Competition for food brands on social media has been extremely fierce, and the added heat in the kitchen has made social media for food brands an absolute must. From Instagram to YouTube and everything in between, explore our list of food brands with great social media campaigns across channels and what you can learn from them. But first, let’s learn exactly what food marketing is and if it’s right for your brand.
The concept of food marketing is simple. It’s the process of promoting and selling products that pertain specifically to food. This also encompasses the marketing of food brands, as well as restaurants. Presently, the most popular way to market food is through social media. Social media has become a key player in food marketing as it is one of the most popular and lucrative ways to promote your business because everyone is using it.
Food marketing isn’t just important for brands, it’s essential. Without marketing your food brand, there is no widespread way for potential customers to find out about your brand and products other than through word of mouth. Food marketing and food social media marketing open your brand up to more potential customers by getting your products in front of as many eyes as possible, and as we all know, the more eyes on your brand the better for revenue and overall brand awareness.
It’s clear that social media needs to play a significant role in your food brand’s marketing strategy, but how? The best way to know how to leverage social media for food marketing is by looking at the brands that are already doing it well. Here are some of our favorites.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: TikTok is the door to Gen Z, and your social strategy is the key. It’s quickly become a top-downloaded app around the world and a must-do for marketers in the food and beverage industry. Instead of the glossy, polished content shared on a channel like Pinterest, TikTok is a space for lo-fi, high-energy creative that speaks to the channel’s fun, laid-back culture. Discovery is its best asset—brands have a chance to go from the For You page to viral fame by leveraging channel-specific, community-focused features.
If any food brand was going to hit it big on TikTok, it was going to be Chipotle. The brand immediately leaned into TikTok culture and never looked back. 2 million followers and 47.4 million likes later, it’s evident the move to the channel has paid off. When it comes to content, it’s all about the trends, songs, and UGC that puts the spotlight on its fans.
In a society on the brink of divide, hummus might just be the thing to bring us together—and vegan-friendly Sabra is here to lead the way. Touting top TikTok influencers including Tabitha Brown and Charli D’Amelio, the brand’s feed is a masterclass in sponsored content that fans can genuinely get behind. Throw in cute dogs, hummus art, plus a Cheeto-Dorito-Big Game crossover, and you could be on your way to fostering world peace (or, at the very least, a solid serving of brand awareness to a competitively untapped audience).
90% of guests research a restaurant before they dine, which means a strong digital presence is crucial to sales in real life. In the fast food world, Instagram offers unparalleled access to a wide range of demographics—especially millennials, who happen to be the highest percentage of online food delivery users worldwide. A visual-first strategy is paramount to stopping Instagram users mid-scroll, but captions to match are the extra seasoning that takes your content to five-star territory.
Because the Instagram algorithm heavily favors content with a lot of interaction, the best fast food marketing campaigns are the ones that encourage audience engagement. Focus on content that takes fans to the comments or has them re-sharing on their profiles. This is where Dash Hudson’s Instagram Insights really come in handy—you can understand your historic performance across KPIs, segment content with Boards to get granular with your unique pillars, and predict what your audience will engage with most before you even post it.
Thanks to social media, Taco Bell has grown from a Mexican-inspired food chain to a bonafide cultural phenomenon. Spawning a line of taco merch, a wine, and even its own hotel, the brand has a phenomenal understanding of how to grow a following. Instagram is the centerpiece of the brand’s social marketing strategy, and a hub for bringing its community together to “Live Más”. The social team makes sure to share a diverse mix of content styles, including glossy product shots, graphic illustrations, and user-generated content with the #AtHomeWithTacoBell hashtag. It’s 1.5 million followers are a testament to the brand’s digital efforts.
No other food brand has mastered the art of the meme quite like Wendy’s. The brand has built a cult following of over 1 million Instagram users with impressive engagement (hovering around +15-20% above the industry average). Instead of aspirational, inspirational, or educational, Wendy’s posts are pure humour, setting itself apart from competitors and winning over a slew of millennial and Gen Z fans in the process. Lesson learned here: understanding your audience and carving your own chicken path is core to climbing the Instagram ladder.
