Friday, 29 July 2011

Soft Fruit takes on Twitter (via the FPJ)

The soft-fruit category is one of the most dynamic when it comes to marketing. Anna Sbuttoni talks to Hargreaves Plants managing director Rupert Hargreaves about his move into Twitter and social media.

Why did you set up social media presence Berry Buddies?

We set up our Twitter account,@BerryBuddies, in January after we reviewed our marketing strategy and took the view that the future is all about internet marketing and social media. We engaged with a number of people and organisations to help us determine a strategy that resulted in a complete rebuild of our website and the introduction of YouTube, LinkedIn and then the social media platforms, namely Facebook and Twitter. The YouTube and LinkedIn channels have been branded under the Hargreaves Plants banner, which is of course a business-to-business company.

The “buddies” brands – @BerryBuddies and @AsparaBuddies – were developed as business-to-consumer brands and are useful tools to raise awareness of the varieties and brands that we represent globally.

What have you gained from your presence on Twitter?

We have gained a great deal from Twitter but it is a big investment in time and you need a clearly defined strategy to benefit. We would have to give credit to Carol Ford (Growing Direct Ltd), who tweets as @GrowingDirect, who helped us develop the whole brand.

Twitter is the platform to engage with the general public but also forward-thinking companies, retailers, chefs, garden writers and key business influencers.
How can the produce industry communicate better with consumers through this type of social media?

The industry can communicate much better than it currently is. We have products that are of great interest to the general public so let’s talk about it, raise awareness and engage. If you look at the statistics of people engaging not just on Twitter, but on, and through LinkedIn, they are huge. Each one of these social media outlets serves a different purpose and engages with a different sector.

Make sure you engage with social media to keep up to speed with all things new. Paper and postage is a thing of the past, too slow for the modern world.

What projects are you working on?

We are continuing to invest and build our web and social media presence. The aim is be on the first page of the Google rankings for all of our products. To help us achieve this, we have just launched 38 websites, one for each of our keys brands and varieties. These are all being interlinked to and LinkedIn. YouTube clips are being added to these as well as technical data, photographs and international contacts and partners. These are important to support the breeders that our intellectual property department represents around the world.

Which new varieties are ones to watch out for?

There are many new and exciting varieties that we are bringing to market at present, all in various stages of development. The ones of major excitement are Elegance, Portola, Finesse and Buddy strawberries; Tadmor, Chemianus, Erika raspberries; Ouchita and Reuben Natchez blackberries; Liberty and Draper blueberries, as well as Mondeo, Guelph Millennium and Early California asparagus. If you search the internet for them, you may even find they all have their own websites.

How is the soft-fruit market shaping up this year?

The soft-fruit season this year has been challenging from a weather perspective, with some areas having a more difficult season so far than others. Generally speaking though, the market is a little more confident than other years. Certainly, the development of new varieties is helping the marketplace from grower to consumer.

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