It’s no secret that social media marketing is fueling a new era in selling for companies of all sizes, and it’s especially true for small food and beverage makers that in the past might have spent years working just to expand locally before dreaming of anything bigger.
Early last month, the new product hall of the Summer Fancy Food Show was packed with small players that were making a name for their products and their brands more quickly than ever before.
“It’s a little bit obvious, but it helps us engage with our fans,” said Kelsey Hopping, marketing director at Cisse Trading Company. The New York-based company sells Fair Trade certified, non-GMO hot chocolate and baking mixes, and has been ramping up its use of social media marketing for the past few years.
In addition to building relationships with fans of the brand, Cisse’s pages and boards on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are increasingly becoming effective sales-building tools that give the small business the chance to reach a worldwide audience, she said.
It’s the same for Cheribundi, which makes and sells tart cherry juices drinks and teas. “Being a smaller company, we haven’t had huge budgets for our marketing. Social media has been the tool to get awareness out, it has been very influential,” said Sarah Theis, associate marketing manager.
Before social media marketing, companies like Cisse would depend largely on in-store demos and coupons to spread the word about the brand, methods that work well if slowly at the local level and are nearly impossible to pull off on a larger scale.
Social sites remove those barriers and make it possible for the smallest of food and beverage players to find customers around the country and around the world. Would-be buyers can’t taste the products right away online, but they can see pictures, get nutrition information, read testimonials, access coupons and giveaways and find out where to buy.
Both companies use different social channels to reach different audiences and to interact in different ways. For Cisse, Facebook is more of a fun space to chat with brand fans while Twitter is a place to share more serious news stories, typically about topics affecting fair trade, GMOs and other issues that are related to the brand but not necessarily directly about it, Hopping said.
Twitter and Instagram seem to do best for Cisse when it comes to increasing sales, while Facebook pays off better for Cheribundi, Theis said, because it tends to reach the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who are the brands primary target audience. “We’re reaching younger consumers with Facebook too, but it has been the most successful in driving engagement and driving sales. The other ones are used more for building a conversation”
It’s not just U.S. companies that are finding success with social media marketing. Wales-based Bravura Foods’ Peanut Hottie hot drink product has found fans through the social site of Slimming Wales, a group similar to Weight Watchers in the U.S., said Lisa Marie Gawthorne, the product’s co-creator.
Social media has gone a long way to help popularize the product in the U.K., and the rise there helped lead to a lucrative U.S. deal to put Peanut Hotties on the shelves at 2,300 Wal-Mart stores starting next month.
“Social will be an important part of our marketing going forward,” she said.
How is your company using social media marketing to build sales? Tell us about it in the comments.
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