The video-only channel seems to be the top choice for food-based publishers who want to capitalize on the teachable opportunities the channel provides. As one of the longest-running social networks to date, YouTube boasts 2 billion users who are eager to learn the latest food hacks, cooking tips, and recipes in an easily consumed video format. In fact, it has the highest global site traffic (8.6 billion monthly visits), with 77% of 15-35-year-old internet users in the US visiting the channel, as well as 73% of 36-45-year-olds, 70% of 46-55-year-olds, and 65% in the 56+ range. Savvy businesses in the food and beverage industry have taken notice.
NYT Cooking’s YouTube channel is almost strictly recipe videos, with a few conversations and kitchen tours in between, and it’s a formula that works well for them. The brand offers content in a variety of different formats, including “how to make” videos, personal recipes from chefs and celebrities, and number-based topics like “2 ways to cook tofu” or “10 kitchen must-haves.” When it comes to YouTube success, length can make or break viewership—and the NYT Cooking team gets it right by offering short-form, mid-length, and long-form content ranging from 2-45 minutes. Clickable titles, digestible content, and a focus on easing the process of at-home cooking has the channel on its way to a healthy helping of followers.
It would be remiss to talk about food brands on YouTube without mentioning the OGs on the Bon Appetit social team. The channel’s main personalities have become stars in their own right, even inspiring meme accounts based on their favorite content. Showing off the power of a good palate, beloved chefs like Chris Morocco, Brad Leone, and more, cook everything from restaurant classics to grocery store staples that inspire their legion of 6 million subscribers to whip out the aprons at home. Regular series and episodes, much like a traditional television channel, seem to be Bon Appetit’s secret sauce for consistently racking up views.
Short and sweet—the experience of eating a chocolate bar, and also the perfect approach to Twitter content. A high volume of short, quippy tweets has proved an effective strategy for top food brands on Twitter, a different technique to most other social channels but valuable nonetheless. It’s important to understand that Twitter users aren’t slowly scrolling in the same way other social users do. This is a fast-paced atmosphere and the content has to keep up in order to get noticed. Success on the channel requires time and dedication, but food marketing professionals who can play the long game will ultimately find major brand awareness and community connection on a silver platter.
Veteran soft drink brand Pepsi has been a staple on Twitter since 2008 and maintains a solid presence on the channel more than 10 years later. Decked out in the brand’s iconic blue, red, and white, the feed is perfect for establishing and reinforcing brand identity while focusing content around culture rather than products. Fans enjoy the self-professed “hot takes,” especially in the realm of sports, and engage with a variety of CTAs including polls and hashtag challenges like #PepsiStaycation. At 3.1 million followers, the strategy is clearly working.
Touted as America’s favorite snack for the last 75 years, chip king Lay’s has spent more than a decade of that time tweeting itself into the hearts of social media users. The brand loves to share a mix of playful text posts and CTAs in between traditional advertising content, including high-quality campaign images and videos, to keep followers engaged. The #SmileWithLays campaign in particular was an effective tool to both spread the good word about its products and the message of hope and positivity its community needs in challenging times.
For brands in the food and beverage industry that are focused on packaged goods, Pinterest should be a top priority when it comes to social strategy. Because the channel offers images, videos, and a huge community of foodies looking for the perfect meal, it’s an ideal place to showcase products in creative ways. The best food brands on Pinterest know the recipe for success is a healthy mix of boards, plus created and saved pins. Marketers using Pinterest have a unique opportunity to go beyond the standard advertisement and offer interactive lifestyle content social media users won’t find on any other channel.
Pinners can easily discover what they’re looking for through categorized boards (seasonal recipes, branded campaigns, and more), save their favorites for later, and share what they’ve made with your product. The “add photo” button is a notable feature for food brands on Pinterest—Pinners can publicly upload photos directly to pins of products or recipes they’ve tried so others can see their results. Want to generate brand affinity, trust, and interest? Pinterest is the space to do it. And leveraging Dash Hudson’s Pinterest Insights means you can drive traffic and increase ROI by gaining a deep understanding of the metrics and content that converts.
Spice manufacturer McCormick uses Pinterest to show consumers where their products come from and what they can do with them. The brand leverages both photos and videos to capture Pinners browsing for their next meal and offers boards full of recipes enriched by spices from mains to side dishes and desserts. Visually speaking, the images are highly branded, often featuring a mix of text, logos, and product shots overlaying lifestyle imagery to give audiences the full picture of what they offer and how to best use it. The approach has won McCormick over 380k followers and 10 million+ monthly views.
