BELLVUE, Wash. (The Harman Group) — Social media lives in the moment, so it’s no surprise that food and drink should figure so prominently in the medium. We eat or snack some three to 10 times a day and, as we do, we often share that experience – we even share while we eat.
It’s a phenomenon that inspired Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture, a joint study by The Hartman Group and MSLGROUP Americas to explore how food culture in the United States has evolved under the influence of social and digital media. More recently, MSLGROUP Americas disclosed a proprietary segment of the study focused on moms with children under 13, the leading market driver in the U.S. food and beverage industry.
Study results confirm the remarkable influence of moms, not simply at the cash register, but also as chief movers in food culture. In fact, we conclude that social media has magnified their influence and helped reshape how new food habits are adopted. It’s information that will prove extremely valuable to food and beverage marketers.
Women with children under 13 are spending 15.2 hours/month on social networking sites alone, compared with men at 8.4 hours. All told, 44% of such moms are reading or browsing posts contributed by others on social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or MySpace.
The study showed that moms are much more likely than non-moms to use social media while preparing meals (40% vs. 30%). In fact, almost 60% of moms (vs. 48% of non-moms) search online for a recipe or food preparation tips. Almost half (47%) of moms also texted a friend or family member for cooking ideas. Their interests should serve as a content guide for food marketers online:
- Quick and easy meals (77%)
- Low-cost meals (55%)
- Holiday dishes (55%)
- Healthy and nutritious meals (46%)
Not surprisingly, Millennial moms have been the most progressive in adopting social media for meal planning and other food-related information. Our study shows that these younger moms are the most interested in leveraging online networks and resources when it comes to food — meal planning, new restaurants to try, and learning about new foods or nutrition.
For marketers trying to calibrate their digital-traditional marketing mix, it’s useful to know that most traditional channels remain valuable. Moms are diversifying their sources, now favoring online channels, but abandoning few. That said, print usage is facing significant declines with Millennial moms.
We’re well past the digital tipping point, with moms spending more time engaged online looking at resources to learn about food (48%) than they do looking at offline sources like cookbooks and magazines (16%). In addition to recipes, moms browse restaurant reviews (15%) and food blogs (16%) online.
Almost two-thirds of moms who took the survey visited Allrecipes.com for meal inspiration. Foodnetwork.com (52% of moms) and Recipes.com (45% of moms) followed behind.
Moms say they want two things above all from brands: deals and recipes. In our view, deals are practically mandatory, but recipes are the best way for brands to build a long-term relationship with moms.
In fact, we see recipes as the original viral content. Good recipes get enjoyed, passed around, and served to family and friends. They can potentially live for years in a mom’s mealtime repertoire, and every consumption occasion could translate to sales.
One really important thing to know about moms: they frequently consult online reviews and, especially as they gain experience, they contribute reviews. In fact, moms are more likely to contribute a product review to sites like Amazon and Yelp than women with no children (moms 23% vs. total females 18%).
A watchword to food makers: Mom is most likely to share a review when she is very impressed or very disappointed. Middling experiences receive little attention, so find ways to wow her.
Moms may be less likely to share photos of meals and restaurant descriptions – perhaps because they don’t get out as much – but they are more likely than women without children to describe a home-prepared meal or snack to their friends, or request advice about what food to prepare and how to prepare it.
Smartphones are now used by a majority (52%) of moms with young children, and they are putting them to use while shopping. In the last year, they compared prices, downloaded coupons, made purchases, and shared shopping experiences on their social networks – all at higher rates than other women. Those numbers – now in the low double digits – will only climb as smartphones permeate the market.
These are dramatic changes for moms, who might once have relied on their own moms for the largest share of their food tastes and know-how. Now, moms have turned to crowdsourcing their food ideas – and savvy brands will follow them with the best available information on what they need and want online.
Hartbeat contributor: Steve Bryant
Steve Bryant leads the Food & Beverage business of MSLGROUP North America, a leading PR, events and engagement agency. MSLGROUP and The Hartman Group partner on major studies around food, nutrition and select consumer audiences. Together they provide a potent mixture of deep data, insights, and strategic opportunities for brands. Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture and a MSLGROUP-proprietary study, was the most recent collaboration.