By Zaraid Jimenez
Four years ago I started a food company back in Venezuela called FIT FOOD. My initial goal was to introduce to the market healthy food products that were not available in the country. I developed the recipes myself and then decided to start the company. I first created a name, a logo and a twitter account. Social media was the most essential marketing tool for FIT FOOD, helping me build relationships with customers from the very beginning and later on with retail stores. For this reason, I chose to create a plan for my brand including new social media strategies to increase engagement from current followers.
About FIT FOOD
FIT FOOD provides packaged food products for the fitness enthusiasts who consider eating healthy a priority, but at the same time don’t want to sacrifice taste. Unlike competitors, our products have high quality flavor and texture and at the same time make healthy eating easy. It has been hard to increase sales in such a terrible economic situation, especially since the products are expensive and addressed to a high end market.
My general social media strategy
I decided to start with Instagram and Facebook. My goal for the Instagram account was to increase engagement from followers, customers and stores, because it has proven to increase sales in the past. On Facebook, the goal was to create a presence to reach another sector of the target segment. In Venezuela different sectors use different social networks, and even though there is some overlap, having a presence on Facebook would most likely bring new customers.
1. Set a posting schedule
Since I basically stopped posting when I started my MBA program, the first tactic was to set a posting schedule that I could follow regularly. I created different buckets of content that could potentially appeal to my target audience, and created content in advance to make posting easier. I used Trello to keep track of my posts’ performance and save the created content.
2. Use a unique voice and style
Secondly, even though my account has many followers, it didn’t have a unique voice and style. I made sure to address it at the beginning of the project: I changed the voice from a vague, team style voice (we, us, our) to a direct, singular voice, simulating only one person is talking (I, my). I also changed the tone from slightly formal to completely casual, with the goal of being more approachable and stimulate conversation. Moreover, I set basic parameters for content such as colors to use, font and clean visuals that matched the brand.
3. Develop partnerships
To increase store engagement, I developed a partnership with some of the most popular stores, promising to feature them once per month on my account if they would do the same for me. I wanted to get the stores to showcase the products because they likely have followers who have never heard of FIT FOOD. This would expose the brand to a broader audience and possibly get new followers. Similarly, I identified fitness influencers that could help with brand awareness. I have had great success with influencers in the past, and would send them free products. I have changed my tactics slightly, though, and now try to develop a partnership with the influencers, instead of a one-time deal, for them to become brand ambassadors.
4. Share customer stories
Another strategy was to identify loyal followers and ask them for success stories with the brand, for example, how we helped them become healthier. To incentivize them to share their stories, I would feature them on both platforms. The goal for customer success stories was to humanize the brand and increase follower engagement.
Tips for Instagram
Even though I had a big audience on the Instagram account, I stopped posting around the time Instagram changed their algorithm from chronological to relevant posts. This made me lose the follower engagement I had previously developed. Since the posts stopped, the followers stopped interacting with the account, and when I started posting again the algorithm didn’t show the pictures in my followers’ feeds. Consequently, I had a similar experience to those who create a completely new account. The general strategy I described above helped me overcome that, although it is still a challenge.
5. Set consistent frequency and timing
My initial goal for frequency of posts was one post per day. Nonetheless, after benchmarking the accounts of similar brands, I changed my strategy to 4-5 posts per week. The timing of the post was definitely important, and I experimented a lot to find optimal times.
6. Follow others
To grow the audience, I followed people who liked the posts of competitors, having a 20% conversion rate (meaning people following me back).
7. Develop a content strategy
I developed five buckets of content for regular posts: recipes, nutrition tips, easy workouts, motivational messages and product-related. There were other buckets for occasional posts such as customer stories, retail stores, events and reposts of customer content. I set some ground rules for the timing of posts; for example, I post recipes only on weekends and motivational messages on Mondays.
Tips for Facebook
The Facebook account was new, so the first challenge was to create an audience. I invited all my Facebook friends to like the FIT FOOD page, and that got me an initial following of about 40 people. I used the same buckets of content previously mentioned, experimenting to reveal which posts were most successful.
