device showing social media apps
Updated: March 24, 2021
By Ginger S. Myers

Welcome to the Technology Tools Module!

Let's take a closer look at technology for growing your business. Businesses everywhere are beginning to incorporate smartphone, iPad, social media and digital technology into their business and marketing plans.  Agriculture and rural businesses are no different.

With this huge increase of technology use by the public, it will be important for farmers and rural businesses to have the knowledge and skills to incorporate it into their business and marketing plans.  Specific topics discussed in this web module include:

Global Positioning System (GPS) Advertising

A Revolution in Advertising with GPS

  • Location and place-based services, made possible through the use of global positioning system (GPS) devices (including both portable and in-dash car navigation systems) can be used to geographically connect potential consumers with nearby businesses.
  • When integrated with the Internet via Smartphone devices, GPS applications provide a technical bridge, linking potential (and often mobile) customers with nearby businesses and specific products.
  • Business owners are also able to target and “reach out” to potential customers through the use of virtual coupons and other marketing techniques.

The increase in use of smartphones and GPS means that rural enterprises can now market their products and services on digital databases that supply the content for consumer applications. This levels the playing field for enterprises that want to be known and found.

How to get your business listed on

Photos, Videos and Visual Storytelling

We live in a visual society where more photos are taken with cell phones than with cameras. We share photos and videos daily on programs such as You Tube and Instagram.  The Internet has provided the tools and platform for sharing visuals about your business, products, or services at a very low or no cost option with the possibility of reaching thousands of viewers. But, you need to use the appropriate media sharing tools and posting techniques to create the visual and graphic products that have will have a positive impact for your business.

There a many new multi-media applications and programs coming on-line daily that address on-line multi-media, so the material the resources and site listed here can only provide a launch pad to get you started in saving, manipulating, producing, and posting your visual promotion tools.

Explore Resources for Photos, Videos, and Visual Storytelling

QR Codes and Digital Databases

QR Codes are everywhere. You've seen the black-and-white checkered squares on everything from food packages to the pages of your favorite magazine. Similar in appearance to barcodes, QR codes (Quick Response codes) are two-dimensional bar code that can be decoded by using your smartphone with a QR code reader. Their usage has rapidly increased with the widespread adoption of mobile devices. A February 2011 survey by MGH, a marketing research company in Ocean City, Maryland, showed that most US smartphone users scan QR codes to get a coupon, discount, or deal.

QR codes are used to let customers see more information about a product, service or event.  Generally, they direct the scanning device to a URL, video, coupon, menu, or event page. Once you’ve generated and QR Scan, include it on all your marketing materials and signage.

There are two things you need to have to deal with QR codes:

  1. A mobile phone with a camera and internet connectivity
  2. A QR code Reader

QR codes don't have to be black and white. They may be configured to include your logo, farm name and colors. Best of all, it's free to obtain a QR code at numerous websites.

To design and obtain a free QR code, visit any of the following websites:

But what can quick response (QR) codes do for your operation?

QR codes make it possible for you to get people to go to your website blog, social, media page, product page, or news feeds from any location. It can bridge the gap form offline locations, such as farmers markets, to your on-line information. It can also serve as a digital business card.

Watch for QR codes to change in design and usage. In the near future, you may be able to include a QR scan in your farm promotional materials, that when scanned, plays a video of your farm or about your products.

Digital Databases – Getting Your Business Listed

Small, rural businesses (e.g.  tourism & agritourism operators, artisans, craftspeople, “mom and pop” restaurants) face many challenges, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising their products and services. Business owners may be preoccupied with ‘traditional’ forms of advertising, which include signage, yellow page advertising (‘the book’), and the dissemination of information through other print media, including magazines and newsletters.  These approaches can be expensive and do not always target intended audiences.

Applications for Devices

Got Apps?

You may have hears people talking about using an application of an app on their smart phone or other mobile device. But what is an app?  An application or an app is a web-based program used entirely within the browser and allows you to perform certain tasks. You can use apps to create documents, edit photos, receive real-time updates, listen to music, and a host of other applications ranging from finding the lowest gasoline prices in your area to upscaling your super- secret hot sauce recipe for commercial production.

