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Published September 7th 2017
Food has always been a social thing that brings people together, but with the advent of the internet and, more specifically, online food influencers, the ways in which we experience food and all its possibilities have changed.
Gone are the days of scribbling down recipes as they’re described on the radio or television – everything is available online after the show (if you even bother to watch the show in the first place). If you fancy making cookies, Google offers speedy results that can be tailored to what’s actually in your cupboard as opposed to flicking through your dusty old cookbooks – books that we could see the death of soon.
The rise of the internet as an authority on food preparation has changed perceptions on culinary expertise. While Fanny Cradock once ruled the airwaves by passing on traditional recipes and tips, power to influence food trends has become more democratized online.
To start with, we’ve got sites like AllRecipes gaining huge amounts of traffic from hungry cooks worldwide. Then you’ve got the incredibly successful Buzzfeed’s Tasty that boasts 88 million Facebook likes at the time of writing. Food online certainly looks to be a lucrative business, especially if Tasty’s hot plate that syncs to their online videos takes off this holiday season.
Perhaps the most fascinating new-world food influencers are the dedicated #foodies – self-styled lifestyle gurus that broadcast their food (and often beauty and travel) choices online to their followers. The most popular online personalities that dish out recipes and tips are able to influence vast swathes of listeners and scrollers, often presenting images of aspiration and health or, on the other hand, heart-clogging indulgence. And, much like the huge organizations like Tasty and AllRecipes, these individual food influencers stand to gain financially, too – whether that’s through ads on their blogs and videos or paid sponsorships in their content.
Online food influencers are far more reachable than TV personalities and branded content. They can respond directly to comments and the often DIY-style nature of their content (filming vlogs from the couch, posting images of food prepared in their own kitchens) can give a much more personable feel. Their ‘real-ness’ is what makes them appealing to their many followers who take inspiration from them.
It is these influencers that the Brandwatch React team decided to take a look at. What can they tell us about the dietary trends of 2017?
We used Brandwatch Audiences to look specifically at self-identifying food bloggers and food vloggers by analyzing words in their Twitter bios.
We found that gender-categorized authors skewed female (76% female, 21% male), finding that words like ‘Mom’ and ‘Wife’ were also prominent in bios.
Meanwhile, the food bloggers were more likely than the average tweeter to have an interest in travel, photography, video, beauty, health, fitness and books (as well as food, obviously).
Here’s a look at the top five most influential food bloggers on our list. Please note that Audiences is not updated instantly so some follower/tweet counts may be slightly different on their live page.
As you can see, follower count isn’t everything when it comes to measuring influence.
With an idea of what the food influencers in our dataset looked like, we wanted to know what kind of food they were talking about. We took the handles of 450 of the biggest self-identifying food bloggers and then tracked 796,028 of their tweets between 1 January and 31 August 2017 using Brandwatch Analytics.
To identify the most common food-types, we filtered the tweets by food-related terms like “yum”, “delicious” etc and used the topic cloud component for each two week and month period from January through to August, identifying foods that were trending during those times. Then we used the mentions and search component to find instances of those foods (in plural and singular) within the whole conversation.
Below are all of the food types we identified that had more than 1,000 mentions from the food influencers (including mentions in retweets, replies and regular tweets).
We were a little disappointed at how bland the top few mentions were – of course cheese, chocolate and chicken would be in the top-mentioned words since they’re so common (although for those concerned about the prominence of clean eating diets, perhaps the calorific entries are encouraging).
Things get more exciting moving further down the list, finding foods like tacos, shrimp, cream cheese, jalapeños, cinnamon and pumpkin – not all of these are necessarily “in season”, and not all are necessarily traditional “trendy” foods.
Last year we conducted a similar analysis to this, and measured how popular gluten free, vegan and vegetarian diets were in relation to each other within food influencer’s conversations.
Last year gluten-free food was most popular. This year, it’s vegan.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that more people are practicing vegans than vegetarians or gluten free people, but it does suggest that going vegan is the “trendiest” diet of the three this year.
Like we said before, there’s definitely money (or at least free stuff) in being an influential foodie voice on the internet.
Our 450 influencers were definitely no stranger to ads and sponsorships – when we measured the top used hashtags in tweets (excluding replies and retweets), #ad made it into the top five.
Having new recipes pop up on our social feeds might help broaden our horizons and expose us to new and interesting ideas, but a healthy dose of skepticism is always required. After all, having a million followers is no substitute for being a qualified nutritionist.
“There’s so many people out there without the appropriate qualifications, pretty and slim wellness bloggers who have thousands of Instagram followers who hang onto their every word, who are giving advice based on no evidence at all,” Fiona Hunter, a qualified consultant nutritionist, told The Independent. Sometimes the influencers themselves are struggling with eating disorders while their social feeds display all the signs of a happy, healthy lifestyle.
Brands ought to be very careful about sponsoring food influencers solely based on their follower count, ensuring if they are condoning certain lifestyle choices that they are not dangerous. While accounts dedicated to healthy breakfasts or extreme desserts might make great influencers to work with, someone who consistently plugs punishing diets as a routine could be an irresponsible choice, no matter what your product is.
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