By David Walker

It’s fair to say that the best food and drink social media marketing campaigns make their audiences hungry for more – but that shouldn’t just be in the tummy-rumbling sense.

Ambitious food and beverage brands increasingly need to tap into a hunger for great content, particularly so when you consider the scale of opportunity that now exists. Some 208 million Instagram users have posted the hashtag #food since 2010, and there are many more staggering examples.

Let’s face it, when it comes to grub, we Brits are all in. We’re a greedy, highly suggestible lot, easily tempted down the wrong dietary routes by images and aromas of the treats that we love.

We drive past billboards emblazoned with indulgent snacks at 50 times their normal size, or watch a colleague devouring a delicious-looking lunch, and immediately want it for ourselves.

Nevertheless, the ability to make an audience feel hungry should be just the tip of the lovingly drizzled, tastefully arranged artisan iceberg lettuce.

Enduring emotional response

We can be better than that – and frankly, if food and drink brands can’t make their products look good on social media, then they should quit altogether.

There’s much more to a good social media strategy than just making people hungry through blatant, mouth-watering food porn.

Social channels should create an enduring emotional response. They should convey an immediate sense of what it’s like to enjoy a food and beverage brand’s products, yes, but also invite users into a unique world with many benefits. 

A strong social media presence should reach out with interesting, interactive content that genuinely engages target audiences and invites them to get meaningfully involved. It should be a call to action, something as simple as a “pick your favourite flavour” poll gets people engaged.

Too often brands are seen as faceless entities that are remote from their audiences. People want to connect with individuals rather than corporate behemoths, and social media marketing offers the perfect way to do that.

The benefits of this person-to-person approach are clear – your brand becomes humanised and softened, while an opportunity is created to market yourself directly and singularly to potential customers who are already interested in what you do.

Marketing and communications strategy

Too often considered a time-consuming effort with not enough pay-off, instead social media channels should be considered a key part of the food and drink marketing and communications strategy – an extension of your business that’s just as important as your window display, billboard advertising or reputation.

Social media has the power to quickly convert curious observers into committed brand ambassadors.

Of course, positive and literal word of mouth remains vital to the fortunes of food and beverage brands – no amount of slick marketing can replace your best friend saying, ”Try this, it’s a party in your mouth” – but perceptions are changing and social media is democratising content like never before.

It’s helping to make products real and authentic. It’s presenting a mirror reflecting back exactly what your audience looks like and how it consumes your products.

Furthermore, social media is increasingly placing the consumer at the heart of the experience – think of Tesco’s “Food Love Stories” campaign with recipes from members of the public that invite you to “read the stories behind the ingredients”.

These sidestep the implausibly perfect dishes that were once unveiled by grinning celebs in transparently fake family scenarios, and replace them with attainable, simple recipes that can be quickly rustled up by the average Joe or Joan. Such campaigns have the further benefit of encouraging other would-be amateur chefs to get involved and share their concoctions online.

Social media insights

Let’s not forget that social media marketing offers significant opportunity for extremely targeted campaigns based on interests, demographics, geography and more. That means products being precisely aimed at the most likely buyers rather than mass targeting which inevitably falls short. Social media offers true money-can’t-buy insights.

So where do we go from here? The next logical step for food and beverage brands is the leveraging of big data which will allow each to better understand when its target audience should be reached out to. After all, timing can be everything in terms of predicting when buyer behaviours are most likely to occur.

That’s not to say that food and beverage brands should eschew spontaneity – reacting in a natural way and participating in organic online discussions makes your social presence far more credible and welcoming to new users. It’s just such an approach that has significantly helped the likes of Ella Mills and Joe Wicks to harness a huge online following.

If you’re hungry for social media success, then now might well be the time to emulate the successes of others, ramp up your presence, and start better understanding your audience.

We are the food and drink marketing and PR experts. To find out how we can boost your brand, call 0800 612 9890.