Social Media Strategy Review: Indian Food and Beverage Industry

The Indian Food and Beverages industry is possibly the most dynamic sector since the late 90s. A lot has been done and a lot is being done by the biggest of Indian F&B brands.

When it comes to mainline channels such as TV and print, the Food and Beverages brands have been aggressive and at their creative best. Therefore it seemed like a natural progression for them to carry the same innovative approach when the digital industry started booming in the last 5 years.

That said, I personally felt that they were adopting digital media a little bit late in the game compared to some other sectors. However, once they ramped up their digital marketing budgets and made it a core part of their campaigns, they haven’t looked back.

I have observed them capitalizing on the usual social media fare of Bollywood, the latest trends and fashion. In line with most other brands on Facebook, the content and campaigns are primarily targeting the youth segment, which isn’t surprising given such a large proportion of Indian Facebook users are under the age of 25.

In order to study how the Indian F&B sector is making use of social media to reach and engage with its target segment, I chose the following 10 brands and studied their social media activities for the 30-day time period between the 1st of May to 30th May:

A mix of several factors, such as: community size, activity level on social media, prominence amongst the consumer base, media mentions etc. were the reason why the above brands were chosen.

Community Building

It doesn’t surprise me at all that almost all of the brands are more than a million strong on Facebook.Food and Beverages is India’s most popular sector and the love for these brands in the offline world has translated well into the online sphere as well.

Fans Indian Food and Beverages Industry Social Media Unmetric
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

I was expecting Maggi and Oreo to bag the top spot but I was wrong. The crown belongs to Bingo Snacks which has more than 4 million people liking its Facebook page. That said, these brands are hot on the tails of Bingo and they’re catching up pretty fast as Bingo’s growth seems to have hit a plateau. Oreo’s growth rate in particular, is looking spectacular at 16% given its high fan numbers. At this rate it could be the number one F&B brand in India, by fan count, in another 5 to 6 months.

However, I was taken aback by their complete lack of presence on Twitter, it’s as if no effort has been made to form a comprehensive strategy on the microblogging platform. When India has such an active community on Twitter and other sectors like e-Commerce are doing some great Twitter based campaigns, it’s shocking to see the F&B Food and Beverages sector not giving any focus here.

Followers on Twitter Indian Food and Beverages Industry Social Media Unmetric
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

Barring Cadbury Celebrations, which has a boastworthy 18k followers, none of the selected Food and Beverages brands have managed to build a sizeable following on Twitter. It is disappointing to see the likes of Bingo, Oreo and Maggi have very few followers while on the other hand, they possess a gigantic (and active) Facebook community.

I am failing to understand why these brands are not doing enough to tap into the Indian Twitter community which is young, vociferous and, some might say,more evolved than an average Facebook user.

Content Strategy

As expected, the content strategy for Facebook is dominated by images, which seems to be pretty much standard for all brands nowadays. While Amul is focussed on coming up with its trademark quirky take on the latest happenings, I saw Cadbury Celebrations going about celebrating life and its little joys; but it came off monotonous to me as the creatives were all the same.

A quick word of praise for Maggi, though. Unlike other F&B brands, its content is not professional in nature. They don’t create snazzy graphics and nor do they invest much in purchasing stock photos or have professional shots done. They merely share photos sent in by their community and have a catchy byline to go with them. This seems to be working really good for them.

Engagement score Indian Food and Beverages Industry Social Media Unmetric
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

It is heartening to see that the content shared by brands are all in sync with the brand positioning, except that of Happydent.

The Facebook Page of Happydent India looks more like just another page that shares funny updates. They could have done so much around the theme of smile and happiness but they aren’t. Yes, it is getting them a decent engagement rate but there has to be some synchronization of the brand with its content. Moreover, I feel social media is much more than just likes/comments/shares on your page updates. The strategy is certainly cost effective, but is it helping to build the brand image?

