Plan a Social Media Hashtag Strategy and Turn #FoodPorn Into Profit

Discover when and what foodies love to tag with #FoodPorn

Foodporn hashtag
Food porn: the photo of what's for dinner. Susie Wyshak

If social media is a highway, hashtags are the roadmap.

When you're so busy trying to keep up with all the social media to promote your foods and beverages, does add social media hashtags your posts really matter?

Well, imagine hundreds or thousands of social media users discovering your brand or latest offering. That can happen simply by choosing the right hashtags to include in your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media posts.

What's a hashtag anyway? It's an addition to the text that says "This word is important for people interested in this topic." Kind of like how book indexes work.

When it's National Chilli Day, you're joining the conversation by using the #NationalChilliDay hashtag. Without the hashtag, people might find your post in a search. With hashtags, your post will appear alongside others who have indicated that this particular topic is relevant for their particular post.

Here's my personal example:

  • When I post a photo of coffee in a cafe or discover a coffee brand, I hashtag the word  #coffee so industry folks and coffee fans will 1) discover me 2) benefit from the post.
  • When I'm talking about my new coffee-colored jacket, I don't add a hashtag.

How Hashtags Reveal Consumer Food Passions

Hashtags have incredible marketing value. The National Pork Board (NPB), which supports U.S. pork producers, analyzed hashtags on more than 30 million posts made on Nov.

1, 2013, to Nov. 30, 2014, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The goal: discover what makes up the ultimate American meal. The research revealed interesting trends in flavors, ingredients, and pairings among social posters. Some findings:

  • Bacon is the top mentioned pork product, at 62 percent. (Given bacon's all around popularity for every meal AND in chocolate, no surprise, eh?)
  • Cheese is the most popular food topping—great data for cheese makers, chefs, and restaurants to focus their social media messaging.
  • Twenty-six percent of posts tagged with #foodporn related to restaurant meals while 28 percent were people touting their home-cooked meals. It's a safe bet to imagine ice cream parlors, homemade desserts, snack foods and other food experiences made up the rest.
  • 41 percent of pork posts include the #foodporn hashtag. Think: bacon and ribs.
  • Nearly 50 percent of the shared food content talked about smoked, hot and spicy flavors paired with popular proteins.
  • The most common ethnic flavor for protein foods was Cajun – with Mexican and Asian close behind. (Could this preference reflect the Food Channel predicting Cajun food popularity in 2013?)
  • Over one in three (38 percent) of side dishes with #foodporn were about the potato, 16 percent of that fries (16 percent) and 22 percent about other forms of potatoes. Great  insight for planning new food products.

Here's more on the study.

Turning Hashtags Into Marketing Campaigns

The National Pork Board took the data they gleaned and developed an absurdly decadent series of recipes mashing up ingredients from the most popular hashtags.

Like Cheesy Maple Bacon Cajun Pulled Pork Sandwich.

The campaign has its own special web domain at PorkBeinspired.com where they share recipes and  imparts more data findings on the social media analysis. As part of the campaign, the NPB set up Pinterest, Facebook , Twitter and Instagram accounts to promote recipes and all things pork.

Commodity marketing boards are a boon to producers using that particular commodity. In this case,  pork producers and pork importers contribute to The National Pork Board fund called The Pork Checkoff, which supports advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing and other programs like this social media analysis.

How To Track Hashtag Popularity

Online tools such as Keyhole.co and Hashtracking let you easily search hashtags across posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

A search on Keyhole to discover how many people hashtagged posts (with photos or not) with #bacon turned up the following:

1017 posts by 832 users, with a reach of 1,835,289 people

That big number is based on the number of accounts following those 832 people who posted about #bacon. Before you swoon over that last number, realize only a fraction of a social media user's followers actually sees all their posts. Still, the power of reach at no cost is definitely exciting.

Hashtagify.me lets you visualize hashtags related to a particular tag. A search on #granola turns up related tags of #yummy, #breakfast, #yogurt...all topics that go hand in hand with the crunchy cereal.

On the high end, you'll find services like Crimson Hexagon which tracks top retweets, hashtags, and mentions. This company powered the NPB's analysis based on 500 billion posts they have gathered. With that huge body of data, they help customers discover customer passions, interests, and affinities with their own brand as well as where competitors stand.

Some Caveats

  1. Hashtags are like the Wild West. Social media outlaws can use whatever hashtags they want. Just because someone adds #bacon doesn't mean the post has anything to do with the actual food. On Hashtagify.me, a search on #bacon turned up all fashion-related social media posts.
  2. Think before you hashtag. If your company is new, you probably don't need to hashtag your company name. It's kind of lonely when your tweets are the only ones with a certain hashtag.
  3. That being said, humor is good. While #superlonghashtags are a no no, the "commentary" style hashtags like #imsofull can be fun and reflect your lighthearted brand (or social media manager).

Get more tips about planning a hashtag strategy as part of your food business social media strategy.

And tweet @susiewyshak to share what you're up to and any insights you've discovered.