People who can remember the days before social media or even the internet may recall magazines that were chocked full of articles about diets and food. In those days, periodicals featured new foods every month people were eating. The decision to print these kinds of articles came from the top down and involved editors trying to gauge the public’s opinion and figuring out what people wanted to read about.
Social media does not involve staff or editors trying to figure out what people are eating but is made of content generated and shared by readers and consumers. The fact that somebody can try a product or experiment with a new recipe and immediately share the results with thousands of people online has come a long way from the typical article in a food magazine. Social media has changed the way we eat and relate to food in a number of ways. As a result, food companies are trying new methods to market their products that will capture the attention of the public.
Food is Inherently Shareable
It’s likely your mother told you that if you didn’t bring enough candy for everyone you shouldn’t eat it front of people. Fortunately, it is much easier to share a virtual food item on social media than it is a nearly empty bag of jellybeans. Since everyone eats and there are people looking for new ways to shop for, prepare and present food, it is not surprising that a post about food tends to be shared. Articles about the health benefits of certain foods are inherently interesting to people who want to adhere to certain diets. Videos demonstrating recipes have frequently gone viral.
Social Media and Branding
Food companies are benefiting from the social media revolution to raise awareness about their brands, to provide reviews and share news stories. HamptonCreek made the news a few years ago when Unilever, the owner of the Hellmann’s real mayonnaise brand, filed a lawsuit over Hampton Creek’s use of the word “mayo” for its Just Mayo product. Unilever said that Hampton Creek should not use the word “mayo” for a product that contains no eggs. However, since much of the public is interested in healthy eating and finding vegan alternatives to regular foods, the publicity that could’ve been negative actually turned out to be a positive for Hampton Creek, and the publicity raised awareness about its products.
Like many other food companies, Hampton Creek has a diversified approach to social media. There is a promotional video on its website communicating its brand philosophy, and on YouTube, social media influencers review its products. There are also demonstration videos for quick and easy recipes using its products as ingredients. Hampton Creek is one example of how a food company has used content on social media to generate interest in its products and to promote awareness about its brand.
There is no doubt that social media has a profound influence on choices people make and the way they live, and that is one reason that people who are prominent on social media are called influencers. The food trends that used to be publicized in magazines and newspapers and were adopted by many people were often called food crazes or food fads. Nowadays, people can change the way they eat and live based on direct communication with other people on social media and not just on monthly articles they read and newspapers or magazines. Social media provides a platform for people to communicate about their food preferences and to discuss innovative approaches to eating. People don’t simply adopt a certain kind of diet and try to stick with it in the privacy of their own homes, but can start Facebook groups and forums to discuss their challenges in sticking to a diet or ways to prepare food. Discussions on social media can also influence a shop owner’s decision to stock shelves with certain items or to stop selling others.
Social media has certainly changed the way we live, and it is inevitable that it also has an influence on the way we eat. People can now share their experiences shopping for, preparing and eating food directly on social media and can get ideas for new ways to relate to food. People have adopted new diets and lifestyles based on things trending on Facebook and Twitter. Food companies need social media to promote their products and create discussions among consumers.