To advertise its mission and products, City Farm's only means of online communication was its website, a brochure site hosted through the Resource Center. They had virtually no other online platforms. In order to help City Farm gain more exposure and connect with more people interested in local foods and sustainable agriculture, we decided to set up social media accounts in Facebook and Twitter for City Farm. Through these platforms, City Farm would be able to communicate with Chicagoans who might be interested in shopping and/or volunteering at the farm, and these tools also will provide City Farm with a way to connect with similar organizations in the city.
We selected Facebook and Twitter because these tools are free and easy to use, have low barriers to entry, and provide the ability to post information quickly. In addition, users' general familiarity with these services (particularly Facebook) meant that employees would likely feel comfortable with using them immediately. Another key point is that both services offer ways to track engagement - through number of fans/followers, number of comments/replies and, in the case of Facebook, through insights that provide demographic information.
Each service also offers specific individual strengths: Facebook gives City Farm the ability to post a variety of types of media (including photos and video) and, for the more advanced user, create sections that will function much like a full website - which will be especially useful until their official website is completed. While not as robust in that sense, Twitter is especially good for interacting with community members, thus giving a real voice to the business and enabling mass messaging about simple, quick topics (e.g. "we have extra food to give away!").
Within just a few weeks, we developed active Facebook and Twitter pages for City Farm and garnered a large number of "likes" and followers (more so than many similar accounts that existed longer). City Farm has a mission that many people want to connect with, which helped generate connections in these two platforms. Many other organizations and people are already having a conversation about ideas related to City Farm, and by joining that conversation, City Farm provided people with a place to get involved. The members of the social networking team also have built these types of platforms, and they used their skills to build a strong social media presence. Through careful maintenance and updates, which will be facilitated by the social networking guide produced by them and provided to the client, these accounts can continue to grow and provide an attentive (and free) audience and resource.