8. Use Facebook ads
The algorithm problem was more challenging on Facebook because the account was new, so I decided to experiment with Facebook Ads. The goal for post frequency was 3 posts per week.
To get more value for my money, I did and A/B test with Facebook Ads to increase brand awareness and gain followers and to test which type of content performs better with the target audience. I boosted three different posts, keeping constant the filters for target audience, posting time and day of the week. The ads ran for 24 hours, and I spent $2 on each.
The first ad showed a potential reach between 4k and 17k, resulting in 15,852 people reached. The post was a video featuring our most popular product and it had a funny caption. On the other hand, the engagement was quite low with only 12 likes. I ran the campaign as brand awareness, but only got two page likes, which means a conversion rate 0.012%.
The second post was a meme with a funny caption, something I was trying out for the first time. Facebook estimated a reach between 4k and 12k, and when the ad started running, I received an email from Facebook saying that the ad was not performing well because of the content (Facebook has some rules about the space a text can occupy in a post, and memes are text heavy). However, the results were completely unexpected. This ad had 21,565 people reached (2,420 organic), 994 likes, 4 comments, 143 shares and 8 page likes, having a conversion rate of 0.037%.
The third post was also a picture, this time showing another best-selling product with nutritional information and benefits. Facebook estimated a reach between 4k and 12k again, and the performance was as expected. The ad reached 7,255 people with 75 likes, 2 comments and 2 shares. However, the conversion rate was much higher, getting 0.13% with 10 page likes.
What I learned
Managing the social media platforms for a business is definitely a full-time job. Creating content, especially in the form of pictures and videos, takes a huge amount of time, therefore it was challenging to commit to the posting schedule. Additionally, managing the account from a distance means I don’t have access to the products, complicating content creation even more. Also, creating a partnership with influencers took longer than expected. I did manage to get in contact with two Instagram influencers.
The changes in the visuals and social media voice definitely made a difference toward engagement, not only with likes and comments, but also with posts of followers featuring the brand. On average, post engagement increased by 15%.
Examples of customer engagement
About 10 new retail stores contacted us through social media, out of which three became a point of sale. This resulted from having other stores feature our products, since that is how the store owners became aware of the brand. The store posts also increased followers.
Stores featuring FIT FOOD
The most successful bucket of content is by far motivational posts. Recipes are also very popular, and funny posts make up another category I might include in the future. Moreover, the results of the A/B test showed me that nutrition tips provide the most value to the target audience.
The Instagram account grew about 250 followers net, reaching 9,728 total followers. It is hard to track the actual amount of new followers because each week the amount of follows and unfollows is very similar.
What didn't work?
Sales did not increase. In fact, they decreased, even with the addition of new points of sale. Nonetheless, this result is attributable to the economic situation of Venezuela, which has been suffering for a long time, and even more so in the past two months. This was not the appropriate time to try to increase sales, since the sales are basically decreasing for every company.
The store and influencer strategy did not work on Facebook, since very little stores and none of the influencers have a Facebook account. Also, this platform has not shown to provide value in terms of new customers or new retail stores.
The strategy for customer success stories did not work, since offering to feature the story was not enough reward. The few people that agreed to it wanted products as a reward.
My plan was successful for the brand in terms of awareness and engagement, and provided a lot of valuable information. The Instagram account continues to be the primary communication method with customers and stores, and it has proven to be valuable for building the brand. The Facebook account doesn’t show a lot of value just yet. More experimentation needs to be done before deciding if it should be eliminated.
Going forward I need to either dedicate more time to it or hire someone to take over the social media. The relationships I developed now will definitely be rewarding in the future, especially the partnership with the influencers. Moreover, I need a different type of reward to move forward with customer success stories, maybe also develop a relationship with them to become brand ambassadors.
I will definitely keep experimenting with Facebook and Instagram ads to test content. I might invest in a social media management platform to make posting and analysis easier.