There’s no doubt that social media is the new way to communicate. And it may remain the preferred mode of communication for some years to come. But can you use it to improve your gardening?
Our guest blogger for today’s post is Robbie Cave. Robbie has worked in retail horticulture for his entire adult life. He uses his knowledge of plants to interact with other plant lovers on social media. Here, he talks about whether our favourite platforms can really help us improve our gardening, and how.
When I started out on my career route into horticulture, I never imagined that on my journey I would encounter an entwined junction of plants, technology, design, construction, biology, etc. A junction that I would have to learn to navigate. Over the years I travelled down many of the roads, one of which was one signposted ‘communication’. Luckily I had already started to dabble in one of the most useful modern tools in this field.
My experience of social media began with Facebook. It was an interesting distraction but nothing more for some considerable time. Obviously, social media needs as many people as possible to become…. well…. more social. So as time went on it gathered more numbers and became more valuable and interesting. I, like millions of others worldwide, became hooked. More and more ‘brands’ jumped on board the social platform and users even developed allegiances to their own favoured company.
I feel that things have moved on even further, with many people running more than one social account. I count myself amongst these folks as I operate 4-5 platforms, enjoying the nuanced methods employed by each company. In a work setting, because of my familiarity with social media at home, I recognised the power of harnessing the virtual footfall in terms of engaging with customers and, of course, advertising. As a consequence I also operate a similar amount of accounts for my business, achieving in excess of 3,000 followers.
Making friends via social media
So how can social media help improve your gardening? The easiest, and probably most apparent way is simply by increasing the amount of like-minded people who you are in regular contact with.
By following, liking and pinning people and things that have connections to gardening and horticulture, your feeds will soon fill up with interesting facts, articles and comments.
You never know, you may even get the chance to meet up with some of these people. You may even come to like them enough to call them friends. Just like the old days, when you met new people at a club or social meet.
Careful selection and editing of your network can result in a wealth of new, garden improving information.
Making ‘real world’ friends via social media
The second benefit is a knock-on from the first. As I mentioned, you can make new ‘real world’ friends. In fact, some users purely run social media accounts to communicate with existing friends. Or specifically as a way of hooking up with new folks in person.
As good as the virtual world is at conveying real information from real people, there is still a lot to be said for actually meeting people face to face. I have been on several meets. Once you have made that connection with someone they often open up to a different level of communication. You get to find out extra tips and info that they wouldn’t necessarily have revealed online.
Plus, do not forget the experiences gleamed from the places that have been allocated for your rendezvous. Often you will meet in local botanical gardens, parks, national trust properties, etc. Truly inspirational places. If you are fortunate enough to gather a small ‘clan’ of garden and plant lovers, you can often negotiate specific openings of private gardens that normally only open for special occasions.
Using social media as an encyclopedia
If you are not in the market for making more friends, if you do not wish to meet up with new people, if you are completely happy with your own company, do not worry. Social media also offers you a degree of anonymity. Most platforms offer varying levels of controls with which you can customise your online profile. You do not have to reveal anything about yourself that you do not want to reveal. But, you will still be able to benefit from the experience of becoming a social user.
If you put the work into building a circle of folks to follow, you could simply use them as a web-based question and answer encyclopaedia. Many online gardeners feel compelled to try their best to answer questions or solve problems for fellow green fingered types.
Even if you do not want to engage at all, just snoop! Simply by being a follower, you will inevitably stumble across a ‘thread’ of conversation that interests you and it may well lead to a comment that really helps you out personally.
Making discoveries on social media
Social media provides you with the ability to keep track of new and exciting developments in gardening. Many of today’s top plant breeders, garden retailers and seed purveyors choose to reveal new developments to their social followers before running physical advertising.
So, not only could you be amongst the first see a brand new plant release, but you could then be amongst the first to find out where it will be stocked. Recognising the value of this medium, these developers of new cultivars, new practices and new equipment are afforded the ability to build an online presence before their products appear in stores.
You might even be able to help one of these new pioneers create their vision via crowd funding. This is often fuelled initially by online communities.
Social media and ‘giving back’
My final point is ‘so THE point’ of social media. You could have the ability to help someone else to improve their gardening. You may not know it yet, but something that you do in your garden might prove to be the solution to a problem that another gardener is trying to solve.
Despite the bad press that often circulates, social media is altruistic. To get the most out of it, you should try, wherever possible, to give to it. I would even give this advice to business users. Constantly bombarding people with promotions or offers will not work unless they are mixed with an element of humour or a willingness to engage and help out.
Social media: What to do next
So, if you are an amateur or professional gardener, I hope this has helped you to pursue the highways of social media a little more thoroughly. The fact that you are reading this article on a social platform means that you have already been receptive to the idea.
Now try spreading your wings a bit wider. Try adding another account. Did you know that a lot of them can now be linked, so that you can spread an update across several platforms with one hit of the ‘post’ button? Remember that as individuals we cannot even begin to know everything there is to know about the things that interest us. However, as part of an enormous conglomerate of information, we have a far better chance of finding the answers to the questions we pose.
In my opinion, social media can improve your gardening. Get out there, folks. Tweet, post, pin and update your wellies off.
See you somewhere in the clouds.
Follow Robbie Cave on Twitter here: twitter.com/robbiecave1.