Social Media Can Be The Key Link to Consumers

Social media is most effective when it complements an overall marketing plan.

by Ellen Uribe

Developing a social media strategy makes good sense for businesses across the industry spectrum because knowing what to do and planning what to do are worlds apart. Ever since its inception in 1997, social media has been gaining momentum in a world where online is synonymous with a comprehensive marketing approach to reaching consumers where they live.

Today, about 74% of us use social media when making decisions about what to buy — which necessitates the need for sound strategies aimed at a company’s target customers. And while the tactics may vary, the results can often help shape a brand’s image and solidify it, especially when coupled with a comprehensive marketing plan.

“Social media is only a part of a well thought out company/corporate strategy and a well thought out marketing strategy,” says Lisa Cork, chief executive of Auckland, New Zealand-based Fresh Produce Marketing Ltd.

“Social media is a tactical tool that needs to be used in conjunction with good strategy. By ‘good strategy,’ I mean the company knows where it wants to go, understands its business and product in the context of the industry, knows its competitive advantages versus competitors, and knows what it wants to achieve. Without strategy, social media is a significant cost that may not get results,” she says.

Cork, who is currently teaching Produce Marketing and Food Marketing at San Luis Obispo-based Cal Poly State University, says that when she created the class curriculum she had to really think about what is important to successfully market a produce or food product.

“I created assignments based on the following factors: 1) Deeply understand your company/product/market and your objective. 2) Deeply understand your competition. 3) Deeply understand your customer/target market. 4) Understand your business proposition — what makes you/your product unique? (Only once this deep understanding work has been done, can you then: 5) Determine your marketing strategy and action plan; 6) Determine the budget and project ROI; 7) Monitor and measure the results to ensure the marketing actions are making an impact on the goal,” notes Cork.

Cork is quick to caution that there is not a one size fits all plan for major players. “Social media must be part of a long-term strategy. This marketing medium benefits no one if a company only has the resources to dive in and out on a whim and not implement it consistently. Saying this, what I do acknowledge is if your target market includes any human consumer, just about every human consumer across every demographic is influenced by social media. So in many ways, a company cannot be without it.”

A case in point is Equifruit, Inc., which has carved out an ambitious mission for itself: Global Fairtrade Banana Domination. “We decided to position ourselves as a unique Fairtrade banana importer,” says Kim Chackal, who is the director of sales and marketing for the Montreal-based company. “Our marketing has to be eye-catching because we are tackling major issues around exploitation in the banana industry. Banana farmers have not been treated fairly since the very beginning. The business model was based on paying almost nothing for labor and land,” she says.

The importer, which is a self-described “group of diehard believers in ethical banana sourcing,” is aiming to “right the wrongs of the banana business history by making it fair from the start.” Established in 2006, Equifruit is Canada’s leading Fairtrade-certified banana importer.
“We position ourselves as fearless in everything we do. We want to be impossible to ignore,” asserts Chackal.

Clearly, Equifruit has a targeted social media and marketing strategy, which is the first rule of venturing online with a product or service. “We did a major rebrand in 2020,” says Chackal. “We try to stand out in every possible way. We saw an opportunity to do just that on our banana cases with the tagline, ‘The Only Banana You Should Buy,’” she says.

At the inaugural Global Produce & Floral Show by the International Fresh Produce Association in Orlando, Equifruit featured a six-foot shark at its booth to attract attention and engage attendees. “We want to tell everyone that we all should be paying a little more for bananas. Bananas are the No. 1 selling product in the grocery store accounting for 1% of sales,” notes Chackal. “The opportunity for impact at source is substantial.”

Alexandra Rae, who is the founder and chief executive of Harvest Joy Design, is an expert in agriculture who began her business in 2016 by approaching booths at the Farmers Market in San Diego to see if they might need help promoting their farms and products.

“When the first farm said yes, I was going out there and just using my iPhone to take pictures. Then all of a sudden I started getting messages from farmers asking me if I could come to their farms and do the same thing,” says Rae. “My business only grew from there,” she says. “My followers look to Harvest Joy because they want to know about fresh produce.”

Rae, whose mission is to connect consumers with more fresh produce, also points out that partnering with influencers can be expensive, but if a brand has someone in-house who is able to create content themselves, it can be a successful strategy.

“I think it is important to focus on and create content for three different social media platforms. I really do believe that quality content is better than quantity,” notes Rae.

She also notes that a sound social media strategy needs to be finessed, tweaked and constantly evolving. “You will be surprised at which posts perform the best. Sometimes I test content to see how it performs.”

Amy Myrdal Miller, who is the founder and president of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, a Sacramento Valley, CA-based marketing company, notes that social media can be an inexpensive tactic that needs to be integrated into a larger strategy geared toward the audience that a company is looking to influence.

Myrdal Miller has been working with the Netherlands-based HZPC America’s Corp., since 2019, and she has launched the consumer brand — Potato Glory. “My job is education about the potato — the beauty of them and the glory of them. All potatoes are not the same,” she says. Myrdal Miller’s branding approach is geared toward young folks, and HZPC uses Instagram to reach them.

“Younger consumers don’t necessarily accept that potatoes are vegetables, as a result we wanted to influence younger audiences to see if we can shift their attitudes. That would be a big win, because they are very active on social media,” says Myrdal Miller.
HZPC’s social media brand of choice for this target is Instagram. “Instagram is an inexpensive tactic, but it’s not a strategy. It needs to be integrated into a larger strategy geared toward the audience we want to influence. We have done a large consumer sensory study to help us develop that strategy,” notes Myrdal Miller.

Beth Keeton, who is the chief executive of Elephant House PR, based in Fort Worth, TX, agrees Instagram can be a great vehicle for reaching a target audience. “Instagram is one of the best platforms to find and share user-generated content and has an intuitive advertising and analytics platform if you’re wanting to focus on one social media app,” she says. “Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are, to me, the most effective social media platforms with the largest reach and engagement opportunities for brands right now.”

Keeton, who thinks social media tactics should be non-negotiable for brands, especially major players, advises that a solid plan includes goals that complement the business’ overall digital marketing strategy.

“I think the best way to be strategic with a social media plan is to remember that it’s one of the most effective ways to invite your consumers to have a deep and personal conversation with your brand. It’s one of the best tools you can use, especially in the fresh produce industry, to tell your story and invite people into a conversation,” she says.

Keeton advises when putting together a strategic social media plan, it’s good to ask a few questions:
1. How do we bring our brand voice and values into our social media pages so people see we’re consistent and authentic?
2. What do people not know about our product(s) that we can help educate about?
3. How do we bring people behind the scenes to see the unique processes we use and meet some of the faces of our company?
4. How do we inspire people to try/use more of our products?
5. How can we inspire people to share their personal experiences with our products?

Keeton is also an advocate for social media because it offers real value. “Social media dollars can tend to go further than traditional media dollars because the platforms are so widely engaged with,” she says. “I think many of the social media platforms have found ways to create ad content that does not feel as invasive as other forms of advertising, and their intuitive targeting algorithms are highly effective for a lower cost than other print and digital media platforms.”

While finding someone to head up a company’s social media presence can be a daunting task, Keeton strongly advises choosing someone who is enthusiastic. “It’s evident when a brand does not have someone excited about social media behind its posts, so first and foremost I would find someone on the team, or externally, who is passionate about content creation, storytelling and community engagement.”