To state it simply, we all need to eat. However, the act of eating isn’t as straightforward as it once was. It involves a complex network of factors that all figure into the journey from farm to market to fork. The use of social media platforms has added to this complexity, as it has permeated our lives in more ways than we may want to admit. While food branding has naturally undergone a series of transformations throughout time, the presence of digital advertising has drastically accelerated the rate of these changes. For instance, people no longer rely on their mother’s cookbook for recipes, instead turning to sites like Pinterest for inspiration. Similarly, rather than trying new restaurants via word of mouth, Yelp and Instagram allow a platform for restaurants to reach their customers more directly. So how else are we seeing social media’s impact on food marketing?
In terms of specific food brands, applications such as Instagram, Yelp etc. have shifted how food and beverage companies interact with their customers. Food marketing isn’t simply the task of making a product look enticing on the shelves of supermarkets. Now, brands are turning to Instagram and other online platforms to assist in the marketing of their products outside of physical markets. Whether conscious of it or not, consumers are basing their food purchasing decisions on the opinions of social media bloggers. A recent study from Deloitte reports that nearly one in three U.S. consumers are influenced by social media in their purchases, demonstrating just how significant of an impact social media has on marketing today. Food and beverage brands are now having to make the difficult task of finding a proper balance between maintaining control over their product, while recognizing the benefit of handing over some of that control to the hands of social media.
Digital Advertising has not only impacted food and beverage brands alone. Customer engagement in online platforms has also changed how restaurants choose to market themselves. Restaurants are becoming more aware of the impact that social media can have on their business, using sites like Instagram and Yelp as a free marketing resource. These sites can be perceived as both a benefit and a disadvantage to restaurants, as it offers a type of marketing that spreads at a much faster rate than some are used to. While a bad review can circulate much quicker on Yelp, so can a good review. This means that with the right social media strategy, new restaurants can build a positive reputation easier, reach a broader audience, and at a much quicker rate. There is even a whole category of “Instagram food” - which may be considered over-the-top or inauthentic to some brands. This demonstrates how something as simple as a picture or post has on marketing, allowing for new ideas, strategies and opportunities to arise.
At this moment, social media is gaining momentum in the food and beverage world and becoming even more of a part of our lives than ever before. The reason for success lies in its ability to connect people and food throughout the world by sharing pictures, reviewing restaurants, expressing critique and conveying praise. Constant connectivity by way of social media means that food and beverage brands must actively take part in the increasing sociality of food. When used correctly, social media can be an extremely valuable tool for food brands and restaurants to simultaneously market their product, as well as communicate and engage directly with their audience. Through Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, food marketing is taking on a whole different meaning. It is fascinating to track these changes in the present, and to look forward to how the relationship between social media and the marketing of food will continue to grow in the future!