It can be difficult to grow a specialty food brand’s social media presence organically when starting from zero followers, however, there are actions that can help nudge a brand in the right direction.
Snack influencer and food digital strategist, Dre Pao (@DrePaoOfficial), will share strategies and tactics to help specialty food businesses thrive on TikTok, during an SFA In the Know webinar titled, “TikTok Marketing Strategies for Specialty Food.” From creating engaging content to leveraging trends, Pao will discuss how to build a captivating brand presence on TikTok.
The webinar will take place this Thursday, February 15 at 1 p.m. EST. It is free for members and $19 for non-members. Register now.
SFA News Daily spoke with Pao about the topic.
What are your favorite food-related TikTok trends?
Every day I open my TikTok app and there is something new in terms of food trends! When it comes to snack production trends, I love all the new “space-themed” snacks from Oreo, Coca-Cola, and various gummy candies.
As for unique creator trends, I enjoyed the wine-with-milk trend. It wasn’t that long ago that we saw soda and milk blow up on TikTok, but this year kicked off with wine. This is also a sign that you can see the TikTok audience maturing—we didn’t see any alcohol trends a few years ago on TikTok. I’ve also really enjoyed the peeling candy trend, which started with candy from Japan, but recently saw Trader Joe’s enter the space.
I’m sure by next week I’ll be excited about a whole new list of food trends (it really does evolve that quickly).
Do you notice any common mistakes specialty food businesses make when promoting products on social media?
One of the most common major mistakes I come across is brands being obsessed with directly promoting their product, which leads to overly-“salesy” content. A lot of brands are forgetting to build real relationships with their audience. Believe it or not, your product does not need to be front and center in every single video. Ironically, the brands that I work with that are less salesy end up with the most online sales.
There are also still a lot of brands that do not recognize the large amount of volume that is required to compete at a high level on social media (especially TikTok). Posting two or three times per week on social media is not enough, especially for new brands that are trying to generate an audience from zero.
Another big one I come across is brands that obsess over camera quality and perfection, and do not realize how effective organic and casual content shot on a mobile phone is. Simple content that is minimally edited often outperforms overly produced camera content.
What components go into crafting a strong brand presence online?
I can spend hours answering this question, but the biggest component for me is consistency. Due to the large number of creators that are currently creating content on social media, volume plays a large role in your success. For reference: to test the TikTok algorithm in Q1 of 2024, I launched a new TikTok account and attempted to build it from zero. In three weeks, I posted 60 pieces of content and accumulated over 14,000 followers. After posting each piece of content, I replied to as many comments as possible. I also spent hours engaging with accounts and profiles that were in a similar industry.
A strong brand presence requires you to be social on social media. I don’t think there are any special marketing hacks or analytic tricks. If you post a high volume of content that truly brings value to an audience (i.e. teaches them something that they didn’t know before looking at your content), then you can build a real presence.
I also think that you can’t play it safe. You need to be willing to be criticized. You’ll never satisfy every single demographic if you want to be different and remembered.
Are there any standout specialty brands that emerging businesses can look toward when preparing to execute a social media marketing strategy?
When it comes to recipe content, I love what Good Food For Good does (although I am a little biased as they are a client of ours). What I love most about their recipe content is the focus on educating the audience about something new, and not necessarily directly promoting their products. Yes, their products are used in their recipes but teaching the audience something new is the priority, and their product is often the tool that is a part of that “hack.” I feel like this can effectively be applied to many specialty food brands on social media.
I love what DSRT Co. produces on TikTok. They are a specialty chocolate brand from Ontario, Canada. The founder uses her products to tell stories and showcase the production process. The voiceovers are the heros for me with this content. Sometimes the voiceovers have nothing to do with the product she is showcasing—which is fantastic. Instead, she adds a human element to the product. She does a great job of showcasing her personality through the products, adding a casual and friendly familiarity to the brand. This increases the brand’s likability and makes you feel closer to the brand, ultimately increasing brand trust.
In my experience, brands that have a human speaking element that the audience can connect to always have a closer customer/brand connection. In my opinion, it should be the industry standard for brands that want to be successful on social media.
What are you most excited to discuss during the education session?
I’m most excited to discuss how effective photo posts are currently performing on TikTok. After spending January experimenting, my data shows that photo posts are receiving 330 percent more organic engagement than 30-second videos. I’m excited to discuss the integration of horizontal video on TikTok, as well as showcase data that proves that, although a lot of changes are happening, there are simple steps brands can take to harness attention on all vertical platforms (Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, TikTok, etc.)
Is there anything else you would like to share?
At the end of the day, everyone’s social media results will differ and be unique to them. There are millions of ‘gurus’ or ‘experts’ looking to tell you what works, but it will require you as a brand to put in the work to discover what works best for your situation.