Increasingly, the term “app” has been used exclusively to refer to applications and programs for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.  As more farmers, producers, and growers acquire smartphones, the variety and detail of applications has grown exponentially.  Many farmers and rural businesses are using apps that serve as seed, sprays, and soil calculators, access to current weather, marketing news and trading, ag news, ag management tools, record keeping and field mapping, and communication apps such as email and social media sites.  This list is just a sampling of  the variety of apps many entrepreneurs and rural businesses are finding useful.

This is not an exhaustive list but rather a starting place to explore apps and their potential value in operating your business.


  • Farming apps developed by Aberystwyth University for managing grazing and more, for iPhone and Android.

Social Media

Social media has seen tremendous increase in participants, advertisers, and tools for analytics in just the past two years. According to Nielsen’s Social media Report, consumers continue to spend more time on social networks than on any other category of sites—roughly 20 percent of their total time online via personal computer (PC), and 30 percent of total time online via mobile.  Additionally, total time spent on social media in the U.S. across PCs and mobile devices increased 37 percent to 121 billion minutes in July 2012, compared to 88 billion in July 2011

For example, Facebook is a world-wide phenomenon.

Social media tools have become a tremendous “Digitized Word of Mouth” marketing and communications tools due to their exponential effect of their “reach”.  But for farmers and rural entrepreneurs the question is: how to connect with the right people through social medial platforms that will benefit your farm or rural enterprise?  Consider strategically using social media platforms to (1) connect with your existing customers, (2) expand your reach with social media to potential customers, and (3) connect with the larger agriculture community and others to discuss timely issues and educate ourselves.

 Listed below are three of the most popular sites for you to explore and learn how to use to help grow your business

  1. Facebook is a social networking site for businesses, organizations and brands to share their stories and connect with people. (Wikipedia)  Quick Guide for Facebook
  2. Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as "tweets". Twitter is a public forum where anyone can read, write and share messages. (Wikipedia) Quick Guide for Twitter
  3. Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies. Users can browse other pinboards for images, 're-pin' images to their own pinboards, or 'like' photos. (Wikipedia) Quick Guide for Pinterest

Websites and Blogs


A website – one more thing to manage.  But if you plan to be in business, you better have one.  Not having an Internet presence in business is like not having a telephone.

Even if you’re not planning to sell products over the Internet, a website provides people with a window to your business.  Websites can be used to post directions, give an overview of your operation, announce upcoming events or  to advertise your products or services.

The April 2013 Retail Sales bulletin from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 10% of sales during the month happened online. In 2013, eMarketer estimates US retail ecommerce sales will total $259 billion, a 14.8% annual increase over 2012’s $225.5 billion. The longer-term outlook is also bright, with digital sales expected to increase at a 14% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017. Ecommerce sales of Food and Beverages in 2012 was  $5.8 according to the same report.

One great advantage of the Internet  is that  it’s SEARCHABLE. Can’t find Jones’ Landscaping listed in the yellow pages? Do an Internet search by topic and location and you’re sure to find dozens of landscape services, including Jones’, listed.

85% of Online shoppers used the Internet to research their offline purchases in 2012.

Help your customers find your products or farm. Create your site, keep it current, Utilize free listing services such as those listed here to get in the search path of your target audience.

Reasons for a Website:

  1. Let customers know you exist
  2. You’ll be open for business  24/7/365
  3. You can let customers know about events or product very quickly and at a very low cost.


Blogging is an effective and very cost effective marketing tool.  Your farm should blog because it’s an easy and time-effective way for you to get your story out to your customers. The word “blog” comes from the terms “web”and “log” and describes a body of text and other media published on the World Wide Web.Blogs use a narrative format.

They are user-friendly, and allow you to post information easily and immediately. Many, like Word Press, look like websites. So if money is limited and you aren’t an experienced web designer, a blog will do just fine to get started with an online presence and you can look into a website later if you need more functionality.

Successful blogs target a specific interest group, post regularly, and offer  valuable information to the viewers. Here’s an example of a blog that is hosted by the University of Maryland Extension Digital Farmer Project team:

Reasons to Blog

  1. Educate audience
  2. Serves as a record
  3. Promotes-think of your Blog as a brochure to potential customers and business associate.

Check the “Resource” section of this module for more information on website and blog designs and use as marketing tool.

Explore Resources from Technology Tools