December 3, 2012

Kosher Community Ever So Slowly Turns to Social Media

NEW YORK — An increasing number of companies producing kosher foods are using social media to communicate with their customer base, a survey by KosherToday showed. While many are using vehicles like Facebook for special promotions and to create goodwill, some are resorting to social media to target various segments within the kosher community. 

The 124-year old Manischewitz Company first launched their website over 10 years ago, but their use of social media began in 2010 with a Facebook page. Recently, they have become active on Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. They also have someone specifically dedicated to promoting Manischewitz through social media. “One of the best things about social media is the one-on-one relationship we can have with consumers,” says David Rossi of Manischewitz. “In the past, we had to design one ad to attract all different kinds of customers. Now we are able to be more personal and inviting.” 

Manischewitz aims to target the entire gamut of the kosher Industry, from the housewife in Boro Park to the secular college student looking for a traditional Seder meal. Manischewitz recently launched a “Chanukah House” campaign, where people can purchase a kit to construct a gingerbread Chanukah house. They can then decorate it and upload the finished product to Facebook for a chance to win the grand prize. 

Their Pinterest board, which allows users to display pictures of fun recipes or crafts, is also attracting attention, showcasing how to make tri-color matzo ball soup or dairy free fudge frosting. Another important aspect social media is providing businesses is the ability to allow potential customers to target them, instead of the other way around. Said Rossi: “People will see our Twitter feed, or our Facebook page, and they’ll be able to contact us online to get the information they need, as opposed to the information we decide to offer them in any one particular ad.”

Osem USA, another leader in the kosher food industry, began using social media 2 ½ years ago, 4 years after the launch of their website. “Social media has become an integral part of our marketing,” said Kobi Afek of Osem. “We use it to complement our communication efforts.” For example, Osem launched the “Sderot Snack” campaign together with the Jewish National Fund in July 2011. Specially marked bags of Bamba and Bissli sold in the US donated some of their profits toward building a children’s playground inside a bomb shelter. The campaign, featured on JNF’s website as well as on their Facebook page, spread rapidly and was extremely successful. 

Other than specific campaigns, Osem targets a wide range of people through their social media, from gluten-free customers to restaurant chefs. Mr. Afek concluded, “The rising use of Smartphones has made reaching out to the consumer more complex, but at the same time allows us to connect in so many more ways.” Social media is used by some to enhance their Search Engine Optimization (known as SEO). One industry source that it is important to be “active in social media” so that the search engines recognize our intense activity.” Some kosher producers are still not sold on the benefits of social media. One company who refused to be interviewed for this article said: “We know that we have to jump on board at some point; we’re just not there yet.” That may pretty well sum up the position of many in the kosher community.