Social Media has once again proven that it is a fundamental business objective for companies who want to increase their brand exposure. In the food industry this is no different. A recent survey from Forrester Research discovered that over ninety percent of food industry executives agree that social media has completely changed the way consumers interact with their brand.

Once thought of as an "extra" in marketing departments, social media is now a must-have, and one of the best ways to get results. It is estimated that over twenty thousand companies have a Facebook page for their business. With close to a billion people on Facebook, there is the ability for companies to target nearly any consumer group. And that’s just Facebook. Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others, continue to grow in importance for companies wanting to create dynamic and interactive online brands.

This is precisely the reason many food companies have started to look at their social strategies more carefully. For example, the lead digital marketer from Sainsbury's, a British grocery chain, claims that social media has been a great way for the company to reach out to their consumers via a more "holistic approach." The ability for the company to have an "open dialogue" with customers gives Sainsbury's a way to improve their business, thanks to direct feedback from customers via social media.

In all cases, and regardless of industry, it’s evident that social media plays a dynamic role in the consumer and brand relationship. It helps spread company news and brand awareness, while still keeping the company approachable in the eyes of the consumer. Moreover, companies who keep their social media accounts interactive, either via contests or other campaigns, usually have the best online rapport with their customers and the ability to build their online reputation faster than companies that are inactive in the social media space.

Cadbury, for example, held a special campaign called "Spots v Stripes" during the 2012 Olympics that was promoted via social media. The campaign reached over 120,000 people who participated in their specially sponsored events. This may be just one example of how a food industry based business has created a viral marketing campaign with social media, but it certainly is not the only one.

As social media continues to grow in importance, it will invariably become more and more important for brands in all industries to be engaged with consumers online. If a social media strategy is not already a necessity in the food industry (which I would argue it is), it will be soon enough for any business that wants to stay relevant in today's marketing world.

Research for this post was provided by eFood-ERP – a provider of food distribution software.