If you are a local food brand looking to expand into new markets, social media can be a very effective tool to help you do this. It allows you to reach and cater for your local customer base, whilst at the same time using your regional credentials to start creating awareness (and sales) further afield.
One reason we love living in the South West is the wide range of local food (and drink!) on offer. In Bristol it’s hard to stroll past a shop or walk into a pub without being presented with an array of home-grown independent products. So with such an abundance of local foodie talent, we couldn’t pass up the chance to find out if any have taken the plunge and are starting to benefit from social media engagement on both a local and national level.
We were pleased to find so many getting stuck in (especially on Twitter!) and after lengthy debate we’ve picked out five examples that show how South West food brands and businesses are using social media effectively…
1. Thali Cafe is using video to offer a peek behind the curtain.
Famous for much-loved takeaway Tiffins, the Thali Cafe has succeeded in cultivating a unique brand, menu and service that sets it apart from the numerous cookie-cutter curry houses around the city. The Thali now has restaurants in four key locations across Bristol.
Highlight: Use of video on Facebook. This one demonstrates how their Masala Dosas are made.
Why is it good? A ‘behind-the-scenes’ video is a great way of quickly communicating the authenticity and quality of the menu. It showcases the skill of their kitchen staff, as well as offering a nugget of entertainment for their Facebook fans (and friends of fans) to share.
Our tip: People interact with videos on Facebook 100% more than the average post (official Facebook stats) and with photos 120-180% more – always consider how you can integrate use of visual content on Facebook.
2. Wai Yee Hong is developing a personality on Twitter.
Wai Yee Hong is a family-run Chinese Supermarket based in Eastville, Bristol. They also offer a local and national delivery service through their website.
Highlight: Injecting personality into the brand using a tongue-in-cheek humour approach to tweets (and a special mention also has to go to the ‘Takeaway name generator‘!).
Why is it good? Supermarkets are often perceived as ‘faceless’ entities. By presenting this funny and approachable ‘human’ face to the business, @WaiYeeHong has created a Twitter persona that people love to chat with.
Our tip: Social media offers you a chance to promote the personality of your business and your staff, so don’t be afraid to show it. But you should still consider tone-of-voice when posting or tweeting. You don’t have to be a comedian to be interesting and if talking in slang doesn’t feel appropriate, it probably isn’t! As a general rule of thumb is be approachable, transparent, friendly and don’t talk about yourself all the time.
3. Yeo Valley is encouraging contributions from their community.
This Somerset-based organic dairy farm run by the Mead family now has a huge range of products and is stocked in supermarkets nationwide.
Highlight: In this post they are inviting fans to share their own recipes directly on the Facebook page (notice they’ve used an image to get the point across in a more engaging way).
Why is it good? Asking for contributions from fans and followers (and letting your customers know that you value their input) is essential if you want them to engage with you. Even if you have plenty of interesting things to say, broadcasting your messages without offering any chance for your community to chip in is the easiest way to lose credibility in the world of social media!
Our tip: Create lots of opportunity for customers to contribute their own thoughts, ideas and content. Don’t be afraid to think laterally about the kind of topics you talk about, not every conversation has to be focused on what your business is up to. The likelihood is that many of your customers feel passionate about the food they eat, so offer them ways to express this!
4. Lahloo Tea is using visuals to communicate a lifestyle.
Bristol-based Lahloo Tea offers a range of high-end teas from around the world. They also have a tea room – the Lahloo Pantry in Clifton.
Highlight: Lahloo has curated a collection of images from across Pinterest, organising them into themed boards that are indicative of a tea connoisseur’s lifestyle.
Why is it good? Images are great for encouraging an emotive response. Lahloo has mined the huge socially-connected library of powerful images on Pinterest and created a visual feast to evoke the kind of feeling customers might experience when drinking Lahloo tea.
Our tip: Thanks to smart-phones and digital cameras people now often choose to document their lives with photos, rather than boring old status updates. A picture really is worth a thousand words if you work with a tangible and visually interesting product like food or drink. Take advantage of emerging social networks like Pinterest and Instagram – use the visual impact of photos to tell the story of your brand.
5. Riverford is encouraging online conversation with offline experiences.
Founded and run by Devon-based farmer, Guy Watson, this organic veg-box scheme is another South West business that has expanded from its regional roots. Powered by a local growers collective, Riverford’s distribution network now covers areas across the UK.
Highlight: Their ‘Pumpkin Day’ being held at the farm is being promoted through Facebook using the Event app (they’ve also tweeted about it).
Why is it good? Riverford regularly use offline events as a way of getting their customers more involved with the business. Promoting these events using built-in features like the event app on Facebook will encourage sharing and online word-of-mouth. Creating a forum on their Facebook Page where people can talk about the day will also allow Riverford to stay involved in the conversation.
Our tip: Whether you are a venue-based business or planning a one-off event remember that most people are able to tweet, pin, check-in and post on the move these days. Make it as easy as possible for people to share their experience with friends (that means before, during AND afterwards). This might involve using the event app on Facebook, or offering Foursquare ‘Mayors’ an exclusive deal. But could also be as simple as advertising a hashtag at the venue.
The examples in this post are just a snapshot of the South West brands who are doing well in social media, not to mention the many foodie fans and bloggers who continue to support the local scene with their online chatter. If you have any examples of your own you’d like to add, please feel free to post in comments.