Social media is a powerful marketing tool for a small rural business. It allows our small flower farm bring our story to the world at limited cost, apart from our time and creativity.

It gives us a platform to share our story and bring consumers onto our little patch of ground in Co Wexford. By simply utilising the power of the camera on our mobile phones, we can show potential customers the ups and downs of growing beautiful fresh flowers on the slopes of Tara Hill.

Telling our story allows us to differentiate our product from mass produced, industrial scale flowers that we can never match on price. We don’t try to, as we serve different markets – they can never match our product for freshness, authenticity or provenance.

We are only one year in operation but already social media is a great platform for engagement with a loyal group of customers. They follow our updates closely, comment regularly and love to see what is going on here at Tara Hill.

It is also a fact that, no matter how good their social media team are, a large corporate organisation will always struggle to match the personality and genuine insights of a small owner-operated business. Having one person acting as CEO, Financial Controller, Purchasing Director, Weed picker and Social Media Manager has its advantages! Friends have suggested that we should use scheduled posts, HootSuite and other tools, but to date we prefer to just post from the flower field, polytunnel or couch and see what happens!

Rather than take on too many platforms, we focus on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All three have their advantages, but Facebook is where we get most traction and, to date, orders. Over the coming months when we have plenty of fresh flowers available, we plan to invest in some targeted advertising to build our customer base. We can then promote seasonal offers such as Christmas or Easter wreaths to this group.

This blog, the first in a series, is another key step in that journey. A regular e-zine is also on the to-do list.

In recent months, our special offers posted on social media were picked up by a few national newspapers. This was essentially free advertising, but required some thought and creativity in putting together an appealing offer. We didn’t have fresh flowers for Valentine’s Day, but we put together an interesting offer that captured some attention and helped build our audience.

For us, it is important to be authentic and true to ourselves. We do all the posts ourselves and only post images of flowers grown here on the farm. “The truth will always out” and if you don’t have honesty and integrity, what do you have?

Last summer, as we tip toed into the market and started posting online, a pattern emerged. A midweek post showing a fresh bouquet would prompt a series of direct messages and one-to-one engagements that culminated in orders for weekend bouquets. Stripe, PayPal and Revolut entered our everyday world.

While it was gave us a great insight into our customers, this route to market involved a significant time commitment to handle one-to-one sales transactions. It was also clear that many customers wanted to funnel directly through from social media to a website that would securely and seamlessly process their order.

Thankfully, we got support from Wexford Local Enterprise Office (LEO) to build a website to do just that. It took quite a lot of time and effort, but with a good local provider, XXX, it was completed quite painlessly. The key to success here was not to try to take on too much – it needed to simply and clearly tell our story and process transactions – no more, no less. We think it works, but you can judge for yourself by checking out www.tarahillflowers.ie