I recently sat down with my client Dr. Sarah Taber, author and content creator of the podcast “Farm to Taber.” Her Twitter handle is @SarahTaber_bww. Taber is a food safety auditor, ag-tech nerd, and subject-matter expert on America’s agricultural system.
Taber provides an insider perspective on the industry that isn’t seen often in regular news reporting. Taber is part of a new style of business.
She uses Twitter threads to discuss often controversial industry topics with other industry professionals, the media, and the general public. But far from using Twitter as a “shock jock” or promotion for her brand, the social-media platform is the bread and butter of her business model. Taber is not in marketing. She is a serial entrepreneur with a startup caviar business, a consulting firm, a podcast, and a book proposal.
Taber is focused on efforts to improve and directly contribute to best practices in indoor farming. She originally developed the podcast series to educate would-be farm and food entrepreneurs on basic best practices before they get started.
Too often, she found she was being called in to help clean up preventable messes in her consulting practice. With an ounce of prevention as her goal, Taber determined that there was a market for her expertise — one that also provided education to the general public, and could generate a revenue stream that didn’t depend on intensive travel. Her tone for both the podcasts and Twitter is direct — her wordplay exceptional. Surprising to Taber — and part of a growing trend in social-media enterprise — was how much more business she generated with her Twitter account than the actual podcast itself.
In December 2018, Taber received serious engagement from thousands, including a comment from Twitter itself, on a Twitter thread explaining aquaculture, ocean stability, and algae farming featuring bite size information transposed with pictures of Jason Momoa (the titular star of “Aquaman”). Her followers appreciate her mature, humor-filled, and educational approach.
When asked why she used Jason Momoa to teach about green technology, she quoted prominent Youtuber Contrapoints: “The internet is not ancient Athens — it’s Rome. We’re not in the forum [debating the issues of the day] — we’re in the circus.” By making good information funny, accessible, and fun to read, Taber directly converted that and other threads into publications, additional paid work, and exposure and leads for others featured in her social media.
“Twitter threads that take off tend to be the ones that come from the heart,” Taber says. The concept of growing one’s business through Twitter is that of “edu-tainment.” She likes Marvel action movies and identified with a guardian of the ocean archetype. The success of the thread wasn’t luck; it reflected how well she used the tool of Twitter.
Content creators like Dr. Taber derive direct revenue from her podcast audience. Twitter posts generate revenue by directing clients and consumers to the Farm to Taber podcast and boosts her monthly Patreon revenues. Patreon is a direct-pay system where content consumers can financially support content creators. It works the same as a donation via Paypal or Venmo, with some creators adding new or expanded content behind an up-charge paywall.
Taber’s goal is to call attention to industry gaps and help everyone- from ag-tech investors to laypeople- gain a grounded understanding. They find her and hire her through Twitter. But why do both Twitter and podcasts if Twitter is such a business engine? Taber describes the benefits of podcast development for a subject-matter expert. “Media that you have to read is more expensive to consume, and podcasts are audible, easy to listen to. Podcasts are more enduring than Twitter. Podcasts are more monetizable than Twitter. And video is way more work and investment, so I’m not set up for that yet.”
Taber has been strategic in using the tools that work for her mission. She intends to make her business by changing the way industry does business. One of her major focus areas is where industry needs to provide leadership.
“There is all this marketing out here teaching you to think that it’s your job to fix the world with your shopping cart. It’s got us tying ourselves in knots as consumers. There is a lot of anxiety about our duty as shoppers, and the truth is there’s only so much that shopping can really accomplish …. it’s important for industry to do right, not just tell a pretty story about doing it right.”
Taber started a recent Twitter thread on the parallel between the emotional attachment people have with stuff based on the Marie Kondo method of letting things go in order to build a better environment for people, and the connections she sees in reluctance or outright hostility to innovation through evidence-based agriculture.
Social media has been perceived by business as either a leisure activity or a marketing tool. Large and small corporations grasp the power a champion or influencer wields in selling products through lifestyle branding. However, when we examine how news media tracks tweets and solicits engagement from Twitter followers, we start to understand that far from a dying platform, Twitter is the face of a new marketplace for business growth.
Instead of banning office workers from social media or using it solely as a megaphone to shout out the next press release, consider the 261 million potential clients worldwide looking for knowledge and engagement. Business is learning to master the communication skill methodology for effective social media. It has been slow to grasp the evidence that this new marketplace has 69 million U.S.–based eager and, once authentic trust is built, loyal customers — and the majority of what “sells” in this sphere is expertise.
At the end of the day, Dr. Taber is a professional working to educate her clients on how to provide a healthy, sustainable food system through ethical labor practices and consumer safety. She uses Twitter and the Farm to Taber podcast series to grow her business and share her expertise on the agricultural industry.
Taber brings 20 years of experience in the sustainable and conventional agriculture business, throughout the U.S. and internationally. You can reach her through LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-taber-0103b827/ and at https://www.farmtotaber.com.
article published in the BJNN on March 22, 2019
By Hanah Ehrenreich, a business advisor at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Onondaga Community College. Contact her at email@example.com