Social media changing Canadian beef promotions

BIC_logoMore beef check-off dollars are going into social media than ever before – and it’s proven to be a very effective strategy for boosting consumer awareness and driving loyalty to Canadian beef.

That’s according to Heather Travis, Canada Beef’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing Communications, who’s been a long time champion of social media and has made the organization a leader amongst Canadian farm groups when it comes to using new media tools.

Social media is a way for us to accomplish our business goals, such as brand loyalty, and we pick our platforms based on those business objectives and where our customers are,” explains Travis. “We know consumers are using social media, and online is a very effective way of doing great things without a huge dollar investment.”

Canada Beef is funded through producer check-off and although the overall dollar investment in promotions has increased slightly, the biggest change has been the shift in how those dollars are spent, says Travis.

They don’t print booklets any more, for example, and where they once would have done a press conference and recipe demonstration as a promotional event, they now host Twitter chats to engage with people online directly on a particular topic.

“Our work online has provided us with a lot more nimbleness and the ability to support partners who are promoting Canadian beef, such as grocery stores, for example,” she says. “Now, if they post on their Facebook or tag a tweet we can redistribute that content very easily. And Canadian beef lovers can take an active role in the promotion of the product. Third party endorsements like that are very valuable.”

“I can say Canadian beef is the best in the world, but I’m PR for Canada Beef. If someone else says it, it is big value for us and for Canadian beef producers,” she adds.

The shift has been a successful one for Canada Beef, with their online outreach being more effective in gaining media impressions than traditional media in recent years, according to Travis.

A media impression is a figure that represents the maximum number of opportunities for a message to be seen, whether that is through a tweet, Facebook post, advertisement or newspaper article, for example.

The organization is active in many different social media spheres, with a Facebook page, beef blog, YouTube channel and accounts on Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and Google Plus.

They also manage six different Twitter accounts, some that are generic with the goal of engaging with anyone who wants to chat about beef and others that are focused on a specific audience.

Canada Beef’s dietitian manages a Twitter account aimed at dietitians and health professionals, for example, and the account managed by the culinary director is targeted at the culinary community.

“We use a lot of different accounts to reach a whole host of different audiences. Twitter is the one where we see the most amount of engagement, but Facebook gives us the most amount of referral traffic to our consumer website,” says Travis, adding that they’ve doubled both their Facebook likes and number of Twitter followers. “We want to ensure Canadian beef lovers are enjoying the Canadian beef they eat and give them the tools they need to do that. If they have a great recipe or understand differences in cut categories, they will have a positive eating experience. We’ve had a tremendous response from consumers.”

A key to Canada Beef’s online success has been their strategy of tying their promotions into current events and making sure their efforts are visible across all social media platforms.

During the Royal Wedding, many people were curious about how the iconic Tower of London guards got their “beefeater” nickname. Canada Beef posted on their blog about the topic and drew a lot of new visitors to their site.

Another example comes from the recent Victoria Day long weekend, where promotional efforts focused on how to make a great burger.

This included a blog post about making the best homemade beef burger, step by step photos, recipe suggestions and tips from the test kitchen that were disseminated across all of Canada Beef’s social channels in an effort to reach as many people as possible.

Consumers also always like to hear directly from farmers and Travis admits it would be great to have more beef producers active online.

“If you’re a farmer, get a Twitter account and follow @CanadianBeef or friend us on Facebook. See what we’re doing to drive awareness of Canadian beef and what we’re doing to help keep the industry sustainable and profitable,” says Travis. “We’d love to see more beef farmers engaged in social media so if you’re interested in being part of it, we’d love to see you online!”

This article was originally published in the Ontario Farmer June 25 2013 edition. Logo courtesy of Canada Beef; featured photo from farmphotos.ca.

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