Social Media and Food: The Perfect Pair?

The power of the social media community is immense, with consumers quickly disseminating information and starting and following trends and movements. So for food and beverage brands, learning to listen and understand the inevitable tides of change is crucial.

While I can't speak on behalf of everyone, when I log into my social media accounts (specifically Facebook and Twitter), my pages are abuzz with conversations and photos surrounding the food and beverage world.

Yes, I am an associate editor for a Food Manufacturing magazine, but I'm talking about my personal accounts. Just this morning, for example, I was bogged down with tweets about a recent dog food recall, my friend's review of a new seasonal local beer, some photos of #NationalVegetarianWeek and countless other stories surrounding the food, beverage and restaurant industries.

So it didn't surprise me when, after analyzing an extensive social data report just released by Brandwatch, more than 32 percent of all brand mentions on Twitter centered around the food and beverage industry.

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Brandwatch, a leading social intelligence company based in the UK, collected and analyzed more than 2.5 million social media mentions and found that nearly one-third of the UK brand mentions revolved around some sort of food, drink or restaurant item. 

What does this tell me? Huge opportunities exist for businesses (not just in the UK, but worldwide) in this industry to leverage social media data. Get your messages out there, because people are listening!

Some of the key findings of the report were pretty interesting. For example, when it comes to the U.S., alcohol (no matter the vast variety) is of preference.

The U.S. and its love of alcohol:

  • Colorado was the leader in liquor talk, with whiskey leading the conversations in that specific alcohol type. Louisiana was second in liquor discussions.
  • The Midwest favors its beers (being a Wisconsin gal, I can attest to that!). When it comes to Twitter conversations, a majority of the beer discussions are in Illinois, while Vermont (touting its many craft beers), was a strong second in beer talk.
  • Not quite a surprise, but California led the wine discussion on Twitter. (Gotta love all those vineyards!)
  • Liquor and beer conversations deviated above and below the national averages immensely. But discussions of wine didn't really deviate much throughout the 50 states.

​Restaurants are leading the way in social index:

  • Despite some weak net sentiment scores, Burger King led this brand index with high scores in social visibility, reach growth and social engagement.
  • Of the factors that were analyzed, a high social engagement score seemed to be the metric that best determined the overall brand conversation leadership on both Twitter and Facebook.
  • The brand leaders by factor included: Taco Bell (social visibility), 7up (sentiment), TGI Fridays (reach growth) and Red Lobster (social engagement).

"Today's consumers are becoming more passionate and knowledgeable about what they eat and drink," said James Lovejoy, content researcher at Brandwatch. 

Consumers feel empowered through social media, as they now have a way to share their ideas, opinions and concerns faster than ever before. Lovejoy said the research helped to show that the course of the restaurant, food and beverage industries may be determined and documented in the daily conversations on social media.

But as any social media whiz can tell you, not all conversations surrounding food and beverage brands is positive. In fact, much of it is negative. A recall? A bad review on a new beer? Poor service at a new restaurant? You can pretty much bet that those details will also end up online.

While brand social responsiveness is a key opportunity for companies to engage with their critics and reassure fans, the report showed that brands did not respond to the majority of tagged complaints (or even praise) on Twitter. This is when users tag a company, like @mention, through the brand's Twitter handle.

And when negative comments were directed specifically at a company, but were left untagged, brands responded to none of those conversations.

But chain restaurants (think Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Taco Bell, etc.) performed far better than any other sector at responding on Twitter, reacting to nearly half (46 percent) of negative tagged tweets and 38 percent of tagged praise. 

So, which types of restaurants, food and beverage brands are leading the conversations?

According to the findings, quick service restaurants, including McDonald's, Burger King and Subway, account for more than half of the Twitter discussions when broken down by sector. And chain restaraunts, like Applebee's or Nando's, were found to be the second most discussed, with those brands owning 20 percent of the conversation, closely followed by beverage brands.

When it comes to the beverage industry, the brand battle is as old as time itself, and in the study we saw Coke leading with 36 percent share of voice, while it's iconic counterpart Pepsi trailing behind with 14 percent dominance of the conversation.

The power of the social media community is immense, with consumers quickly disseminating information and starting and following trends and movements.

"For brands, listening, understanding and reacting to the inevitable tides of change will be crucial," Lovejoy said.

About the research:

The Brandwatch social media listening and analytics platform was used to monitor and analyze over 1 million conversations around 50 of the top restaurant, food and beverage brands, as well as discussions regarding specific types of alcohol consumption. The sample of social data collected is designed to be an effective representation of the larger social conversation around each category. The social data analyzed in the development of this report is from January 1 through April 28, 2015.

The Restaurant, Food & Beverage Social Index ranks the performance of 50 industry-leading brands. Using a unique set of algorithms, each brand is evaluated from 0 - 100 across four categories:

  • Social Presence: Measures the amount of buzz a brand generates across social
  • Sentiment: Evaluates the net sentiment of conversation toward brands
  • Reach Growth: Measures the extent to which a brand's social presence is growing
  • Social Engagement & Content: Evaluates how effective brands are at communicating to their audience and how well their content performs

Download the free report here.

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