Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Costa Farms Is On Twitter

Why do consumers need to know what's going on in the greenhouse/garden center? The question was posed by me by Bren (@BG_garden). This is such a fascinating question, because it seems that some greenhouses and garden centers have the same question but in reverse. Do they need to communicate with consumers? And if so, what do they need to communicate? What do you think?

There is such a huge wealth of knowledge that greenhouses/garden centers can share with the people that ultimately enjoy their products. Here's a bunch of questions they can answer for gardeners:
- I think I know what Rudbeckia hirta is, but can you confirm?
- I got this plant without and/or lost its tag. What is it?
- My plant has this weird spot/discoloring/holes - what should I do?
- There are so many petunias/geraniums/groundcovers out there - which one is for me?
- Where can I buy the plants you grow?
- Is this plant/pest control/fertilizer poisonous to my kids/pets? 

The disconnect between growers and consumers is just a shame. There are so many brilliant plantspeople in the horticulture industry with so much information to share about plants. I think it would be so awesome to connect those people with consumers. USDA Zones, media recommendations, sun/shade - imagine if all their years of experience in your region were at your fingertips. There's already a ton of information online about gardening, a lot of it is conflicting reports. How great would it be to have a personal garden concierge, willing to help you maintain success in the garden?

And on the other side, what benefit do greenhouses/garden centers enjoy when they communicate at a deeper level with their customers? So I asked one of the greenhouse operations I see reaching way out to consumers, @CostaFarms. Costa Farms is on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr - everywhere. And these services are front and center of the operation's website. So I asked Costa's Melissa Marti why.

"Through social media, you build relationships, trust, and a position of expertise," she says. "People always prefer to work with people that they know, trust and like. And even though social media is very time intenstive in the beginning, as you get up to speed, it becomes an extremely efficient use of time with regards to informing your fans, followers, etc."

And while the garden center is there to talk to and interface with the consumer, Costa says we are in a new age in which the consumer demands more from the manufacturer, in our case, the grower.

"In the age of social media, the rules have changed radically, and people today demand a more honest and direct relationship with companies with which they do business," Marti says. "To engage with our consumers, it its no longer enough to have an eMail address and customer service number on our website. Today, plant lovers want to interact with and engage with us via their chosen means of communication, whether that is Twitter, Facebook, discussion forums or blogs."

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