Social Media’s Influence: Eating For Experience Not Just Food

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Today we live in a society run by technology. If you don’t have a laptop or smartphone you might as well live under a rock. Same goes for social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are some of the most popular outlets that allow individuals to share photos, thoughts, and locations, while communicating back and forth. Not too far behind are LinkedIn, Google+, and Storify, which businesses are taking full advantage of to advance marketing and advertising efforts. What seemed to be a thing for the younger generation is affecting individuals of all ages, genders, interests, and…palettes? Yes, that’s right. The internet, smartphone apps, and social media outlets are changing the way we eat and think about food.

The latest trend in social media is not only talking about what you’re eating, but where, with who, and every detail of the experience.  We share intricate photos of our food to gloat over the swoon-worthy dessert we are about to consume and to find out local dives others are trying. Eating has become more of an event as people are more obsessed with sharing their experience than sometimes actually enjoying it.

Today about 49% of surveyed consumers learn about their food through social networks, with 9% of those using downloaded mobile food apps. Mandatory.com points out that life is ironically way more complicated since the emergence of the internet. The internet is a vital lifeline that connects us to people around the world and answers almost any of our questions. It seems then that getting your friends together to go eat at the perfect restaurant should be nothing less than easy, but it’s the abundance of options, opinions, and outlets to get ahold of people that make such a simple process seem like nuclear physics. After you and your friends finally narrow down the type of food you wish to eat, you must then cross-reference various selections on Zagat, Yelp, and local food blogs. Once at the restaurant you can’t just simply peruse the menu and order. You must check-in on Foursquare, ask the waiter to take a photo of the group to post on Facebook, and weight different suggestions of menu items on Urbanspoon until you use Chefs Feed to order the same burger Anthony Bourdain had. Next, the food arrives, but don’t touch your utensils just yet. You need to Instagram at least 3 different angles of your plate and pick the perfect photo filter before you’re mentally prepared to eat. Though the food may be a little cold at this point and you’re stomach grumbling with anger, make sure not to engulf the meal without properly scrutinizing each bite for your review on Yelp later. Finally, the event cannot come to a close without a selfie of you and your dessert on Twitter with hashtag #NomNomNom. This does seem like the final step to some, but how can you sleep well at night without seeing the responses of your friends on each social media site? Flowtown  breaks down the statistics the best from who is doing it to when and where.

It is hard not to get caught up in it all. Even though people can’t just simply decide whether the food was good or bad and each meal must out-do the hype of the last, social media has propelled the world of food in a lot of aspects. Restaurants, fast food chains, and even farmers markets must stay on top of social media trends to efficiently reach their consumers and reach their sales goals. Consumers can now find an abundance of deals and discounts for food from mobile apps such as Scoutmob and Groupon. They can compare prices at the grocery and eateries using RedLaser or Decide.com.

One of the greatest revolutions in the food industry comes from companies that allow costumers to order local, sustainable products online for delivery right to their doorstep. A popular Dallas business is Greenling, which offers individuals to choose specific items or select the local box option. You only pay for the actual cost of the food as delivery is free and the items even arrive in a 4-hour food saver bin. If anyone finds something wrong with the food, they can call or email Greenling and the company will pay for it.

Virtual farmers market have spread across the nation to give people the opportunity to buy local that don’t have the benefits of weekly markets. It’s an advantage for consumers as well as growers because they do not need to invest in selling at a market. Community-supported agriculture programs work for full-time growers, backyard gardeners, rural areas, and big cities. It is even more diverse in selection and price levels as farmers are more willing to list items for sale that would not be cost-effective to bring to market and risk selling.

From eating out to buying in the rules of the food game have changed because of social media. People can look at it in a bad light, but I think the rise of social media outlets has made the experience more fun, enjoyable, and cost-effective. A frequent offender of foodie sites and apps, I find new deals, dives, and recipe delights daily through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and local blogs I subscribe to. One cannot seriously call themselves a foodie unless they are part of this social media craze.

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The Social Media Bowl

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It seems that more and more each year Super Bowl is becoming less about the teams and more about the things surrounding it. Days leading up to the event, news outlets and people on the street seem to be discussing their excitement over commercials, halftime show performances, and tailgate recipes rather than the actual opponents. In fact according to a report from Lightspeed Research and MDG Advertising, nearly half of Super Bowl viewers are watching in excitement just to see which commercials come out on top. This year more than ever, brands focused on maximizing their investments past the tv screens and online through various social media platforms before, during, and after the game.

Oreo is the most obvious name dropped when it comes to the social media surrounding Super Bowl. Just minutes after the lights went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Oreo tweeted its ad, “No power? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” Retweeted 14,000 times just on Sunday according to Mashable.com, people remember this seemingly free ad over their $4 million 30 second spot on tv. It seems so simple, yet so genius. However, Oreo didn’t just leave it to twitter. Social Fresh breaks down Oreo’s campaign into three segments. Initially, the brand used Twitter and Facebook to tease their commercial and create a soft launch for their Instagram account. Next, Oreo brought the “long-standing disagreement of cookies versus creme” to one of America’s biggest television events, using the last 4 seconds to promote their Instagram account and “extend the conversation from tv to online.” Simultaneously the brand streamed the clip on Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. In just seconds the Instagram account went from 2,200 followers to 15,000 and reached 35,000 by the end of Sunday night. Last came their “mission control,” which was a team prepared and ready to respond to live moments throughout the game. Hence the birth to Oreo’s most popular Twitter post and fifth most popular Facebook post.

Social Fresh confirmed with Oreo’s public relations team that their focus was the Super Bowl commercial and Instagram promotion first and foremost. Asking fans to send creative pictures with either the #CremeThis hashtag or the #CookieThis hashtag, a team of Oreo artist were on deck to pick winning photos and then recreate the photos with either cookie or creme from actual Oreo cookies. Oreo continued this project for the next 3 days following Super Bowl. With a unique idea surrounding its campaign, Oreo is actually the only company to link their commercial to Instagram. In fact, Twitter ruled the night with 26 mentions out of the 52 commercials. This is a 300 percent gain from last year’s eight mentions. Facebook came in second with only four mentions, which was a 50 percent drop from last year, according to Marketing Land. 

Additionally, social media not only worked to stretch marketing efforts past the game, but it worked to engage fans before the coin was even flipped. The element of surprise behind Super Bowl ads is becoming a thing of the past as numerous brands showed shorter, longer, and even the actual version of their commercials prior to game day. Angelique Krembs, vice president for marketing at Pepsi, said it best in the New York Times last week when she said, “The conversation used to happen after the game. Now, enabled by social media, there’s a lot of conversation before the game about what’s coming up, and we want to be the most talked-about brand in that conversation.” More benefits seem to come from additional attention beforehand rather than waiting to see reactions the day of. Consumed by the digital age, people are more willing to interact and share posts, videos, and images they find interesting. This amplifies the impact of one ad by huge proportions. Brands beware because if the hype of the commercial doesn’t live up to what consumers expect from the sneak-peek, then the company could have wasted a huge investment. Some scrutiny did hit home for companies such as Volkswagen and Go Daddy before weekend festivities even began. Though a handful of viewers felt the ads to be racy or explicit, both companies felt they experienced more positive feedback than anything.

Technology is advancing everyday and companies are learning to adapt to the constantly changing market. Super Bowl served as a confirmation that the social media era is here and stronger than ever. If a company truly wants to get its foot in the door, make a statement, and actually last, they must know the ins and outs of online communication.

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