Foodservice forum

: Social media

Foodservice forum

: Social media

How do you use social media to enhance your B&I business?

Sarah Prentice
, sales and marketing director, Blue Apple Catering 

Social media can be a bit of an enigma to some organisations, and you do see a lot of people fumbling in the dark with it somewhat. To me, our approach to platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, for example, works for us very well, in that we are not trying to kid ourselves that they are anything more than a shop window to the foodservice industry that allows it to see what we are up to. In many ways, they are places for the proverbial peacock to show off its feathers – a variety of ways to give yourself a little pat on the back with the immediacy they provide.

And that’s fine, of course. If we discouraged this ‘peacockery’ or had anything to hide then we would not be shouting about our activities in the public domain. However, we would never venture as far as to say that social media has a huge impact on the way we do business or the levels of revenue we generate through our regular sales process. Of course it is important for prospective clients to be able to research your activities online, and the posts we create are always thought through and professional, but enhancing our business may be a stretch to say.

As a boutique caterer we much prefer the hands-on, personal approach, and that means getting out to visit people, to talk to them, to understand their needs and requirements, and then to go away and create the perfect offer for them. You cannot begin to truly understand an organisation via social media and we are keen to never dismiss the fact that actual people are our customers and that actual people make up our business. We are aware that we are living in a very digital world, and we take our online presence seriously, but when it comes to communications we much prefer to bring those people together in person, giving them an opportunity to taste some great food – as opposed to looking at a picture of it!

QUOTE: We are keen to never dismiss the fact that actual people are our customers 

Rowena Kennerley, head of marketing – catering, Gather & Gather
Due to the vast number of sites we have, our customer base is extensive and very varied, so it’s hard to divide into target audience categories. We use Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to engage with our followers in a variety of ways depending on their preferred medium and the type of content that interests them.

For example, we know that 81% of millennials want to know more about how their food is produced, and 80% want to understand the story behind the scenes. Therefore, we often post about our people and their achievements – specifically on LinkedIn – as well as what we’re doing to drive sustainability. This can include things such as promoting the local suppliers we use, showing off our graduates from the Well Grounded programme or highlighting our commitment to reducing single-use plastic.

Another core USP for us is our tremendous talent. It’s important for us to showcase this strength, so we regularly highlight the creative dishes and events our teams create on Instagram Stories and Twitter. Not only does this give our chefs a chance to broadcast their work to a wider audience, it’s also helpful in garnering a following from potential new customers. We’ve even attracted new employees this way.

‘How to cook that’ is now a top 10 search phrase on YouTube, so we share our own recipes on Facebook in a digital format for our followers to make at home themselves. Keeping up with trends and creating a tone of voice reflective of our brand is really important. In 2018 we did a full Insta rebrand – which can always be a risk. The rebrand consisted of only posting really powerful #foodporn images, as well as using a fun, humorous and informative tone of voice. We also respond and engage our followers on a person level – after all, this is a social platform.

Finally, our customers are most active at lunchtime, between 12pm and 3pm, so we post to tie in with that time. We’re also aware that people don’t want to be bombarded with posts all the time. Brands like Nike and McDonald’s only post three times a month. Why? Because no brand is ever interesting enough to interrupt someone 20 to 40 times in a month. For us, it’s about maintaining relevance and engaging with our followers.

Piers Zangana, director, Susa Comms
Social media, managed well, can be an exceptionally powerful communications tool. In the UK alone, there are 45m users. That’s more than two thirds (67%) of the population, including clients and customers. It is a crucial element of an organisation’s comms and marketing strategy. It is an extension of a brand and it offers a two-way channel of communication between business and its customers. We see how, by using original content or offers, working with influencers or generating referrals, social media is the perfect platform on which to build and maintain relationships with new and highly targeted potential customers.

Progressive companies we work with within the B&I space are seeing how this can impact perception, awareness and, ultimately, impact the bottom line. From broadstroke marketing to the masses to one-to-one customer engagement, social media has the power to humanise a brand by demonstrating its core values and introducing its customers to the people who make up a company. Whether or not a company is on social media to respond, customers are already talking about them, so the best way to manage reputation is to be part of the conversation.

By engaging in social activity, brands have the opportunity to understand the wants and needs of their audiences, gauge sentiment around their brand, provide timely and customer service and support and, in the event of a crisis, mitigate the damage by taking charge of the narrative. We live in an age where we are bombarded with data and consume information in different ways. This is why businesses need to hit appropriate buyer touchpoints, across different channels.

Social media, of course, is one channel – albeit a very powerful one. To ensure true message cut-through, it’s important to develop a strategic plan that is bespoke to your customer. This includes social media but also traditional media, advertising and other stakeholder engagement activities. It is fundamentally about sharing carefully crafted stories that reinforce a company’s strategic narrative. This is only achieved by taking a cross-channel approach. Your messaging objectives won’t be achieved in isolation.

The B&I sector has a diverse demographic; we are at the heart of innovation and there are brilliant examples of collaboration. The impact on the end customer and their experience is invaluable. These are stories that must be told.

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