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Karen Twomey is a digital marketing consultant working who frequently advises businesses in the food industry. Here she shares her insights on how to build an effective social media platform, which apps to download, tips for good social media etiquette, predictions for what’s trending in 2019, and what you should absolutely avoid doing on social media!

Hi Karen, tell us about yourself

My company is called Communications Hub and I work as a freelance Digital Marketing Consultant providing one-to-one and group training in all things online including websites, social media, email marketing and search engine optimisation.  I mostly work with SMEs and start-ups and they tend to come from all different types of industry.

This year, I’ve partnered with Bia Nua Consulting and we are providing tailor-made online training courses to businesses operating within the food industry.  Businesses now recognise the need to be online and there’s a lot of demand for training in the areas of digital marketing and social media use.  We find that the best marketing strategies are ones that businesses can do themselves – from that perspective, providing them with the necessary skills allows them to achieve this on an ongoing basis.

What is your favourite app?

My favourite app is Instagram – at the moment, anyway!  Instagram is great for businesses to showcase who they are and show some personality.  I love that there are so many in-app tools for photo and video editing, making it a ‘one-stop’ shop from a marketing perspective.

Any apps we should download?

Facebook Pages Manager.  If you have a Facebook page and you’re trying to manage it through Facebook, you’re missing out on loads of features!

What would you recommend as the most effective social media platform for food businesses to engage with and target their customers via and why?

Facebook is the most used social media platform in Ireland and while some people may feel it has gone a bit ‘stale’ in the last year or two, I’d still say that it is the most effective social media platform from a business and customer engagement point of view.  Facebook is ideal for food businesses as it contains the highest mix in terms of the age of users, making it a real ‘catch all’ platform for marketing.  It also allows businesses to target particular ages, interests and geographical areas in a very cost-effective way.

Do you have top 3 tips for good social media etiquette? Ways to run social media?

Firstly, if you have a social media platform – use it!  There’s nothing worse than seeing a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in weeks.  It looks lazy and like the business doesn’t really care about its customers.  If it’s not something you have the time or expertise to do yourself, pay someone else to do it!

Secondly, engage!  Social media isn’t a notice board – don’t just pin up your advert and walk away.  You need to engage with your followers in much the same way as you would in real life.  If someone writes a nice comment or review, thank them!

Finally, show personality.  The hint is in the name – ‘social’ media.  A mistake lots of businesses make is taking social media too seriously.  It’s meant to be light hearted and personable. Make an effort to show some personality and have fun!

Have you seen a really good example of best in class food business social media our readers should check out?

There are loads of great accounts out there.  I generally advise clients to look at the bigger takeaways/restaurants that they consider in the same market as themselves and learn from what they’re doing right (or wrong!). That’s the thing with any kind of marketing – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  See what others are doing successfully, do similar and make it your own.

Why should you bother having a presence online as a food business?

86% of us in Ireland now research goods and services online, prior to making a commitment to buy.  The reality of this is that if your customer is looking for a restaurant/take-away on a Friday night, they are almost definitely going to search online – very few of us use the yellow pages or newspapers anymore.  So, if your business isn’t online, it quite simply doesn’t exist to 86% of the population.

What have you seen as a change with social media in the last year?

Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform in Ireland at the moment and, in my experience, it’s the one that businesses are flocking to this year.  This has also lead to a change in the type of content businesses are putting online, with a much stronger emphasis on short videos.

Any predictions of what will be trending for 2019?

Our attention span online is now about 8 seconds and dropping!  Most people use mobile phones to access the internet and we’re scrolling through posts, rather than actually reading anything.  The big trend for 2019 will be ‘less is more’ – good photos and video will be vital to engage with followers, with less focus on text.  Video will also continue to be huge and can get up to 70% more interaction online than photos.

What is retargeting?

Have you ever noticed the restaurant you checked out this morning has been following you around and popping up online all day?!  That’s retargeting!  Statistics indicate that out of every 100 people who visit your website, only 2-4 will actually make a purchase.  Retargeting is a type of online advertising that tries to bring visitors back to your website who haven’t converted to sales on their first visit.  It’s a complex type of specialist marketing but can be very effective.

What is a marketing strategy and how should our readers plan this?

A marketing strategy is important for every business to ensure your marketing content and platforms are giving you a return on investment.  There are four basic steps to developing a good marketing strategy:

  1. Know your Business Goals – Define your company, its products or services and what sets it apart from your competitors. Then set out your call to actions, what do you want your customers to do – phone you, book a table, use your app, visit your website, etc.
  2. Know your Audience – Profile your perspective customer. Which marketing platforms are they most likely to be active on and what style of content are they more likely to engage with.
  3. Develop a Strategy and Tactics – Which social media platforms should you use, what type of content will you create, how often will you post and at what time, what budget will you put in place.
  4. Monitoring and Measuring – Did you achieve a good audience reach and did they engage with you. Did you achieve a return on investment?  What changes can we make going forward.

What would you say to a food operator who sees no value in having an online presence?

85% of the Irish population is now active online – why would you want to ignore 85% of your customers!!

What can someone do for minimal presence online? Tell us the basics.

I think the minimum any food business should have is a presence on Google and a Facebook page.  People need to be able to find you, your address and your contact details easily online.

Any ideas of good Facebook posts? How often should you post?

I’d recommend posting at least 2/3 times per week.  It’s good to have a mix of content type showcasing different areas of your business – e.g. the food, the premises, staff, behind the scenes type pictures.  As a business you also need to have a budget in place for Facebook advertising and should be boosting posts at least every other week to help keep your page prominent.

Top tips for running a social media account in the food industry

Use your social media accounts to tell the story of your business through your produce, food prep, staff, etc.  Take some time to create good pictures and video content.  People relate to ‘real’ content, much more than stock or generic images.

Any software tools you recommend/ time saving tips?

I always use a social media scheduler, like Hootsuite, to schedule out posts to social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.  Facebook has its own scheduler, which is also very handy.  Scheduling posts helps make online marketing part of your weekly admin and I find businesses are much more inclined to maintain a good online presence if they can set an hour or two aside for it each week, as opposed to trying to do it on an ad-hoc basis.

Any examples of things you should absolutely avoid on social media?

Never get into an argument with a follower online!  I’ve seen some businesses react very badly to someone leaving a negative comment on their page and I always feel it reflects poorly on the business and can damage goodwill and reputation.  While we can all get emotive about our own business, and feel protective of it, we have to remember what goes online stays online – so what may be said in haste, cannot be taken back on social media.  A far better way to deal with a negative comment is to offer an apology for the negative experience and ask for a phone number so you can ring them to discuss it.  In that way, you’ve apologised for their negative experience (whether justified, or not!) and offered to deal with it.  Most importantly, you’ve also taken the argument offline!

How do I learn more online to brush up on my social media training?

There’s so much information on social media online that it can be hard to wade through it sometimes.  You also have to consider that every industry can be different in the types of platforms and content that works, so there isn’t really a ‘one fits all’ go to place.

Ideally, I’d recommend attending a social media training course every year or so if possible. I provide courses through Bia Nua which are specifically tailored to the food industry, so they are very targeted and effective to those working in that industry.  It’s always easier to learn skills in a workshop environment afforded by face-to-face courses.

Online platforms and digital marketing are continuously changing and evolving, so it’s important to keep up and ensure we’re investing our time and energy into the right channels.

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