How food brands are winning on social

The food category is late to the game in moving away from paid social, with 8x more engagement on Facebook than on Instagram (this ratio tends to be reversed for socially sophisticated categories such as Beauty).

More encouragingly the category is starting to catch up: +140% annualised growth in Instagram communities outstrips Facebook community growth 18:1, signalling that the category will be increasingly reliant on organic rather than paid social:

p{Nutella, Haagen-Dasz, Square Bar and King Arthur Flour are leading the Instagram charge with shares of engagement way above their share of communities, whilst, the likes of Oreo, Cadbury’s, Kit Kat, and Lay’s are all failing to capitalise on the potential their decent-sized communities provide… so what differentiates the winners from the losers?}

(1) Post Frequency

Square Bar consistently posts 2-3x per day, whilst Lay’s only posted on half the days in June. Frequency is essential for maximising engagement, but should not come at the expense of content quality!

(2) Effective use of #hashtags

#hashtags make content more findable and whilst the ‘winning’ brands like Haagen-Dasz use them frequently and see engagement spikes of +40% as a result, Cadbury’s barely uses them at all. Notice that the few that Cadbury’s does use are brand specific terms (e.g. #cadbury, #freethejoy) which consumers are unlikely to search for, whilst Haagen-Dasz’s choice of #themes like #foodporn, #foodie, #foodgasm is much better!

(3) Use of emojis

Emojis are a great way to mirror consumer language, and our data shows that content armed with the right ones can expect up to 20% boosts in engagement. The best performing emojis for the category extend beyond just food specific emojis, which is something Square Bar consistently recognises in its posts:

(4) Strong visual content

Top performing visuals for the food category tend to create immediacy around consumption. Notice how Square Bar’s posts often integrate the bar into a recipe, and the food is zoomed in, taking up +70% of the image space. Conversely, the product takes up no more than 20% of Kit Kat’s images, lacks context and is usually still in its packaging!

If you’d like to understand how to master each of these levers for your brand, please contact us at