By taking a hybrid approach to and establishing clear objectives for social listening and engagement, said Stephanie Moritz, head of PR and social media at ConAgra Foods.
“Social listening is a critical backbone to doing business in the 21st century,” Moritz told FoodNavigator-USA. “It’s a key component to understanding consumers’ needs and operating in a real-time environment. There’s a big opportunity to utilize consumers’ feedback for inspiration, but also to have conversations, build ideas, co-create together and reach back out and share.”
ConAgra takes a multi-pronged approach to social listening and media monitoring by partnering with social media monitoring firms like Radian6, which help firms manage the various social media channels, comb interaction with and mention of the brands on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter for insights; building dedicated "internal community" staff to engage fans on social media; as well as engaging brand advocates through consumer groups like Crowdtap and Punchtab, which offer incentives for fans to engage with their favorite brands.
As Moritz puts it, “It takes a village.”
Mining for insights and engaging brand advocates
Although the firm initially used social listening and engagement solely for marketing, the tools are now being applied company-wide, with implications in such areas as R&D and advertising. "We believe this consumer information is really rich and valuable," Moritz said. "We use everything from inspiration all the way down to the really valuable first-read information that we take, which allows us to see how a new product is doing, down to what markets have different feedback or questions and how our various advertising campaigns are working."
Consumer advocacy groups give the firm access to influential, deeply engaged brand leaders. "We identified the Healthy Choice brand advocates with Crowdtap and found that they were in fact 70 times more engaged in that time frame than some of other communities were. It was a rich learning experience. We were able to engage with them and test different content."
ConAgra is also using this deeper consumer access to engage fans in the decision-making process of its brands—something that has shown to resonate well with the authenticity-minded millennial generation in particular.
“Our insights have shown us that consumers like to be part of decision making. We wanted consumers' input on our new Healthy Choice Greek frozen yogurt, so we reached out to the community to get feedback on the latest flavor of Greek frozen yogurt,” Moritz said. Healthy Choice polled consumers with Facebook marketplace ads to poll consumers, measuring the click-through rates on an identical piece of copy except for the names of the product. The brand also conducted a Facebook poll with different names for fans to choose from.
“Dark fudge swirl was the fan favorite, and it's now our best-selling SKU," Moritz added. "We believe this really could in fact be tied to the fact that fans had a hand in naming it. Consumers want to be part of making decisions and want to be part of a brand.”
It was also a quick, easy way to solicit consumers' feedback without recruiting a focus group or performing comprehensive market analysis, with the product hitting store shelves within three to six months of the test.
Promising lead generation technology
ConAgra is also testing new eCRM (electronic customer relationship management) technology with Twitter’s recently launched "lead generation cards" to improve signup numbers for its Hunt’s brand newsletter. Lead generation cards enable users to securely share their email address with a business through an expanded Tweet instead of leaving Twitter to fill out a form.
“This technology is something that’s been used more common for e-commerce, but it’s great for CPGs as well, which is why we jumped on it,” said Moritz. “We inserted a button allowing people to sign up for Hunt’s recipes on Twitter, and we’ve had more than 600 new signups for the brand’s newsletter so far, so we’re really pleased.”
The theme here, Moritz said, is “leaning forward,” or actively seeking out opportunities to test and learn from social listening and engagement. Indeed, one of the biggest advantages of using social media insights is the ability to work as close to real time as possible.
“In the past what has taken days or weeks we are now able to do in a matter of hours to a day. Whether it’s asking about a new product on the shelves, or asking for inspiration on a flavor or new product, or taking a quick poll on Facebook, we have this community that is always on. And that opens up endless opportunities.”