Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs and food-related applications for smartphones are just a few of the ways bakers, snack manufacturers, restaurants and retailers have turned social media forums into effective marketing tools. These outlets have changed the way companies conduct business and connect with consumers.

“Social and digital media is proving to be increasingly more important to deliver relevant content and incentives such as recipes and coupons to consumers,” said Srishti Gupta, executive vice-president, digital media solutions, SymphonyIRI Group, Chicago, IL. “For example, there has been a consistent increase in recipe searches, especially healthy recipes, over the past few years. Marketers are capitalizing on this health-and-wellness trend by making information easily available to consumers and connecting them with other like-minded individuals.”

Bakery and snack manufacturers use social media to interact directly with consumers, discover what consumers like and dislike about their products and respond faster to consumer needs. “We have a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook for our flatbread business,” said Linda Martin, head of marketing, FGF Brands/Stonefire Authentic Flatbreads, Concord, ON. “As we transition from International Fabulous Flats to Stonefire Authentic Flatbreads, we are putting significantly more efforts behind social media. Approximately 94% of social media users have a Facebook page, so our efforts are really focused there. We love the two-way dialogue that social media gives us.”

Social media outlets serve as speedy, efficient and inexpensive marketing tools that allow companies to distribute coupons, promote events, gather product feedback and announce product launches. Yet they also have redefined the phrase “word of mouth.” In this age of 24/7 connectivity, interaction and access, the adage, “Good news travels fast; bad news travels faster,” translates into, “Good news travels fast; bad news travels at warp speed.”

“Social media can have an undesirable impact [on a company] with bad news or negative publicity traveling faster than previously possible,” said Yadunandan Dar, PhD, applications technology manager, National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, NJ.