DALLAS – Of the 7.7 billion people in the world, as of January 2019, 4.2 billion of them are on the Internet. And, 3.4 billion people are active social media users with an average of 5.5 social media accounts per person. As a result, the meat industry – both retailers and suppliers – are turning to social media to communicate with their consumers. During the 3-day Meat Conference held in Dallas March 3-5, a panel of social media experts from retail, wholesale and the supply side shared insights on strategies for customer engagement using social media.

According to Jessee Leili-Jones, associate director for MarTech at Midan Marketing, Internet users spend close to two hours every day on social media. When it comes to US adults, the most popular social media platforms are:

  • YouTube – 73 percent
  • Facebook – 60 percent
  • Instagram – 30 percent
  • Pinterest – 29 percent
  • Twitter – 27 percent
  • LinkedIn – 25 percent
  • Snapchat – 24 percent

The newest generation – Generation Z (7- to 22-year olds) – will have a purchasing power of $44 billion as they age and as of now, 96 percent of that demographic currently have a smartphone.

“We all need to adjust our strategies to communicate with that generation,” Leili-Jones said.

As social media manager for Cleveland-based Heinen’s Fine Foods, Paula Skiadanowski focuses its social media strategy on promoting the store and brand to current and potential customers. “We focus on being a story teller and educator – we don’t focus on prices, sales or promotions,” she explained. “We like to focus on our meat department because years ago our store started a butcher shop, so telling the story of our meat department supports our brand.”

Associated Grocers helps its retailer partners with advertising, promotion and – these days – social media efforts, too.  “We have such a variety of retailers that we work with. The goal is to bring in additional shoppers beyond who is coming into the stores right now,” said Carrie Stanley, director of Advertising and Marketing for Associated Grocers. “By targeting certain messages using social media, we can help a retailer reach very specific customers while targeting another message to an entirely different group.”

Supplier partners, such as Tyson and Cargill, are also working on communicating with consumers via social media. “We are partnering with our retailers in supporting their private label brand or promoting our Cargill brand,” said Hilary Gerard, Retail beef brand manager for Cargill. “We try to help provide content to our retail partners, including quality photos, that they can use when communicating through social media.”

Tyson works to develop messages about their brands that can be delivered through a range of social media channels. “We want to ensure we have a foundational baseline for our brands on all the social media applications – whether it’s YouTube, Facebook or Pinterest – we have a baseline design of our message that goes through all the applications,” said Kent Harrison, vice president of Marketing and Premium programs for Tyson Fresh Meats.

“Then we want to find out what social media tools our retailers are already using to communicate with their consumers, and we try to offer them tools to better communicate through those methods,” Harrison said.

However, according to Harrison, content is key. “I think the content itself still takes precedence over the platform. We need to develop the content that is speaking to the consumer you’ve identified, and that content needs to be consistent and relevant across the board. Then we look into how we can use that content and apply it on different platforms in the social media world. If we’ve designed the message correctly then it’s easier to transfer it to different social media platforms.”

Good video content and great photography are two crucial components on social media, Gerard said. 

“We’re trying to get our retailers to have good Facebook pages and to have good photos to use on Instagram,” Stanley said. “Our retailers don’t have a lot of time to focus on social media, so we try to help them where we can with good content.”

Harrison’s advice for retailers using social media is “don’t forget that social media is a great catalyst for boosting what you’re already doing well at retail. Use social media to boost what you’re already doing, to get your message to your core shoppers and to some of those consumers who are slightly outside of your target demographic. Use all the different social channels that you have to amplify what you are communicating in the store.”

Skiadanowski reiterated that at Heinen’s social media is another way to build trust in the store and brand. “In the social media setting, no matter what platform you’re working on, it’s important to consistently tell your story so your audience can develop trust with your brand,” she said. “It’s also important to listen and engage with your audience – with your customers. Don’t forget that behind every social media interaction there are real people, real customers.”