Posting, Pinning & Tweeting images of our food online has become a staple part of our digital diet. Food is the topic of many online conversations and provides interesting, colourful and tasty content for readers. Are small and medium-sized (SME) food producers using these social media platforms to the fullest of their potential? In this article we will explore some key points SME food businesses need to keep in mind when using social media strategically.
Social media is a cost-effective way of directly connecting with consumers on a daily basis. It can be used as a communication tool, marketing tool and can even be utilised for market research and customer service purposes. While some might think the idea of openness and daily contact with consumers is a bit tough to swallow, the benefits outweigh the risks. Having your brand out there for all to judge encourages both positive and negative feedback. Receiving critique is normal, it is how a business deals with this critique that really matters. By successfully utilising social media, SMEs are building communities around their brands, and building stronger and longer lasting relationships with their consumers. The link goes beyond brand to consumer and stretches to peer to peer engagement, encouraging a conversation and concrete brand recognition.
The potential audience within any of the popular social media platforms is attractive for every SME food business. Facebook has a huge community of over 1,550 million monthly active users (MAUs) and is considered a must use for many businesses. Instagram, the photo-sharing app has over 400 million MAUs and can be an ideal location for photography savvy entrepreneurs in the food sector in particular. Twitter with over 320 million MAUs is great for direct conversations and can be used as a customer service tool while LinkedIn with over 100 million MAUs is a professional network where you can create a business page and upload company updates and successes.
One of the newcomers to the social media world is Snapchat. With over 200 million MAUs Snapchat is another way for businesses to allow consumers in to their world. Snapchat could be described as having a younger user base but it should not be underestimated. Of course the platform used depends on the target audience you want to reach? You need to work out where they are hanging out and go meet them there.
When setting out your social media strategy you must first create goals and strive to reach them. One way of doing this is to use the SMART approach, meaning your goals should all be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Don’t just say you are going to increase followers, set a target like 100 new followers by the end of the year.
Next you need to carry out an audit of your current social media use. Have you already got accounts set up? What platforms should be utilised to suit your brand and work out who is going to be in control of these accounts going forward. It is a good idea to create a living inventory outlining the platforms you have, who manages them, what their current status is, how many followers you already have etc. that can change with your strategy as you scale your business, and remember that it is okay to decide that an account needs to be deleted altogether.
Now it’s time to get some inspiration. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Check out what your competitors are doing online. Take inspiration from your followers. Look to market leaders and learn from them. And finally, it is important to evaluate your strategy every couple of months. Make sure that the time you are spending online is spent productively on posts and updates that best represent your business. While setting up these accounts is free, the time you spend is precious so use it well!
Content is Key
When posting online it is vital to remember to stay on point. Work out what your customers are responding to and give them more of that. Knowing what content to share online can be just as important as knowing what not to share. Keep your personal views separate from your business profile. Just because someone likes your products doesn’t mean they follow the same football team or have the same views on political topics. Keep it light, keep it on topic and keep it professional.
Engage your followers
For example, if you are developing a new product you can bring your followers along on the journey with you. Engage them and make them part of the story. You can even request for them to be part of your market research activities, send them some samples and request feedback. Consumers who connect with a brand can see it as part of their identity, let it be and welcome them into your world.
Discuss your business now
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Richardson, Brendan (2013) Tribal Marketing, Tribal Branding. Uk: Palgrave
Macmillan Dahlen M, Lange F, Smith T (2010) Marketing Communications: A Brand Narrative Approach