Social media is a powerful tool to connect with consumers
“I don’t really like being on camera that much. It’s kind of awkward for me, but I know that people value seeing us as ranchers and seeing what we do. Consumers want to see the people and the families behind the brand.”
That’s one of the many tips that Arlie Reeves gave Wagyu breeders during a workshop on social media marketing during the recent World Wagyu Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Reeves, with Bar R Wagyu near Pullman, Wash., was joined by Colby Carpenter with 22 Wagyu at Jackson, Wyo. The two young Wagyu breeders represent the next generation of ranchers, a generation that’s tech savvy and able to use that technology to its full advantage.
“Social media is a free form of marketing at the base level,” Reeves said, which is primarily a tool to drive people to their websites, “which everyone in this day and age must have,” both she and Carpenter stressed.
Pointing out the power that social media can have, Carpenter told the crowd that he sold his first bull from his first bull crop through social media to a rancher in California. “He bought the bull and a heifer the same day I posted them. That was verifying how useful social media can be. It takes a lot to develop that and a lot of time, but it’s worth it in the end.”
However, while that sale wasn’t a fluke, it’s not the main use of social media for both Reeves and Carpenter. Both use social media to help sell Wagyu beef directly to consumers as well as using those platforms to tell their story. “Most of my posts are more oriented toward education around ranching and allowing folks to see into our life and provide transparency,” Reeves said.
Perhaps the easiest way to grow a following is to start posting and letting the algorithms in each platform help. Carpenter posts two to three times a week, “which includes videos, photos and reels, which are videos on Instagram, and then keeping your audience engaged.”
Or you can spend a little money to develop an audience. “You can post on Instagram and then pay for it to be promoted in a specific market, to a specific audience or across a broad range of algorithm-chosen-by Instagram people,” he said. “That can attract followers to you. You can invest a little bit in it and get people to your page to start with, and they’ll start flowing in.”
And it doesn’t need to be time consuming. “It could take 5 minutes, where you’re sorting cows and you take a quick video and upload it real quick, with three clicks and a description,” Carpenter said. Or you can invest more time, take more professional photos and video, edit those and then post them throughout the week. But the end game is to build your audience, build your brand and develop your own identity, he said.
Reeves takes the video-as-you-go approach. “I tend to capture most everything I put on social media on my iPhone,” she said. “I take a lot of pictures and a lot of videos. Then, usually at the end of the day, I’ll look through those and see what’s worthy to post and I post on Facebook, TikTok and Instagram mostly, and do a quick caption.” She estimates that she spends about five hours a week on social media.
For many ranchers, the fear of exposing themselves to animal rights activists is a major speed bump in adopting social media. For Reeves and Carpenter, however, that hasn’t been a big problem.
“We’re all bound to come across that at some point if we put ourselves out there,” Reeves said, “but I’ll just delete the comment. If someone’s being aggressive or writing very bad things, I might block them.” By and large, however, Reeves said she doesn’t get many of those comments, and gets fewer now than when she first started posting on social media.
Carpenter agreed. “I did in the beginning, in my first two years of doing stuff, but I would either hide the comment or delete the comment and not worry about it. From then on, I haven’t gotten any flak from anybody that’s an animal activist.”
However, they stressed that it’s important to be careful. “I’ve been more careful about putting our address out there,” Reeves said. She admitted that anyone can find the ranch if they look hard enough, “but I definitely have made it a little bit more difficult to find where we are. If people ask where we’re from, I’ll give a general area, but I’m more careful about that now.”
The other concern is scammers finding your contact information. The best way to protect yourself is to use social media to drive people to a website, Carpenter said. There, people can click on the “contact us” link and send a message. “But there’s no phone numbers that they can just click and call and scam you.” Reeves advised Wagyu breeders to be careful anytime they’re online. “There’s a lot more danger out there that, if you’re not really tech-savvy, is easier to fall for.”
Beyond that, she stressed that if you’re selling anything online, get paid upfront. “You shouldn’t send someone a beef box and expect to get a check in the mail next week, if you don’t know them.”
In the end, especially for seedstock producers or those selling beef directly to consumers, being on social media is a critical if not essential activity.
“It’s important to develop your own identity and your own branding, and posting what you want and showing what you want to show of your operation,” Carpenter said, “and not feeling pressured to show things that other people are showing and doing. Just be yourself and do your thing, and that’s what will attract the right people, the people you want to be your customers and clients and ultimately buy your product.”

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