Social Media for Food Brands: How to Serve Up Results on Every Channel

Sep 28, 2020

If one industry upped its Michelin star count this year, it’s food and beverage. While 2020 has not been without its challenges for those in the comestibles business (especially the dine-in restaurant variety), many brands have enjoyed heightened sales from an influx of stockpilers, snackers, and kitchen connoisseurs with extra time on their hands. That said, competition has also been extremely fierce, and the added heat in the kitchen has made social media for food brands an absolute must. From Instagram to YouTube and everything in between, explore the best food marketing campaigns across channels and what you can learn from them.


Prioritize Pinterest

For brands in the food and beverage industry that are focused on packaged goods, Pinterest should be top priority when it comes to social strategy. Because the channel offers images, video, and a huge community of foodies looking for the perfect meal, it’s an ideal place to showcase products in creative ways. The best food brands on Pinterest know the recipe for success is a healthy mix of boards, plus created and saved pins. Marketers using Pinterest have a unique opportunity to go beyond the standard advertisement and offer interactive lifestyle content social media users won’t find on any other channel.

Pinners can easily discover what they’re looking for through categorized boards (seasonal recipes, branded campaigns, and more), save their favorites for later, and share what they’ve made with your product. The “add photo” button is a notable feature for food brands on Pinterest—Pinners can publicly upload photos directly to pins of products or recipes they’ve tried so others can see their results. Want to generate brand affinity, trust, and interest? Pinterest is the space to do it. And leveraging Dash Hudson’s Pinterest Insights means you can drive traffic and increase ROI by gaining a deep understanding of the metrics and content that converts.

McCormick



Spice manufacturer McCormick uses Pinterest to show consumers where their products come from and what they can do with them. The brand leverages both photos and videos to capture Pinners browsing for their next meal, and offers boards full of recipes enriched by spices from mains to side dishes and desserts. Visually speaking, the images are highly branded, often featuring a mix of text, logos, and product shots overlaying lifestyle imagery to give audiences the full picture of what they offer and how to best use it. The approach has won McCormick over 350k followers and 10 million+ monthly views.

Green Giant



Green Giant’s signature shade is a staple across its Pinterest feed. Equal parts product shots and recipes, the brand’s boards are a tribute to the power of vegetables and their many uses. Fans love the “Veggie Swap-Ins™,” “Holiday Traditions,” and “No Oven Needed” boards that highlight simple hacks to turn Green Giant products into family-friendly meals for every occasion. Innovative animations and video help the brand’s Pins stand out on an otherwise static feed and draw Pinners to their logo-filled profile.

Invest in Instagram

90% of guests research a restaurant before they dine, which means a strong digital presence is crucial to IRL sales. In the fast food world, Instagram offers unparalleled access to a wide range of demographics—especially millennials, who happen to be the highest percentage of online food delivery users worldwide. A visual-first strategy is paramount to stopping Instagram users mid-scroll, but captions to match are the extra seasoning that takes your content to five-star territory.

Because the Instagram algorithm heavily favors content with a lot of interaction, the best fast food marketing campaigns are the ones that encourage audience engagement. Focus on content that takes fans to the comments or has them re-sharing on their profiles. This is where Dash Hudson’s Instagram Insights really come in handy—you can understand your historic performance across KPIs, segment content with Boards to get granular with your unique pillars, and predict what your audience will engage with most before you even post it.

Taco Bell



Thanks to social media, Taco Bell has grown from a Mexican-inspired food chain to a bonafide cultural phenomenon. Spawning a line of taco merch, a wine, and even its own hotel, the brand has a phenomenal understanding of how to grow a following. Instagram is the centerpiece of the brand’s social marketing strategy, and a hub for bringing its community together to “Live Más”. The social team makes sure to share a diverse mix of content styles, including glossy product shots, graphic illustrations, and user-generated content with the #AtHomeWithTacoBell hashtag. It’s 1.4 million followers are a testament to the brand’s digital efforts.

Wendy's


No other food brand has mastered the art of the meme quite like Wendy’s. The brand has built a cult following of over 1 million Instagram users with impressive engagement (hovering around +15-20% above the industry average). Instead of aspirational, inspirational, or educational, Wendy’s posts are pure humour, setting itself apart from competitors and winning over a slew of millennial and Gen Z fans in the process. Lesson learned here: understanding your audience and carving your own chicken path is core to climbing the Instagram ladder.

Demonstrate on YouTube

According to Google Trends, the search term “how to make whipped coffee” is up 850%, and 18 on the list of top “how-to” terms Americans searched on YouTube in the last year. The video-only channel seems to be top choice for food-based publishers who want to capitalize on the teachable opportunities the channel provides. As one of the longest-running social networks to date, YouTube boasts 2 billion users who are eager to learn the latest food hacks, cooking tips, and recipes in an easily consumed video format. In fact, it has the highest global site traffic (8.6 billion monthly visits), with 77% of 15-35 year-old internet users in the US visiting the channel, as well as 73% of 36-45 year olds, 70% of 46-55 year olds, and 65% in the 56+ range. Savvy businesses in the food and beverage industry have taken notice.

