Randi Zuckerberg: how to succeed in pet food social media

The founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media discusses innovation and the significant role social media plays in industry success

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Randi Zuckerberg was the opening keynote speaker at Petfood Forum 2017, held in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, April 3-5. | Lindsay Beaton
Randi Zuckerberg was the opening keynote speaker at Petfood Forum 2017, held in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, April 3-5. | Lindsay Beaton

One of the current buzzwords in the pet food industry is “innovation.” A key tool for success in a hyper-diverse, saturated market, companies can often find themselves struggling to make a mark with consumers in a way that translates to product moving off store shelves. In the age of instant communication, having a strong social media presence is not only a good idea, it’s the most effective way to find out what your customers want.

Maximizing innovation opportunities for industry success

“When I think about innovation, I think about it in two ways: first, the culture you’re creating inside your own company,” said Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media and opening keynote speaker at Petfood Forum 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. “If you’re going to do innovative things, you need to have a company culture where your employees feel empowered to come up with new ideas and not be afraid that someone’s going to shoot those ideas down.”

Zuckerberg, a former Facebook employee, used the social media company as an example of solid innovative encouragement. “At Facebook, we used to do these things called ‘hackathons’, where once a month everyone gathered around and you could come up with an idea or a passion project, work on it and present it to the whole company,” she said. “If everyone liked it, it would actually turn into a project that the company was dedicated to. That might be too large a scale for a lot of small pet food companies to do, but could you have an entrepreneur in residence? A young person, maybe an intern, maybe someone a few years out of school, who’s basically tasked with being in your company to think about interesting new ideas. Could you have, once or twice a year, a two- or three-hour ‘think-a-thon’, where everyone comes up with a new idea and pitches it?”

The second way to think about innovation, said Zuckerberg, is to consider how to really communicate with customers. “In order to communicate with your customers, you need to understand all the platforms your customers are on,” she said. “You don’t need to be a master at every single new app and social media platform, but you need to at least know the top three your customers are on and be active there.” There are several questions to consider, said Zuckerberg. “How am I going to build a community? How am I going to make it feel like a conversation so that my audience has feedback? How am I going to really show them an inside view of what our company is like, so they feel like it’s different from all the noise out there?”

The social media how-to

“First of all, congratulations, you guys are in a great industry to be on social media, because one of the most social things that people want to share in their lives are their pets,” said Zuckerberg. “They love their pets, they want to share photos and they want to talk to other pet owners, so you’ve actually stumbled on to one of the most successful industries that works on social media.”

One of the best parts about social media, said Zuckerberg, is that customers will tell you exactly what they want to hear, and so can do a lot of the marketing strategy for you. So to find success, go online and see what consumers are responding to. “Check out what your competition is doing,” she said. “What channels are they on? What does it look like they’re doing that’s working? Go onto some of these social media platforms and search for ‘#petfood’, or search for what customers are looking for and talking about in your industry. My bet is that you’ll find a few topics that customers are consistently trying to search for and talk about, and that’s the info that you’re going to want to double down on with your own social media accounts.”

One other piece of advice when it comes to social media, said Zuckerberg, is to make sure you’re in a dialogue with your customers. “So many companies think that social media is a one-way megaphone, but the companies that do it best on social media are the ones who turn the microphone back on their customers,” she said. “That will make them feel really special; people love to talk about themselves and their pets. It will also ensure that you grow a community of people who not just talk to you, but want to be on your social media account to talk to other pet owners, too.”

Every pet food company is a media company

In this day and age, reaching out on social media is more than sound advice—it’s a business necessity. “We live in a world where every company is a media company and a tech company,” said Zuckerberg. “So even if you’re sitting there thinking, ‘I’m just in pet food, I don’t need to listen to any of this’, well, you’re also a tech company, you’re also a media company, and it’s important to start approaching your business, your customers, everything you do, from the perspective of: okay, what would an innovative start up in Silicon Valley do? What would a big media company in New York or Los Angeles do? Start taking some of those nuggets into your business, because that’s how you’re really going to stand out from the noise in the crowd.”


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