Platforms allow operators to showcase their exciting snack and dessert experiences

Food has long been one of the most engaging topics on the internet, from crowd-sourced restaurant review platforms such as Yelp to the burgeoning social media universe that includes Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and TikTok.

For younger consumers, social media sites such as Instagram are often a primary source for finding and sharing restaurant information. Restaurant dessert trends such as freak milkshakes, stacked high with colorful toppings, owe their popularity in part to their Instagram-ready appearance, and more recently TikTok has become a go-to site for watching and sharing food-related videos.

The use of these platforms accelerated during the past two years, as consumers cut down on in-person socializing and relied more on digital communications. Research from Datassential found that consumers increasingly used a variety of digital media for food information during the past year. For example, 21% of consumers said they used TikTok as a source for food information last October, compared to 13% who said they had done so last February. Twitter and Pinterest saw similar gains and have similar potential for restaurant social media marketing.

“Consumers are more invested in learning about food than they were during the height of COVID,” the Datassential report notes.

While photo-sharing online is generally popular among consumers of all ages, Gen Z consumers are increasingly comfortable with video. TikTok is especially popular among younger consumers, with 40% of Gen Z survey respondents saying they use that platform for food information, second only to YouTube, which was cited by 44% of Gen Z consumers, according to Datassential.

Foodservice distributor Dot Foods predicts that food and restaurant social media marketing on TikTok represent a significant trend for the year ahead, noting in a recent report that the video platform surpassed 1 billion users worldwide in 2021.

“Social media trends can come and go pretty quickly, making it hard for chefs to capitalize on them. But creating something interactive, surprising, visually appealing and based on pop culture will engage diners in restaurants and online,” the company says in the report.

As an example, it cites the surge in dalgona recipes shared on TikTok following the central role the treat played in an episode of the popular Netflix series “Squid Game.”

“Adding this honeycomb sugar candy to dessert or snack menus could make restaurants social media famous,” Dot Foods says.

Social media success stories

Other examples of snacks and desserts gaining widespread recognition through food social media marketing strategies include cookies from bakery chain Crumbl. The Montrose, Calif.-based operator has more than 4 million followers on TikTok, where it often posts short, mouth-watering videos that highlight its rotating menu of unique cookie varieties.

For example, Crumbl recently showcased the Blue Monster featuring CHIPS AHOY! Cookies, with a TikTok video set to popular music that quickly garnered millions of views and hundreds of thousands of “likes.”

Many food brands have become social media celebrities of a sort themselves. In fact, OREO and SOUR PATCH KIDS are two of the fastest-growing brands on TikTok, and SOUR PATCH KIDS has the largest following of any candy company. OREO has more than 1.4 million followers on TikTok, and SOUR PATCH KIDS also has more than 1.4 million followers on that platform.

On its TikTok account, OREO’s quirky, humorous posts often invite consumers to join in the fun. The cookie has been celebrating its 110th birthday, for example, which has led to some comedic and interactive videos on the site.

Many restaurants have cultivated a personality on social media, including Wendy’s, which is known for roasting its competitors — and just about anyone else, whether they ask for it or not. In fact, the burger chain has poked fun at OREO Cookies, recently suggesting that perhaps they were “doing it wrong” if they taste better with milk.

Social media strategies

A social media guide for restaurants published last year by technology company Toast highlighted the differences among different platforms and restaurants social media post ideas, tips, and strategies on these different platforms. Instagram, for example, uses visual storytelling to give users a sense of the restaurant experience, while Facebook can be used to build community and foster communication. Twitter provides a platform for brief news updates and commentary, and TikTok is a great platform for telling a more comprehensive story about a restaurant’s brand.

Restaurants should have distinct social media strategies and posts for using each platform, taking the time to ensure that posts are accurate, professional and convey the right messages.

“A solid social media strategy provides information and opens communication with customers, gives your restaurant the opportunity to be found online, and adds a layer of professionalism and legitimacy to your restaurant,” the Toast report advises.

Given the embrace of digital communication tools for discussing food trends among younger consumers, it’s clear that food and restaurant social media marketing is an important tool for restaurant operators to engage with their customers and attract new ones. These ever-evolving tools offer restaurants and their fans the ability to share great experiences, and ultimately drive more traffic and sales.

For more information about the latest foodservice trends, tips, and social media post ideas to keep your restaurant top of mind with consumers, visit Mondelēz International

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