Ontarians showing apple love online

Ontario apple in an orchardFacing a bumper crop after last year’s weather disaster, the Ontario Apple Growers (OAG) knew they needed to Ontarians to eat more apples than ever before.

To do so, they needed more consumer awareness, so the organization turned to social media to reach out.

A series of contests hosted on their Facebook page over the fall and winter months, along with recipes, blog posts, grower profiles and other apple tidbits, drew plenty of entries and apple-friendly chatter.

The online outreach has been successful at expanding OAG’s online presence, boosting their Facebook “likes” from 89 in September 2013 to over 7600 by early May 2014.

Their followers on Twitter, which was used to promote the contest along with Facebook ads, have risen to more than 800 during the same time.

“Given last year’s crop disaster, we wanted to let people know we were back and we had lots of apples this year. We also wanted to build our social media channels and expand our online presence,” explains Kelly Ciceran, OAG’s General Manager. “Visually, apples and apple picking resonates with consumers so we wanted to capture that and with all the online options available now, it just made sense for us to work with something visual.”

For example, the “Apple of your Eye” photo contest was open during the month of October.

Consumers were invited to post their best apple-themed shots on OAG’s Facebook page and then encourage their friends and family to vote for their photo by “liking” it.

The five photos with the most likes at the end of the month were selected as finalists and were then turned over to a panel of apple growers and industry representatives for final judging.

The winning photo was submitted by Joanne Houle of Brampton, who received a $500 gift card to Henry’s, a well-known supplier of photography supplies, as the grand prize.

The top five finalists each received a box of Ontario Ambrosia apples. All contest entries are available for viewing online on OAG’s Pinterest account at http://www.pinterest.com/ontarioapples/apple-of-your-eye-photo-competition/.

“For example, we used Facebook ads in October to spread the word about our Facebook page and our contest and we reached over 465,000 people that way,” says Ciceran. “Social media is now a significant part of our marketing plan as it lets us reach a lot of people for a reasonable amount money compared to putting an ad in a newspaper and a magazine.”

The OAG worked with MacGregor Marketing Communications in Burlington to develop and execute the contest.

The firm also designed their new website, which launched last fall and features specialized sections for grower, consumer and trade audiences.

Note: an earlier version of this article was originally published in Ontario Farmer.

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