The frequency of updating the page varies hugely amongst these brands, though. Since Amul’s content is topical in nature, it publishes only one update a day. Maggi also restricts updates to once per day. However, brands like Mentos, Kurkure and Happydent, which have a fun angle to their content, update multiple times a day. In fact, Mentos published ~200 updates in the last 30 days! That’s about 6 or 7 updates a day which doesn’t work for many brands but given Mentos’ huge engagement score, I can say that this is one brand which has cracked the multiple updates strategy.

Engagement score Indian F&B Industry Social Media Unmetric
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

Once again, Twitter is a let down when it comes to regular content updates. While the brands post multiple times a day on Facebook, much less effort is taken on Twitter which is a platform suited to multiple updates. It seems the brands are not putting their whole heart into it. In fact, Cadbury Celebrations, which has the largest Twitter following amongst the brands I chose, has stopped updating on Twitter altogether!

It’s hard to pick out an F&B brand that can be singled out as performing on Twitter as the other brands aren’t any better either and they seriously need to pump up their Twitter efforts.

YouTube is another platform where I see a huge scope for improvement. Either the brands are not regular with their uploads, or they are merely uploading their TVCs. Only Mentos India stood out from the rest as it used engaging videos to promote its Dimaag Ki Batti Jalao contest.

It’s not every time you see a video-drive contest but Mentos seems to have pulled it off amazingly well. Even from US brands, few examples come to mind of successful YouTube campaigns, Old Spice being one of them.

Community Engagement

It comes as no surprise to me that Maggi’s content gets the more Likes (~9700/update). It also goes to show that one need not shell out money for razor sharp professional creatives. You can stay real and still get high engagement rates if your product is really loved by everyone.

Facebook Likes, Comment Share Indian Food and Beverage Industry Social Media Unmetric
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

Mentos, on the other hand, is getting the maximum number of comments for its updates. Their strategy of sharing quiz based content has ensured that they get close to 2,000 comments per update on an average.

However, as I expected, Happydent India’s content gets shared the most. I find it natural because everyone on Facebook loves to share memes and funny images. I am sure it looks good on the ‘reach column’ in their monthly report to the brand manager but I seriously doubt the efficacy of the content they put up.

A poor content strategy and shoddy community building efforts on Twitter has led to an even worse engagement.

The only F&B major pulling off decent engagement on Twitter is Kurkure. It is engaging nicely with its audience and has a friendly, informal tone as well, which is entirely missing from its peers.

Sentiment

I believe sentiment towards F&B brands shall always be positive in nature unlike the service sectors such as Telecom and BFSI. Worms in chocolate aside, there is very little they can do to attract negativity and the brand would have to do something spectacularly epic to attract the ire of the masses.

sentiments The Indian F & B Industry Social Media Unmetric
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

All Food and Beverage brands have to do is to focus on keeping product standards high, engage with interesting content and assure their community has a good experience.

For this reason, it should came as no surprise to me that there is hardly any negativity on Facebook for most of the F&B brands I chose. Cornetto (powered by its love-themed content) and Maggi are the ones with the most wall posts from their fans.

However, you must note that, Maggi gets 10x the number of wall posts that Cornetto sees. So if you look at this quantitatively, Maggi is again the winner here.

I see no point looking at the sentiment of these brands on Twitter as they hardly get any mention due to their lack of activity. I can only hope for the scenario to change.

Conclusion

Content wise, the F&B brands are doing a really good job (except Happydent, of course) in my opinion. They have got Facebook covered and most of them have cracked the engagement formulathat works best with their fans. For some, like Amul, it’s simply been a continuation of their offline strategy in to a digital medium.

But in all honesty, despite the good work on Facebook, I am disappointed. I expected the brands to have a solid presence on Twitter and YouTube but was saddened to find they were putting all their efforts in to just one platform.

I hope they look beyond Facebook and realize the true potential of these platforms as effective communication channels. They need to converse with their community and there is no other platform as good as Twitter for that.

These brands have a huge consumer base and they MUST explore more avenues to reach out to them.

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