The practice of social distancing has become more widespread in recent weeks and farms should be looking for new and innovative ways to reach their customers. Though for the time being you may not be physically connected with your customers, it is important to realize that your customer base is still available, albeit remotely, and consuming more online content than ever before. With children home from school, and some out of work, people of all ages are turning to the internet for entertainment, education, and a welcome relief from the constant media updates. Now more than ever is a great time to share the joys of your farm and alpacas through virtual farm tours.
Museums and zoos have long understood the value of offering virtual tours. They offer the opportunity to visit, be inspired, and educated from the comfort of the home or classroom. A virtual tour becomes feasible for someone unable to visit due to distance, finances, or physical ability. Farms, and alpaca farms in particular, are now offering similar experiences. Remember: your efforts to go virtual can have a big impact!
|A Virtual Farm Tour can drive more business to your e-commerce store|
Why go virtual? Two reasons: to make lasting connections with potential customers and community, and drive business to your e-commerce store. A virtual farm tour can give your customers the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at your farm, see your animals, and the work that goes into the service you provide. Now more than ever, we need to stress the importance of supporting small businesses. A good virtual tour, like a good farm tour, is a call to action to purchase your products. Take the time to reinforce your brand identity, and give virtual visitors avenues to purchase your products. By giving a behind the scenes look into your everyday life as an alpaca farmer, you are sharing the story behind your business and products, which is what customers are looking for more and more. Done well, a virtual tour can highlight the value of your product without becoming a sales pitch.
|What is a Virtual Farm Tour?|
A Virtual farm tour can be as simple as still photos with text, a live stream of your barn or field, or it can be an extensive learning experience. Good virtual tours are typically educational in nature, and have clear audio and visuals. If possible, they are geared towards a particular age group to ensure the content is relevant to viewers. Many tours are hosted on YouTube or social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Even something as simple as using Instagram Stories to document your day is a great way to start. Instagram Story Highlights gives you the ability to leave a story permanently on your profile. Additionally, a tour hosted on your personal website has the added bonus of getting visitors to “visit” your page longer and enjoy other activities (like free coloring pages), increasing the chance of making a sale!
|What are some Examples?|
-Put the viewer literally in the shoes of a visitor at your farms, as Maine Alpaca Experience does in their 2-part Farm Tour. (Above)
-Understand your potential audience and give a straightforward informational tour. The information you provide can be catered towards a particular age group, as these dairy farm tours are for either Elementary-aged children or High school-aged children.
-Use a high-quality camera to livestream from your barn or pasture with textual updates such as in this Farm Sanctuary Live Stream.
|What do you need to begin doing Virtual Farm Tours?|
The equipment you need will vary depending on the type of virtual tour you hope to provide. For all formats you will need a website or social media page to host the tour on.
• A smartphone camera is all you need to get started to share video on social media
• Upgrade your video with a DSLR camera (which is also great for product photography!)
• Regardless, make sure your video is well-lit and your audio is clear
• Have fun by adding GoPro or Drone footage!
• A smartphone camera or digital camera
• Text descriptions explain photos in lieu of audio/video
• A camera that records live video/audio (like a Nest Cam)
• A good computer and internet connection (Here are some tips for setting up a wildlife camera)
|Where could Virtual Farm Tours go in the future?
As mentioned previously, institutions like zoos and museums are already ahead of the curve when it comes to virtual tour experiences. You can take a trip back in time at the Amano Precolumbian Textile Museum to see alpaca artifacts or check out the Naked Mole Rat cam at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Increasingly, these institutions also provide 3D virtual tours through sites like Google Arts & Culture. Not only can you click through various institutions as if you were using “street view” on Google Maps, combining this experience with a Virtual Reality headset can make it feel as if you were almost there! While nothing can replace the experience of being on the farm, we are certainly embarking into uncharted territory!
|A Sound Investment|
Over the past few years, we have watched alpaca farms adapt and thrive as you’ve created new agritourism ventures to compete against mass produced big box retailers. We’ve witnessed as you’ve expanded your small businesses into new markets and continue to educate your local communities on all things alpaca. Virtual tours may seem odd and foreign, especially when the nature of producing and selling alpaca goods is such a tactile business, but they’re one way of continuing to share your farm, alpacas, and goods with your local community. Taking some time to break up someone’s day with the cuteness and charisma of alpacas on the farm not only gives you good karma points, it will likely translate into a growing community and support for your farm and business in the future!
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