Social media is a powerful tool at the disposal of every company in the world. Now, from the comfort of our offices, we can reach people all over the country, continent and planet if you so desire.
Social media is more than a promotional tool. It's a platform that can influence people's eating habits. How often have you scrolled through Instagram to end up craving a juicy burger or a monster-sized ice cream?
But how can social media be used to promote healthy eating and better decisions when it comes to diet? A US study discovered that more than half of people aged between 14 and 24 became familiar with the term 'clean eating' through social media.
Social media can help increase brand recognition and improve engagement levels between companies, their customers and the target audience. This influence over users is powerful. It is not only a way to promote certain foods but can be used by food-based companies to showcase their values, educate customers, and even attract new ones.
Showcase your ethical partnerships
The great thing about social media is that it allows people to see a different side to your business that they would otherwise miss out on; the people behind the corporation. Companies can inject some personality into their communications but also share events, moments and actions they are proud of.
Sourcing ethically in the food industry has been a big issue for many years. The more knowledgeable people become about the social impact of supply chains, the more we will find ourselves being held accountable. Ethical consumerism might start in the grocery store, but social media can be a powerful way to share and showcase your ethical partnerships.
Help customers find the information about your socially-responsible partnerships and supply chain they are looking for through visual posts that show precisely who and where your ethical partnerships are or collaborative posts to help increase the reach of both brands. For example, you could create a visually striking image where you visit the farmer who grows your produce with shots of you together, the produce and their farm. Want to collaborate? Tag the producer in the image and make it easy to share by sending them all the information they need.
Social proof - nothing says it better than someone else
People expect companies to toot their own horns. After all, if they won't do it, then who will? But, if you find that your customers are praising your efforts, whether that be commenting on how fresh your food tastes or celebrating your ethical supply chain methods, then sharing that through social media is an effective way to increase brand recognition, promote endorsement and engage with your brands online community in a very organic way,
Testimonials are an effective social and digital marketing strategy. They act as social proof because they add weight to your claims when backed up by multiple customers through genuine reviews. For example, a company Facebook listing with over 100,000 likes or followers will automatically create more trust than one with just a few hundred.
Today, many people don't like to make a purchasing decision without first reading reviews from those who have used the business's goods or services before. In a recent study, 84% of people said they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend.
The rise in artificial intelligence and tools like ChatGPT that mimic human responses are making the 'truth and trust' elements that validate online content even more important. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on your business's social media pages, website and Google Business Profile to improve trust in your brand and social responsibility. When it comes to building social proof, nothing will beat authentic validations that have come from real people.
So make sure you keep a keen eye out for brand mentions and display hashtags and social handles in-store or on packaging so customers know how to get their content recognised.
Sharing a consistent message
There is a danger of overdoing it when it comes to showcasing the positive changes you are making through your practices and supply chain. Boasting too much about your ethical choices' social impact can come across as disingenuous if it's overbearing or pushy.
Instead, it's worthwhile creating a social media marketing strategy that puts out positive information in a timely manner. Whether that's a monthly post highlighting a particular issue you are helping to overcome or showing support for wider social issues, it's important to be visible but not come across as though you are taking advantage to make yourself look better.
Blogging is also particularly useful
Many companies have a blog on their website, and it is a simple way to offer insights into how your company works, plus a platform for thought leadership which further boosts trust in your brand. When it comes to showcasing your ethical practices, blogging is particularly useful for going into more detail.
Whether that's showcasing the changes your partnership with local farmers has made or providing insights into the differences you have noticed switching your suppliers. Consider going one step further and showing members of your leadership team on video to help humanise your company and win trust in your processes and your values.
Be open about your supply chain
As customers become more savvy and knowledgeable about ethical food supply chains, a lack of information can throw up a red flag about where you source your ingredients from. It is better to be honest and open about your supply chain, especially if it is something to be proud of.
An absence of information can make it seem like there is something to hide, so use your social media channels wisely to inform customers about the positive choices you make regarding your suppliers. This is particularly useful when questions are raised publicly on social media platforms, as you have the perfect opportunity to respond quickly and openly about the issues raised.
For example, you can come back with how you are preventing food waste, from improved transportation and storage to finding alternative uses for offcuts. You can also funnel them to your company's ethical policy from your social media page to help the information become as visible as possible.
Advocate for change
Today it is important that people feel the values of the brands they buy align with their own. That can mean advocating for change through social media posts, partnering with non-profit organisations and actively taking part in events.
Voting with your feet in the food industry means making the choices you are publicly supporting, such as using suppliers that pay workers fairly, aren't supporting wars in crisis-hit countries and are growing produce sustainably.
Annie Button is a freelance writer based in the UK. She specialises in business development, digital marketing trends, sustainability, hospitality and HR. Annie writes for a variety of prestigious online and print publications.