating over a million visits per month on his first website, within a year and without spending money on advertisement.

The main idea conveyed by Vin is that social media are FREE and powerful tools at your disposal. There is a way to use them to seriously grow your business, whatever your niche, without spending on paid advertisements. Yet, you should be advised. If selling online is totally new to you, you must understand that it is not an easy thing. You will have to learn a lot in a short time and adapt.

“ [online] No one cares about you, no one cares about your art, no one cares about your products. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You need to learn very quickly how to launch something or it won’t work.” - Vin Clancy

Know Your Customers

Learning about your customers is essential to leveraging the power of the internet and to generate traffic that converts into sales.

“You need to know who you’re talking to, where your customers hang out online and what problems they have”- Vin Clancy

If you don’t know who your ideal customers are, you won’t be able to develop the proper offer and message to attract them. Don’t make assumptions. If you have a website start with google analytics or use your business social media page’s data to get a better idea.

If you have a good picture of your perfect customer and what problems they have, define an “X without Y offer”.

Here’s how an “X without Y offer” sounds for Vin Clancy: Learn how to improve your marriage without speaking to your wife/husband about it.

The idea is to propose whatever is easier, faster or more convenient than the current way of doing things. Your “X without Y offer” will be how you will stand out in this crowded digital world.

All You Need is 1000 Fans

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Your 1000 true fans are those who will buy and promote your products. That’s where social media comes in handy to build such an engaged community.

However, there is a tricky part that most people neglect (including me): YOU NEED TO SHOW UP EVERYDAY to make it work.

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You need to post a piece of content and engage with your community every day if you want to get this massive effect. Vin explains that this type of aggressive growth strategy should apply to all the platforms you use.

Video is a Must

Attention please, a very important message here: CREATE VIDEO CONTENT!!!

Start a YouTube channel and get out there! Make sure to share video, not just images, and text posts, on Facebook as well. Data are clear about this. Original and informative video content is most likely to generate a higher engagement rate.

As an example, pre-launch hype for an urban farming project could be generated by video content covering the growing period. Make short quality clips (about 1-2 min) to show what you do to prepare your garden, beehives or whatever you do in the field. It could be as simple as telling your followers stories about how you got into urban farming or tips on how to seed, prune, harvest, etc.

While a growing number of people will watch your videos to see your products in the making, you will slowly build your market.

Too shy to be in the spotlight? There are some alternatives.

Use Rawshorts, a video editing software that can help you create short animated videos about what you do. Below an example of what this tool can help you do. I used Rawshorts free trial to create a clip that presents RakeAround’s e-commerce solutions for urban agriculture.

Building a YouTube channel may take time and effort, but it remains one of your best long-term bets, according to Vin.

Video content can be shared and re-shared on multiple platforms, thereby contributing to growing your audience on many channels. In terms of YouTube optimization, TubeBuddy is a software that can help you to get the right people to see your videos.

Facebook

For Vin Clancy, your personal Facebook profile should be your professional profile. No need for business cards anymore, connect with Facebook.

Don’t forget, it is hard to ask people to pay for your product online when they don’t know you. By adding your professional contact on Facebook and posting something every day, it may help them to get to know you better and build trust.

You will also have to play the Facebook algorithm by answering this question: How interesting are you?

Content considered interesting by the algorithm makes a significant difference on how Facebook shows your content.

alt textGaming the Algorithm
alt textNews Feed visibility

Note that the level of engagement has a large influence on the reach of a post. The more people engage with your post (by liking, sharing and commenting), the more Facebook will show it to people. The type of post also determines how Facebook ranks content.

In order of relevance, here are the post types that work best on Facebook:

  1. Live video

  2. Loaded video

  3. Pictures

  4. Text

  5. Link (external links make people leave Facebook, and Facebook really don’t like that)

The top tip from Vin Clancy for Facebook: get the most likes, comments, and shares you can in the first 10 minutes of the post. By doing so, the Facebook algorithm is most likely to think something is about to go viral and will start to show it to more people. To create this type of engagement, have friends, colleagues, and members of your family ready to engage with your post as soon as you publish it.

