Everything But the Writing: Preparing Social Media Savvy Posts


By Gina Iliopoulos

Is an audience necessary in telling our stories? Would we write them anyway even if no one was listening? In today’s world of social media the value of the written word is often judged by how much engagement it generates from an audience. In other words who’s reading what you’re writing? When we’re gearing our words to drive engagement our hope is to reach as many people as possible. How do we do this?

Members of the online public look to leaders in the community. As garden communicators if we can connect with them and garner their support we will expand our reach dramatically. So now it’s getting a little more complicated. We’re not just writing. We’re connecting on multiple levels with both those we wish to educate and those from whom we learn. How do we do this without going crazy?

You’ve probably heard of search engine optimization. This involves using keywords and phrases on your webpages for search engines to find. Then when interested readers are searching online they find information that you have posted. Hashtags work in a similar manner with social media sites, giving readers specific phrases and topics to search for.

smartphone-userLet’s start with keywords. I’m sure off the top of our heads we can think of dozens of words associated with gardens, the environment, and the natural world that we often use. But consider choosing a select group of words to use repeatedly in your posts to draw people to your site. By creating a pool of words you can choose from you need not re-create the process with every article or blog post.

Having a list of common keywords is a good start. But some posts will have very specific keywords applicable only to the immediate discussion, a specific plant, garden technique, location, or event for example. The goal is to choose words that directly connect readers with your work.

For example, let’s say you are doing a series on colorful shade perennials. “Shade” and “perennial” are keywords for every article in the series. Then individual articles will have unique keywords or phrases based on details unique to each article, like “Ascot Rainbow spurge” and “Euphorbia,” or “Citronelle coral bells” and “Heuchera.”

The process doesn’t end with your blog post or article. How do you promote your work? If you publish a link on Facebook, throw a picture up on Instagram, or tweet out your most recent release then hashtags come into play. When you include hashtags you’re providing clues for your readers about your content. For example, let’s say you’ve done an article about a recent seminar. You might choose to include #learnedalot or a similar hashtag, something you use every time you report on an educational event. Readers connecting with you see that hashtag and know there’s new information to be excited about.

These are just a few simple steps to get you started. Once you get used to the basics you’ll want to search for the best keywords, hashtags, and online communities that match your goals. These are all steps to build your presence and perceived expertise – specific actions for specific social media outlets. Beyond that there are the analytics that tell you who is responding to your stories.

There are many ways to learn more from experts on social media. Social Media Examiner (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/) is a great resource. It addresses questions and concepts you may have as a beginner or an avid user. You can also subscribe for regular emails that carry a broad range of information. Check out their “Getting Started’ page for details.

So where are you in this process? Do you have your key words identified and some custom hashtags you use? We are all her e working together as garden communicators to make a difference. Share with us some of your savvy tips in the comments. I know I would love to hear what others are doing. #thanksGWA


Meet the Author:

gina-iliopoulos-fallGina Iliopoulis first won national exposure through her work as the Midwest Gardeniere, one of a group of selected spokespersons for Miracle-Gro and The Home Depot. This role took her across the country to events, satellite media tours and an HGTV commercial series.

With her passion for and knowledge of horticultural, Gina then launched a social media program for one of the largest design/build firms in the landscape industry. Staying at the forefront of technology, Gina now works with GreenMark Public Relations (http://greenmarkpr.com/) offering a unique, progressive approach to building an online presence.



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By Steve Moore

I began my career as a nursery/landscape buyer in the early 1980’s. One of my first impressions after being promoted to this position was, to borrow a famous cliché, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” I was suddenly responsible for stocking three thriving retail operations in the Houston, Texas area and a landscape division complete with multiple architects on staff.

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Calloway’s employees help their customers achieve success in their garden, no matter what size

I had worked for many years in our retail division, so I had a nodding acquaintance with many of our suppliers. But buying large-size trees and shrubs and thousands of ground covers was something that I had to learn, and quickly. Luckily, all of the suppliers had been long-established by my predecessor so I just had to follow through with the orders in place. This gave me an opportunity to get to know them and to learn how they might assist on future projects.

As time marched on, we closed our landscape division and concentrated on our retail stores. Then the owner sold the company to Calloway’s, a group of retail garden centers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Five years later I found myself moving to the North Texas area to carry on my work in our corporate office. Now I was responsible for buying products for 19 stores in two very different geographic areas. Luckily there was an established team of merchandisers that assisted me as I got my feet on the ground.

Probably the most harrowing experience that I had as a buyer was during the Christmas Holiday of 1983. I was on vacation visiting family in Northern Oklahoma when I learned that the temperature in Houston had dropped to 14°F on Christmas Eve. That freeze devastated the landscape in much of Texas. Lawns were killed. Historic live oaks were damaged or killed. And worse yet, most all of the plant products we had procured for the coming Spring, 1984 season had been killed or damaged.

In response to the crisis I returned home immediately and boarded a flight to the West

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These bougainvillea’s were started in Georgia two years before they go on sale in Texas

Coast to procure replacement products for our stores. My immediate action paid off. The steps that I and a colleague from our wholesale division took in response to the catastrophic weather event provided one of the best years in our company’s history.

