Ripe for the Picking

We know people are still watching television. We know people are consuming food-related media in social networks. And we know they’re especially active in social networks while watching television. This convergence can mean big opportunities for brands if they know where to look.

Before we dive into the opportunities, let’s discuss our target and learn more about what they’re doing.

Recipe Revolution

The Hartman Group’s 2012 report Clicks and Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture provides strategic insight into how social media has transformed the “lifecycle of a meal.” In the past, recipes and meal choices were influenced by Mom’s old recipe box, family traditions and cookbooks, and we consumed our meals together, around the table. Today’s home cooks, whatever their skill levels, seem to be driven into the kitchen by multiple social channels, mobile apps, restaurant reviews that are detailed enough to celebrate specific meals, television programs, bloggers and the recommendations found within their own personal networks.

The list of online and mobile resources at the disposal of the home cook seems to grow by the day: Recipe inspiration, grocery list aggregators, coupon apps, cooking tutorials, meal planning apps and entertaining guides crowd the landscape. But for concrete proof of the Internet’s hold on the home cook, look no further than the combined powers of Allrecipes and Pinterest. Recipes have long been one of the content backbones of Pinterest. By adding a Pin It button to the website, Allrecipes garnered 139 million impressions on Pinterest during three very busy holiday months.

The days of passively watching Julia Child cook on your TV screen have passed. Now, we need to create what we see and curate while we watch. These urges reverberate through YouTube channels, Instagram feeds, Yelp reviews and blogger platforms.

Social TV

Mary Meeker and Liang Wu’s Internet Trends report of December 2012 does a wonderful job of encapsulating the staggering growth of tablets and eReaders in American households, particularly the stunning trajectory of the iPad. Meeker refers to mobile’s effect on our culture as “re-imagination” and it seems no mundane activity is safe, from opening your garage door to taking notes. And the re-imagination of how we watch television has garnered a lion’s share of marketer’s attention.

Mention Twitter and television in the same sentence around a marketer these days and see what happens. We’re guessing the responses sound something like this:

  • “We know our target consumers are consuming media on multiple screens in single sessions. This means the TV is on, a laptop is open and a smartphone is in hand. For marketers, this requires having a single, integrated conversation across those screens.” – Wendy Clark, senior vice president of integrated marketing communications and capabilities for Coca-Cola, from the company’s website, March 20, 2013
  • “More than 86 percent of mobile Internet users surf the Web while watching TV. Almost half of tablet users visit social networks while watching TV, with 45 percent doing so during commercials.” – Beth Reilly of Kraft Foods at’s BlogWell Conference (, Aug. 23, 2012)
  • “Twitter had already found that during peak TV shows, almost 40 percent of all tweeting is related to TV and that 60 percent of Twitter users tweet while watching TV at some point or other.” – Joel Windels, lead community manager at Brandwatch, Jan. 29, 2013

As more reports emerge, it’s interesting to observe how different types of programming have responded to the second screen. Dramas, reality competitions and sports might vary wildly in content but the pattern in their social strategies is evident. When it comes to programming, the chosen cocktail of Twitter hashtags, links and quizzes isn’t always enough to satisfy the curation appetites of consumers. But it does provide brands with a terrific opportunity to help bridge the gap.

Food TV: Serving It Up

When it comes to optimizing food-related media content for the second screen, we start with a few questions: Where is this distracted target spending time online while watching television? What does the food brand have to offer that its target audience is actively seeking? Is it knowledge, distraction, inspiration or more of a combination?

The distracted target has options when it comes to social networking. Finding and testing which platforms work best for your brand’s most popular content areas during prime viewing hours is crucial. To do that, marketers need to move beyond the knee-jerk impulse to focus on Twitter alone. Twitter’s influence may be sizeable but it’s still considered by many to be a niche medium. It’s a place for conversation and link-sharing, not curation.

Based on the content that a brand has at its disposal, it could be more prudent to focus on more image-friendly platforms like Pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr. The Facebook News Feed is more uncluttered in the evening hours as brands go offline and this might be the ideal time to tout that new contest they just watched on TV, or provide them with a level of detail that the 30-second spot couldn’t afford to share.

Much has been written about the activity among brands during big televised events such as The Super Bowl and The Academy Awards, but real-time marketing doesn’t and shouldn’t be relegated to annual, grandstand events. If there are strong correlations among certain blocks of programming and your target consumer, why not seize that opportunity to help spread your brand’s message? This is especially critical if the brand already has media running.

Now that you have the who and the where and the why, it all comes down to the content. It has to be good – end of story. If a brand’s content is high quality, if it’s shared with the right intentions and offered up at the moments when the audience is most willing to accept it, who knows how far it can reach. Mom’s already sitting down to watch television and pin a few recipes; why can’t some of those recipes belong to your brand?­

Judi Cutrone is a senior social media strategist at The VIA Agency, a Portland, Maine-based advertising agency. She can be reached at [email protected].

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