New Survey Finds Extensive Web Use Among Cotton Growers

By Bob West

Among the many different agricultural audiences served by Meister Media, the cotton growers across the United States are the ones whose internet activity is least understood. Our Cotton Grower magazine set out to answer many of these questions with the 2014 Cotton Grower Internet Use Study, conducted in February 2014.

The survey was conducted electronically, so the growers had to already have an email address to participate (which makes this survey more about the internet use of those growers who are online). The survey collected responses from more than 160 cotton growers from across the country, and results bore many similarities to similar surveys conducted by Meister Media of fruit and vegetable growers, ag retailers and greenhouse growers. But some key differences also arose regarding which cotton growers are online and what they’re doing when they go there.

 

Who are they?

Companies selling to cotton growers know this is not a young group, a fact that leads many marketers to believe they can’t be reached online. That’s partially true – the average age of this group is 61 years old and just 12% are under the age of 35. They’re not young.

But cotton growers are definitely online, as illustrated by the chart below.

 

Industry

%   Spending at least 30 minutes online per day

Ag retailers

76%

Cotton growers

72%

Fruit & vegetable growers

59%

 

Nearly one-third of cotton growers report spending at least one hour online per day for work, with the average cotton grower plugged in for 48 minutes daily.

Adding further value to this group is that cotton growers found tend to be larger operations – they planted an average of nearly 800 acres in 2013 and nearly one-third of them planted more than 1,000 acres.

Just like anyone else with an email address, cotton growers are leery of receiving more email. But, they really mean they don’t want more worthless email. More than 50% of these growers told us they would be interested in receiving emails about weed control, cotton seed or sales and marketing.

Here’s what they don’t want, however – an invitation to be your ‘friend’ or follow you. Cotton growers engage with social media much less often than our other ag audiences. Nearly 40% of the growers noted they don’t use social media at all, and another 35% only use it for personal reasons. (The approximately 25% of cotton growers using social media for work do so primarily to network with other growers.)

Cotton growers do watch online video for work, though. In fact, more than 57% note that they watch video at least once a week for work, with production advice and sales and marketing being the most interesting topics.

 

How & why do they get online?

Like any other web users, cotton growers generally start their web activity with a search. More than two-thirds of respondents identified a search engine as their first stop online, while only 13% go directly to supplier websites.

These growers go online for information that will help their business. The most common areas of interest for them are equipment information (sought out by 72% of respondents), industry trends / news (67%), general business news (57%) and seed / variety information (51%).

 

Are cotton growers a mobile audience?

Cotton Grower magazine’s website receives more traffic from mobile devices than any other Meister Media website, so we know these growers get online via phones and tablets. The survey data reinforces that – more than 80% report having smartphones and more than 44% report having a tablet, which are higher numbers than seen in other ag markets. Slightly more than 55% of respondents note that they use their mobile device more often than they use their laptop, which is also higher than reported in other industries and likely a result of how much time cotton growers spend in the field.

The No. 1 reason for using their mobile device? Checking the weather, of course, as nearly 94% of growers do so. Texting (89%), emailing (83%) and web browsing (74%) also prompt much of the growers’ mobile online activity.

 

What does this mean for a marketer?

The most obvious conclusion from this research is the value of marketing digitally to reach cotton growers. More cotton growers get online than many people think, and these growers are there for ideas, solutions and products that will help their business. Other takeaways for marketers include:

  1. Cotton growers are open to receiving email communication IF it has value to them. Want to email them about your new product or boasting of new research? That’s okay, but you’re more likely to engaging cotton growers by sending them a case study profiling a grower’s use of that product or real tips from the field telling them how to effectively use your product.
  2. Grab and iPhone and an iPad and check out your website. The growers use those devices to visit your site, so be sure you’re site delivers a good experience for mobile visitors.
  3. Search matters, too. Roughly two-thirds of cotton growers start their online activity with a search. Your site simply has to be optimized for search (this includes being filled with as much content as possible) and you should consider at least experimenting with buying search words to see how they can help boost your traffic.

The author is Director of Interactive Sales for Meister Media. Contact him at 440-602-9129 or bwest@meistermedia.com for further information on this survey or reaching cotton growers digitally.

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