Throughout my retail experience I often found myself as the person who helped identify plants and problems for our stores and our customers and offered solutions. This was made more complex as internet communication became common. I rarely got to actually see the plant or problem firsthand. I found myself relying on photos or mere verbal descriptions passed over the phone or via email. When faced with an opportunity to catch the issue ahead of time, I always asked for photos of the “patient” and where possible a photo or description of its surroundings and sun exposure.

Garden retailers are often faced with the assumption from our customers that new and

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Diagnosing customers’ plant problems can be a real challenge to retailers

interesting plants can be ordered and delivered right away, as if they existed in some magical warehouse. The reality is that with each introduction of a new variety it must be sourced from a supplier in a production form, such as a rooted liner, a cutting, or a seed. Then that plant must be planted and grown out by a grower who is confident that they can produce it successfully. All of this must be planned well in advance of the need to allow time for the plants to reach mature, retail-ready size and quality. Most annuals can be finished in 4-5 months depending on the variety, a fairly short time frame. In the case of shrubs, this often requires up to two years. For trees it takes at least 4-5 years depending on the sizes.

In the nursery business, there are no two days that are repetitious; no two weeks that are carbon copies of each other. The weather can be both friend and foe. Rising to these challenges keeps nursery buyers like me active and looking for the next opportunity.

Meet the Author:

moore-headshotSteve Moore is an Assistant Buyer at Calloway’s Nursery in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where his experiences have been wide and varied. Over his 30 plus year career he has dealt with buying plants, working with landscapers and retailers, and serving as a liaison to the media and advertising staff. He has a BS and MS in Agriculture from Texas A&M University.

GWA Atlanta: Finding What I Was Looking For

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By Carol Michel

When I was asked to write a blog post about my experiences and impressions of this year’s GWA: The Association of Garden Communicators conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I answered, “Sure, happy to do so.”

Then came the time to write the post, just a week following the conference after-tours that took us to Athens, Georgia. What was my impression? Continue reading “GWA Atlanta: Finding What I Was Looking For”

#GWA2016 in Atlanta

By Ann McCormick

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I’m just back from the GWA Atlanta Conference and I’m still feeling the buzz. My days-and nights-with all my GWA buddies were filled with great information, valuable contacts, and lots of encouragement to continue getting the word out about how wonderful it is to garden. It is impossible to tell you everything I learned there. My To Do notes from the conference fill five pages. Instead I’ll just give you a taste in photos of my time in Atlanta.

Continue reading “#GWA2016 in Atlanta”

Dirty Secrets: Gardeners Share Their Tips and Tricks for Hauling Plants Home

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By Kathy Jentz

A reader of Washington Gardener (http://www.washingtongardener.com/) recently asked me to share ideas on hauling landscaping home, I rarely have a car-full myself these days as my garden is mature now. So I asked several fellow gardener communicators to share with me how they get their plants home with minimum damage to their vehicles and their green passengers. With GWA Atlanta on the horizon, those who live within driving distance may find these ideas helpful. Continue reading “Dirty Secrets: Gardeners Share Their Tips and Tricks for Hauling Plants Home”

Talking Trees With Davey


By Katie Elzer-Peters

I am deeply suspicious of anyone with a bucket truck and a chainsaw. That translates into a fear of anyone getting near any of my trees. My eyes were opened and I felt a renewed sense of trust after talking with R. J. Laverne, Manager of Education and Training for Davey Tree. He is responsible for training all of the arborists that pick up a pruning device in the name of the company. His credentials are ironclad. On the academic side R. J.’s background includes degrees in Biology, Forestry, and a Master’s degree in Remote Sensing. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Urban Planning at Cleveland State University. R. J. is also a Board Certified Master Arborist (ISA), a Registered Consulting Arborist (ASCA), and a member on the Advisory Board for the School Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.

R.J. and I chatted for almost an hour about the way Davey takes care of trees and the broader ecosystem in which they grow. He began by outlining the Davey philosophy. “What we really focus on here at Davey is not only taking a scientific approach to tree care and landscape maintenance but also a broader understanding of how what we do on each individual landscape affects the overall environment of that community, region, state, or country.” Continue reading “Talking Trees With Davey”

NextGen Summit: New Routes to Horticulture

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By Cheval Force Opp

NextGen – what the heck is NextGen? This is the question that LastGen’s like me had attending the Region II NextGen Summit. Organizer Brienne Gluvna Arthur, green diva and author of The Foodscape Revolution helped us answer that question and more by luring some of the NextGen voices in this rising horticulture wave to spend a day with us exploring new ideas.

The summit began with a presentation by Longwood Graduate Program Coordinator Brian Trader. He introduced us to Longwood’s support of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) “Seed Your Future” initiative. This multi-year effort is planned to combat declining awareness of horticulture among U.S. audiences and promote horticulture as a vital and viable career path for the nation’s youth. Continue reading “NextGen Summit: New Routes to Horticulture”