Bon Appetit


It would be remiss to talk about food brands on YouTube without mentioning the OGs on the Bon Appetit social team. The channel’s main personalities have become stars in their own right, even inspiring meme accounts based on their favorite content. Showing off the power of a good palate, beloved chefs like Claire Saffitz, Chris Morocco, Brad Leone, and more, cook everything from restaurant classics to grocery store staples that inspire their legion of 6 million subscribers to whip out the aprons at home. Regular series and episodes, much like a traditional television channel, seem to be Bon Appetit’s secret sauce for consistently racking up millions of views.

NYT Cooking


NYT Cooking’s YouTube channel is almost strictly recipe videos, with a few conversations and kitchen tours in between, and it’s a formula that works well for them. The brand offers content in a variety of different formats, including “how to make” videos, personal recipes from chefs and celebrities, and number-based topics like “2 ways to cook tofu” or “10 kitchen must-haves.” When it comes to YouTube success, length can make or break viewership—and the NYT Cooking team gets it right by offering short-form, mid-length, and long-form content ranging from 2-45 minutes. Clickable titles, digestible content, and a focus on easing the process of at-home cooking has the channel on its way to a healthy helping of followers.

Connect with Twitter

Short and sweet—the experience of eating a chocolate bar, and also the perfect approach to Twitter content. A high volume of short, quippy tweets has proved an effective strategy for top food brands on Twitter, a different technique to most other social channels but valuable nonetheless. It’s important to understand that Twitter users aren’t slowly scrolling in the same way other social users do. This is a fast-paced atmosphere and the content has to keep up in order to get noticed. Success on the channel requires time and dedication, but food marketing professionals who can play the long game will ultimately find major brand awareness and community connection on a silver platter.

Pepsi



Veteran soft drink brand Pepsi has been a staple on Twitter since 2008 and maintains a solid presence on the channel more than 10 years later. Decked out in the brand’s iconic blue, red, and white, the feed is perfect for establishing and reinforcing brand identity while focusing content around culture rather than products. Fans enjoy the self-professed “hot takes,” especially in the realm of sports, and engage with a variety of CTAs including polls and hashtag challenges like #PepsiStaycation. At 2.9 million followers, the strategy is clearly working.

Lay's



Touted as America’s favorite snack for the last 75 years, chip king Lay’s has spent more than a decade of that time tweeting itself into the hearts of social media users. The brand loves to share a mix of playful text posts and CTAs in between traditional advertising content, including high-quality campaign images and videos, to keep followers engaged. The #SmileWithLays campaign in particular is an effective tool to both spread the good word about its products and the message of hope and positivity its community needs in challenging times.

Take a Chance on TikTok

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: TikTok is the door to Gen Z, and your social strategy is the key. While the channel is still relatively young, it’s quickly becoming a top-downloaded app around the world and a must-do for marketers in the food and beverage industry. Instead of the glossy, polished content shared on a channel like Pinterest, TikTok is a space for lo-fi, high-energy creative that speaks to the channel’s fun, laid-back culture. Discovery is its best asset—brands have a chance to go from the For You page to viral fame by leveraging channel-specific, community-focused features.

Chipotle

@chipotle

Reply to @i.b.profane did you miss me? ##chipotle ##carneasada ##recipe ##cooking ##fyp

♬ original sound - Chipotle

Oh, Chipotle. If any food brand was going to hit it big on TikTok, it was going to be this one. Taking the “Less Tok, More Guac” approach as its bio describes, Chipotle immediately leaned into TikTok culture and never looked back. 1.3 million followers and 21.3 million likes later, it’s evident the move to the channel paid off. When it comes to content, it’s all about the trends, songs, and UGC that puts the spotlight on its fans. A recent carne asada announcement incorporating a comment from a follower snagged 2 million views in less than a week.

Sabra

@sabra

Pizza and hummus, best combo, furreal. @dougthepug ##sabra ##sabrahummus ##vegan ##plantbased ##howihummus

♬ Who Let The Dogs Out - Baha Men

In a society on the brink of divide, hummus might just be the thing to bring us together—and vegan-friendly Sabra is here to lead the way. Touting top TikTok influencers including Tabitha Brown and Brittany Broski, the brand’s feed is a masterclass in sponsored content that fans can genuinely get behind. Throw in cute dogs, hummus art, plus a Cheeto-Dorito-Big Game crossover, and you could be on your way to fostering world peace (or, at the very least, a solid serving of brand awareness to a competitively untapped audience).

Cross-Channel Campaigns: The Icing on the Cake

Sometimes you need to cover a number of demographics at once, and that means leveraging all the tools in your kit to reach them. Dash Hudson’s Scheduler allows you to set and forget your posts for Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, with a post duplication functionality that makes cross-channel scheduling a breeze. Enjoy a host of tools to streamline the content selection process for channels like TikTok and Amazon—leaving you time to focus on crushing your creative and tracking the metrics that matter. When it comes to social media for food brands, that’s something we can raise a glass to.


Header image: @tacobell


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Haley Durkee

Content Marketing Manager at Dash Hudson.