“Get the most likes, comments, and shares in the first 10 minutes of the post”. - Vin Clancy

Starting a Facebook group is also recommended for growing your community. It is the best place to interact with your customers, receive feedback and get the pulse on their needs.

Instagram and the power of hashtags

People are not only looking at pictures on Instagram. They also use hashtags to find stuff that they are interested in. You can add up to 15-20 hashtags related to your field or products each time you post a picture. To do this, drop a comment under your post and add your hashtags there.

To learn more about Instagram hashtag strategies, check out the 2018 New Rules for Instagram Hashtags by Later, a marketing platform for Instagram.

You may not see the result of using hashtags right away. But with time, your posts will rank better for your selected hashtags, which means more visibility and more followers. As for Facebook, apply the same principle of getting the most likes and comments within the first 10 minutes.

According to Vin, the type of pictures that get the most traction on Instagram relate to FOOD, FITNESS, and LUXURY. Keep this in mind when creating content to promote your urban agriculture project and products.

The image of rubber boots in manure or dirty hands full of compost may appeal to some hardcore idealists about urban farming​ but might repel average city dwellers.

Understand the lifestyle of your customers or potential customers. Then, creating attractive content involving food, fitness, and luxury should not be difficult, especially in the field of urban agriculture. Doing so would grow your audience, but would most likely provide you with a wider range of potential customers, ready to buy your products.

Don’t forget the stories on Instagram. They contribute to add a personalized approach to engagement.

Twitter: Yes it’s Still Alive

Twitter could be particularly useful if you like to attend or follow conferences and events related to your niche (e.g., food-tech, urban agriculture, urban farming, local food systems, etc.). You could use these events to find or connect with influencers in your field and expand your audience.

The way you will use Twitter will be different than how you use other platforms. Use it to engage one on one. It could be by tagging a person or business you’d like to engage with, in your tweets.

While attending an event, make sure to tweet about it. Always add the event hashtag to get a larger reach. Twitter is also a great tool to use for contacting a speaker you would like to meet when you’re attending an event. You can actually tweet and engage with people at an event without being physically there.

I personally tried all the above with Twitter and it works!

Automate Your Social Media

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Of course, managing many social media platforms every day could be quite challenging, especially with everything else you have to do! Fortunately, you can get help with that. One of the best tools recommended by Vin is Jarvee.

Jarvee is an all in one automated solution to manage your social media. It helps to maximize the use of social media for your business or project for relatively little time investment. Jarvee is like having an army of social media coordinators working for you. It can schedule your updates on all platforms, grow your accounts and engage with your followers.

“Jarvee is the black magic of social media”. - Vin Clancy

All you have to do is create your brand and quality content, Jarvee will do the rest.

Final Things to Remember When Trying Growth Hacking

You may want to check first if the content you’re about to post worth sharing. To get a better idea, Vin proposed to use Buzzsumo to assess the type of content that performs the best in your niche.

Remember, use social media aggressively and consistently.

Do everything that is allowed, but don’t push too far.

Be advised that most people may say no to you.

Keep in mind that all you really need is 1000 true fans to get your business going.

This sums up the main points I retained from Vin Clancy’s latest talk in Montreal. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. Vin presented about 50 growth hacking techniques during his talk, which was a bit too much to summarize in one blog article.

Feel free to Learn more about him and his services if you want to give a complete try to growth hacking.

RakeAround is a free e-commerce platform that facilitates the sale and purchase of urban agriculture products, grown by and for people living in the same city or neighborhood.

To learn more, read our article How to sell Homegrown Produce on RakeAround

Ready to sell online? Click on the link below.

Start your own project now!


About the author
Dominique Bernier

Dominique is the co-founder of RakeAround. For him, demographic trends, the democratization of technology and the personalization of food will shape food systems of the 21st century.