The world of food on social – winners, laggards, content trends

After a slower than expected move away from paid social (i.e., Facebook), food brands as a whole are starting to take organic social very seriously indeed. Very fast growth on Instagram and YouTube communities is a good sign. On top, eBench is spotting gradually improving sophistication in the content quality and strategy (#hashtag, partnership, localisation etc.). Laggards beware!

  • Instagram is growing in line with socially advanced categories (122% per year), with Flavor God showing how it’s done (almost 50% of category engagement), and Mondelez & Ferrero the two companies showing the largest acceleration last month
  • YouTube communities are growing at an impressive pace (115% annualised growth rate), much faster than the rest of the CPG world: Wrigley, PepsiCo and General Mills are each growing well above fair share, signalling a (favorable) change of course in recent weeks
  • As for Facebook, the platform’s paid engagement is now only 3.5x larger than Instagram’s (organic) engagement: Mondelez and PepsiCo are the most reliant on the paid social platform (40% of category engagement between both of them)
  • Twitter growth is modest by social media standards (27% annualised growth), with Mondelez, General Mills and PepsiCo scoring half of the category @mentions.

Past 31 days – global food social footprint, selected platforms

eBench doesn’t really care that much about the #Themes that are used most frequently – instead, it focuses its attention on those #themes that, when tackled, generate the greatest engagement spike.

The below tells us that, in October, #breakfast was used by 49 Instagram food (brand) accounts eBench tracks. More importantly, the data shows that the most engaging topics were #NationalDessertDay (+36%), #Halloween (+10%), #pumpkin (+8%) and #fall (+8%). 

What do these topics have in common? They are all seasonal. Brands that want to win on social media must be topical, in the season. This is what consumers respond to.  That’s how one boosts the returns on content investment without using paid media budget.

Most used hashtags by food brands in October 2015 (Instagram – number of accounts)

Once brand teams know this, the next question should be ‘how to bring these topics to life’? eBench recommends using our in-house 20/20 Mosaic feature, which surfaces the top and bottom 20 posts for any brand, any #topic, any market in a single click:

Top 20 food brand posts featuring #halloween: Include pumpkins, be scary, include products

Please note our semiotics teams goes much deeper in the analysis, but this provides you a glimpse.

Bottom 20 food brand posts featuring #halloween: don’t include people (especially if they are not scary :-), avoid too much small text

A follow-up question we get asked a lot is how to know what’s going to be topical next month? Here we have a few tricks, one of which is to look at what’s hot and trendy among food influencers. Example for October include #Instayum, #Buzzfeast, #yum, #delicious, while formerly trendy hashtags have lost favour (#smoothie, #TBT, #cake).  

Emoji analyses of the kind conducted on hashtags offer another rich source of insights: the most engaging emojis provide guidance on both the type of content that works well as well as the mood and tone that consumers respond best to. The below shows that seasonal leaves and humour are two of the better performing types of emojis.

Emojis used by the most food influencers in October (food influencers, Instagram)
(The heart was used by 109 food influencers that eBench analyses)

Last, teams have been asking us which influencers and 3rd parties they should we work with to help amplify their message. There are many ways to tackle this important challenge, but the first step is to take a look at which influencers and 3rd parties are largest, growing fastest and/or most effective at engaging their community. Again, start with the big picture, before drilling down on the platform or 3rd party of interest to understand tactical trends and executional best practices.

Food media and influencers, past 31 days – selected accounts highlighted

Every line represents a different 3rd party – notice Instagram is the most competitive space

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