Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 | 14 min read
Food and beverage brands are some of the most lively on social media. Arby’s was quick to respond to Oscars chatter when Pharrell showed up with a hat that looked like the company’s logo. Oreo won at real-time marketing with its famous “dunk in the dark” post during the 2013 Super Bowl. And the Denny’s Tumblr has been called “the funniest thing on the Internet,” due to its wacky and whimsical posts.
That said, companies in the industry have more to offer than silliness. Many are making their mark by pioneering new social tools and reaching audiences in unexpected and innovative ways. And marketers would be wise to learn from their strategies and successes.
Let’s look at five food and beverage brands that lead in social media marketing.
In February 2016, Dunkin’ Donuts became one of the first brands to use Facebook Live. Its inaugural video took viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of the company’s test kitchen, where the culinary team made a cake of heart-shaped donuts. Engaged viewers were also invited to enter the Dunkin’ Hearts Love contest and share their story for a chance to win $10,000.
The video generated 21,000 viewers in less than 15 minutes, and viewers stuck around longer than they did with pre-recorded videos. As Dunkin’ Donuts Social Media Manager, Melanie Cohn, told Marketing Land, “It’s hard to get just three seconds of attention on video now, so we see Live as a huge driver of time spent with our content. Since you don’t know what will happen next, it keeps you watching longer.”
Dunkin’ Donuts followed this initiative with live videos for National Donut Day and Valentine’s Day 2017. The latter received 5X the views of its first Valentine’s Day video and 4X the views of its pre-recorded videos.
Facebook Live didn’t just provide an opportunity for Dunkin’ Donuts to try a new tool; it also gave the brand a chance to engage its biggest social audience. With over 14 million fans, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Facebook followers outnumber its Twitter and Instagram followers by 14X. And Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t alone in this. According to TrackMaven, food and beverage brands have the largest audiences on Facebook, with a median audience size of 1.8 million people.
The takeaway: Pull back the curtain on your brand. Dunkin’ Donuts may be a global company, but it’s powered by real people with inspiring talents and skills. Instead of guarding its baking process, it opened its doors to show consumers how their favorite treats are made. Marketers in any industry can learn from this. You don’t have to give away your secret recipe, but you can engage consumers by revealing a few of the ingredients.
In 2014, Sour Patch Kids wanted to generate awareness among teens in the US. So the company shifted some of its budget from TV and Facebook to one of the most relevant platforms among millennials and Gen-Z: Snapchat.
It even took its famous commercial motto – “First they’re sour. Then they’re sweet.” – and adapted it for the unique app. The brand launched “Real-life Sour Patch Kid,” a five-day video campaign in which influencer Logan Paul recording “sour then sweet” pranks with blue and red versions of “the Kid.”
The brand also integrated Snapchat’s video just feature just days about it launched. This allowed Logan and the mascots to have conversations with fans in real-time.
The campaign resulted in over 120,000 new Snapchat followers, millions of impressions, and 1,900 mentions on Twitter. Thanks to this shift to digital video, Sour Patch Kids even increased sales by $30 million between 2014 and 2015.
The takeaway: Understand what your audience wants. Sour Patch Kids consumers were active on Snapchat, sharing fun and high-energy content. So the brand immersed itself in the platform and became part of the conversation. Similarly, marketers should always have a clear idea of audience interests and behaviors. If your fans are watching online video more than TV, start shifting your focus. That’s what Sour Patch Kids did, and it paid off big time.
Taco Bell is often lauded for its Snapchat posts, but its success on Twitter can’t be overlooked. BuzzFeed even created a whole piece about the brand’s best tweets–and that was back in 2012. Since then, Taco Bell hasn’t slowed down one bit.
Take the #TacoEmoji campaign. In 2014, the brand started a Change.org petition for the Unicode Consortium to release an official taco emoji; they even made T-shirts for the event. After seven months and 33,000 signatures, victory was achieved and the taco emoji was revealed. But Taco Bell didn’t stop there.
To celebrate, the brand launched #TacoEmojiEngine. For this social media marketing blitz, Taco Bell invited people to tweet them with a taco emoji and another emoji. Within seconds, @TacoBell responded to each tweet with a photo or GIF that mashed up the two emojis. How did they do it so quickly? The brand created 600 original GIFs and photos in advance of the campaign.
