Beating the faceless giants: Learn from the small brands killing it in social…

Let’s face it — food has always been inherently social, and now, social media is an essential part of succeeding as a food business today. For the Social Media Week edition of the #FoodMob, Alison Battisby, founder of AvocadoSocial picked the brains of two of the hotest food entrepreneurs on how social media shaped the trajectory of their business. Is there more to social than selfie competitions?

The uses for social media go far beyond a traditional form of marketing & it seems that a lot of brands don’t have marketing on their minds when they start their social channels. On the contrary, Mallow and Marsh told us about how they used social media for their initial market research, while Doisy & Dam said social media was a must for their crowdfunding success. As for the role of strategy & content calendars, while Seven underscored the importance of this for bigger brands, both Doisy and Mallow said that their strategies were organically evolving rather than carefully crafted.

Do not however get the impression that they are constantly winging it. Both brands had a very clear idea of which channels to focus on — mostly Twitter for Mallow and Marsh, both Twitter and Instagram for Doisy & Dam — and most of all, a basic understanding of who their customers were. After all, knowing who you’re talking to is integral when you want to have a conversation, and social is all about engaging in the conversation.

Doisy & Dam started with a more carefully crafted aesthetic — with those colourful looking choc bars and creative customers ready to snap a photo of the next bar, Mallow and Marsh noted that their customers were not your typical Instagram #foodie, therefore user generated content plays a much smaller role in their day to day. Lucy Ferguson of Seven touched base on the superfan phenomenon as a boost to any brand. The superfan has turned into an outlet that brands are championing around… After all, you can never underestimate the social power of a tea fan tattooing the newest flavour of tea and sharing it on Twitter, can you?

So, what about measuring success then? All our panelists agree on tracking engagement over follower count, particularly in the early days. As a good note to self, measuring ROI in terms of actual sales is quite a tricky business. However, all our founders mentioned they saw sales spikes after hours of social engagement when they were starting out.

Despite the difference in audience, they both agreed one area that is not to be underestimated is the importance of genuinely interacting with your customer, and the value of using your social channels to respond to customers swiftly and honestly. Bots are a no go zone — or at the very least, not in the early days. Spending some time getting to know your customer will help you to then pass on that knowledge when you are able to hire a bigger team. What to do if the conversation turns sour? Take the conversation offline asap, according to Lucy from Seven. Half the battle of dealing with complaints on social is won by simply engaging, and usually, you’re able to turn someone who wasn’t a fan of your brand, into an active consumer.

In the words of Ed from Doisy & Dam, use online complaints as an opportunity to ‘surprise and delight’. Any complaints of product imperfections were used by the brand as opportunities to communicate the fact that both the bars and the marshmellows were hand-made, giving an inside look of the business to the customer. As a fool proof plan, always always replace a faulty product, even if the fault is in the eye of the beholder.

But what happens if you end up posting inappropriate photos, or accidentally cursing on social media? Ed from Doisy & Dam is an accidental victim of this — and he advised that honesty is once again the best policy. Admit the mistake you made, and move on. At the end of the day, it will only show to your consumers that you’re human.

Which brings us to our next point. One of the disadvantages of being a brand in social is being faceless. Fortunately for independent businesses, showing the team’s face & brand story resonates with users. This is not only a huge win against corporate entities and their budgets, but also an opportunity to create a stronger following.

Above all, the strongest recommendation taken from the evening was — DIY. That’s right — do your social media yourself, because there are always insights to be gained. Don’t stress — you can always automate certain tasks once you’ve grown the following and go for it. At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple. As Harriet from @MallowandMarsh puts it: “if you don’t know what to say, you can always ask your followers… and as with any new business, mistakes are to be made”.

6 Key Takeaways

  1. Know your audience — How old are they? Are they foodies? Or just people who like to eat healthy or unique foods? Or are they more of an average Joe? The internet is full of such a broad range of people, so keep this in mind.
  2. Build relationships first — Quality — not quantity. Engagement is way more important than your follower count. Specially if you are ealry days and want to perfect your product.
  3. Don’t be a Megaphone —Be relatable. Listen and engage.
  4. Don’t try to do everything everywhere. Focus on the social media channels that are right for your audience and for your business. Where does your audience hang out? What do you want out of your conversations. Facebook may have over a billion users, but its expensive also, and you might not find your customers there.
  5. Repurpose your content — People haven’t always seen what you post… Don’t waste content that you’ve made to remain unseen… Retweet, regram, and repost away!
  6. Keep sane, optimise scheduling — Not that we can nail it down to one equation but scheduling + conversation + trending research = #winning.

And 2 things we’re looking forward to…

  • Doisy & Dam new maple, toasted rice & pink salt bar! Talk about #fallflavours.
  • Picking up Mallow & Marsh in every Starbucks.

Keep up to date with them on Twitter: Mallow & Marsh, Doisy & Dam, AvocadoSocial, Seven.

For more info on their journeys or to buy their products (a little promotional info doesn’t kill anyone) follow:

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