I’ll take a side of social media with my dinner, please

Posted on October 25, 2012

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like to take and share pictures of my food. As a vegetarian and clean eater, I cook on a regular basis and like to experiment with recipes that I get from a number of sources, including the Web, regular cookbooks and food apps. Last night after yoga, I found myself having a conversation with a couple friends about the food photos I’d recently shared on Instagram. As a result of our discussion, I shared with them a list of cookbook titles and watched as they downloaded my recommended food and recipe apps.

Credit: 3.bp.blogspot.com

Nourishing our bodies is one of our most basic needs. We have to eat – and thanks to digital media, we can have fun doing it. I’ve mentioned before that social media complements our innate need for socialization. Now more than ever, eating is a social activity.

That looks good enough to eat

According to an infographic from Flowtown (check out the full infographic at the end of this post) more and more people are making social media a regular part of mealtime. Here’s a few interesting stats:

  • 49% of consumers learn about food through social networks.
  • 29% of people are on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter while they eat or drink at home.
  • My age group, Millenials (ages 18 – 32), do that the most often (47%).
  • 22% of people like to document the food they cook through photographs.
  • 19% of people are on social networking sites when they eat out.

I’ll have what you’re having

The study that inspired this infographic, by Hartman Group and Publicis Consultants, showed that social media is fundamentally changing the way we eat:

Social media changes food culture by influencing how consumers think about, talk about and experience food. With the clicks of our fingers, social media alters the entire lifecycle of a meal from planning, to buying, to cooking, to eating. As consumers use social media to discover, learn, and share information about food, they quickly become more active participants in food culture.

Not surprisingly, the study found that people are more influenced by others “like them”, bloggers, friends etc., than brands. They look online for restaurant recommendations and recipes, coupons and deals, learn cooking techniques from TV shows, blogs and YouTube and often eat in front of a computer or while on their smartphone. The study states that this means people are more adventurous with their food – trying new foods, broadening their cooking skills and visiting restaurants they otherwise wouldn’t.

The study also breaks down food consumers as:

  • “Doers”: those who actively take part in social media, regularly sharing their own food related content and inspiring and influencing others. They are typically bloggers and have the ability to influence the general public.
  • “Dreamers”: people who are active on social media and curate food content to share with others that reflects their style and personality. They are looking to grow their influence.
  • “Spectators”: individuals who share food related content with their direct social network of friends, colleagues and family. These people will submit restaurant and product reviews, and share deals, discounts and recipes.

A final note of interest from this study is the suggestion that the food industry can capitalize on social media to “build personal and lasting relationships with their customers”.

Healthy eating and social media

One example of a food-related organization successfully using social media to create more meaningful relationships with Canadians is the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check Program. The site features recipe ideas, healthy eating tips, dietician advice and restaurant recommendations. This content was developed through monitoring conversations about food on social media, a process with the following goal:

…Health Check wanted to zero in on the common discussion themes about food and eating habits; build a community with the key influencers who are driving these discussions; create content that connects what they want to talk about with what is being talked about; and engage in those discussions on the most widely used social media channels.

The information they gained allows them to provide content that directly meets the healthy eating needs real Canadians are talking about.

About Kelly Ferrier

Kelly Ferrier is Editor/Community Manager at communicatto. Her love of the written word has taken her into a number of industries. This diverse writing background means there's no subject she can't turn into a compelling story. From blog posts and social media community management, to magazine articles and annual reports, Kelly writes copy that captures reader attention and holds it until the final word. When she’s away from her computer, you can find her embarking on mountain adventures, cooking weird and wonderful vegetarian meals or practicing hot yoga.

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