Taco Bell doesn’t slack on its everyday tweets, either. Most include hyperbolic jokes about the importance of tacos (i.e. Taco Bell is more important than your boyfriend/girlfriend). Just look at this tweet. It’s a two-sentence text post, but it resonated with the brand’s audience. As a result, it generated over 7,000 retweets, 11,000 Likes, and some one-on-one conversations with fans.
The brand also partners with influencers to reach wider audiences. For example, Taco Bell sent some birthday swag to YouTuber Timothy DeLaGhetto, who then tweeted this image to his 550,000+ Twitter followers.
The takeaway: Own the conversation around your products. Taco Bell isn’t the only food company to sell tacos. And yet, it was the only one to create a petition for a taco emoji. Another brand could’ve taken that opportunity, but they didn’t. Marketers would be wise to follow in Taco Bell’s footsteps. Listen to what your audiences are talking about, and find new ways to lead the conversation.
The Kraft Recipes Pinterest account isn’t centered on promoting products; it’s there to help users create delicious and satisfying meals that happen to be made with Kraft Foods products. To do this, the brand runs more than 80 boards for different meals, holidays, and events. For example, the Princess Party Ideas board includes recipes for coconut snowball cake, heart-shaped marshmallow gummies, and “stained glass” cookies.
And this post for melting snowmen cookie balls stands out with over 5,800 Pins:
The brand also uses keywords to help users find its content while searching on Pinterest. The Kraft team reviews which Pins are popular each week in order to identify trends. They then use that data to optimize their content, keywords, and distribution strategies. For instance, once they saw that their recipe for mini corn dog muffins was trending, they quickly programmed it into their Kraft Recipes Food & Family newsletter.
This effort pays off. Kraft’s Pinterest account has over 572,000 followers–more than it has on Instagram and Twitter. Its Instagram content is also restricted by the small image sizes. Whereas on Pinterest, Kraft can build tips and recipes into vertically oriented graphics of many sizes. Take this one for St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Chips:
Kraft was also one of the first brands to use Pinterest’s Promoted Pins. With this tool, the company has been able to reach specific audiences based on their interests.
The takeaway: Create unique content for each platform. Pinterest is all about DIY tips, home decor, beautiful images, and, of course recipes. Kraft saw an opportunity to build custom graphics for its product-inspired meals. Similarly, marketers shouldn’t always copy and paste their content across social media. Understand each network individually and create media that fits within those parameters.
It’s tough to make yogurt appealing on social media, especially when your feeds are flooded by soda, beer, and fast food brands. But Chobani expertly uses Instagram to showcase appreciation for the healthy treat and build a community around its products.
Before Chobani even joined the platform in 2011, it saw that people were posting pictures of “artfully arranged breakfasts and cleverly smoothie concoctions.” The brand realized there was an opportunity to be part of this conversation.
Chobani now uses Instagram to share high-quality images of product-inspired meals and recipes. This strategy positions yogurt as versatile ingredient and healthy substitute in treats like chip dip and pancakes.
A post shared by Chobani (@chobani) on
The brand also invites fans to tag their own recipes with #ChoSquad and #MadeWithChobani for a chance to be featured on Chobani’s feed. Here’s one that Chobani regrammed from bakery blogger, Rachel Conners:
A post shared by Chobani (@chobani) on
Chobani recently partnered with influencers, too, in an effort to boost sales for Chobani Flip. For its #BreakYouMake campaign, Chobani tapped nine celebrities–including TV host Nick Cannon, food blogger Ana Sandee, and reality star Tori Spelling–to post about the new product. As a result, 90% of the hashtag’s most engaging posts came from influencers.
The takeaway: Take advantage of user-generated content. Instagram users were posting about Chobani before the brand even joined in. Chobani smartly saw an opportunity to showcase customer creations and build relationships. Marketers should always understand their audience’s passions and talents, and find ways to share them.
It’s not enough to show up in search results when people Google places to eat. Food and beverage brands need to use social tools to build communities of fans and be top-of-mind.
Offer a behind-the-scenes look into your kitchen. Partner with powerful influencers. Encourage your audience to share their experiences. With these tactics, you can give customers what they crave and be the first one they think of when their stomachs start to grumble.