Green Giant’s signature shade is a staple across its Pinterest feed. Equal parts product shots and recipes, the brand’s boards are a tribute to the power of vegetables and their many uses. Fans love the “Veggie Swap-Ins™,” “Holiday Traditions,” and “No Oven Needed” boards that highlight simple hacks to turn Green Giant products into family-friendly meals for every occasion. Innovative animations and video help the brand’s Pins stand out on an otherwise static feed and draw Pinners to their logo-filled profile.
Now that we’ve showcased some fantastic food brands above, it’s time for your brand to become one of them. Here are a few steps to help you succeed in food social media marketing.
We always recommend using a wide array of social media platforms to promote your food brand, but some may make better sense than others depending on your target demographic and preferred type of content. If you're a food brand looking to promote products to Gen Z, TikTok is a perfect place to share these types of posts. Is long-form video a key part of your strategy? YouTube is the best platform for this type of content. If you’re really not sure where to start, Instagram is a great place to share static images, carousels, Stories and of course, Reels.
While off-the-cuff, trendy content is a necessary part of any social strategy, planning the majority of your content in advance saves a lot of time and energy. By knowing what your food brand is going to post days or even weeks in advance, you can prepare for just about anything. You can ensure the stock of a product you’re going to promote is full, you can also quickly pivot to your content backlog if something happens to go awry.
Once you have your content perfectly curated, it’s time to figure out the right time to post it. The time you post your content can completely make or break its performance, so knowing the best time to post is crucial. Dash Hudson’s team has collected the data of the best time to post on Instagram and the best time to post on TikTok to make finding the best time for your brand a little easier, but we also recommend trying out multiple time and day slots to see what really works for your specific food brand.
A great way to gain more followers and engagements for your food brand is by running contests. For food brands, the prize can be as simple or extravagant as you want, ranging from free products to gift certificates for your brand. Just ensure you create rules for your contest that require users to follow, share and engage with your post in order to have a shot at winning.
Influencers are the way to a lot of social media users’ hearts. Many influencers have built genuine connections with their followers and love sharing amazing products and brands with them. This leads to the perfect influencer marketing collaboration opportunity for food brands. Just be sure to choose influencers that align perfectly with your food brand in order to see results and maximize ROI.
The best way to engage and keep followers is by showing them you’re paying attention. Re-posting UGC (user-generated content) does two things: it easily diversifies your feed (and can fill content gaps) and shows your followers that you see them, and you care. Additionally, the more UGC you post, the more followers are likely to go out of their way to buy and curate content in hopes of you sharing. It’s a win-win!
Sometimes you need to cover a number of demographics at once, and that means leveraging all the tools in your kit to reach them. Dash Hudson’s Scheduler allows you to set and forget your posts for Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, with a post duplication functionality that makes cross-channel scheduling a breeze. Enjoy a host of tools expertly designed for cross-channel campaigns and the content selection process, leaving you time to focus on crushing your creative and tracking the metrics that matter. When it comes to social media for food brands, that’s something we can raise a glass to.
While there is no definitive answer to which social media platform is best for food brands, there are a couple of front runners. With the rise of social entertainment, users want to be entertained, and that means by their food too. So platforms like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, which have a specific focus on quick, entertaining short-form content are a great place for food brands to start in 2023.
If there’s one thing humans can bond over, it’s a love of food. Social media allows users to watch, share, and even post content about their favorite food which in turn is shared with friends, family and other followers. This can be huge for food brands or restaurants as business is guaranteed to improve if a specific food item or recipe is trending.
Social media is all about what’s trending, and more often than not, it’s food. Whether it's a specific recipe, food item or restaurant, there is always a new food trend floating around on social. Remember #bakedfetapasta? This phenomenon exploded after TikToker MacKenzie Smith posted a video following a recipe on her blog for baked feta pasta. Her video alone amassed over 3 million views, while the hashtag #bakedfetapasta has over 52 million views (and counting).
The beautiful thing about social media is that you never know what will go viral or pique users' interest, so every ingredient is truly an opportunity for your brand.