The Big Brand Theory: Tyson Foods Is Listening on Social



The Great Depression wasn’t the worst of times for everyone.  My grandfather purportedly made a modest fortune being a rum-runner in Alabama, which he later used to start what was to become the largest used auto parts yard on the Eastern side of the Mississippi.  About the same time that my forebear was plying corn squeezin’s, a farmer by the name of John Tyson borrowed some money and started to haul chickens from Arkansas to Chicago. The profits from that venture established what is today the largest meat producer and one of the largest food processors in the world.

ImageUnless you’re living off the land somewhere, you’ve probably been a Tyson Foods customer. The brand is one of the largest suppliers to educational institutions, corporations, and restaurants, as well as to retail grocers.

When it comes to social media, the organization faces some interesting challenges: the food industry itself is highly regulated and the focal point of a great deal of consumer confusion. Furthermore, the brand, while one of the largest brands in the US, is not a household name.

In a recent interview, Susan Beebe, Manager of Social Media & Online Communities at Tyson Foods, shared some of brand’s social media direction with me. The former “Chief ‘Global Listener'” at Dell, Beebe describes a succinct vision for Tyson Food’s social media, “We need to tell our story better.”

To do that, the American-owned business is sharing more of that story on several social media platforms.  A deep look at the Facebook page shows that the majority of posts relate to Tyson’s extensive charitable activities. Besides fundraising and donating tons of food non-profits, the brand is committed to helping veterans find jobs in their Chamo to Khaki program. Beebe, whose own family has a history of military service, tells me, “We don’t want a homeless veteran, ever.”

While the brand’s largest audience is B2B there is a real move to engage more with end users. Beebe talks about a polarized audience, “we have people who are engaging our brand and saying ‘we love Tyson because of the hunger relief and all the good you do in the community’ – and then we’ve got the angry activist community. We weren’t engaging the average person.”

ImageWhen asked about how they know they’ll be successful, Beebe replies, “increasing share of voice where we actually engage people and the amount of people talking to us about everyday customer service questions. We’re watching call deflection from email, phone, and traditional customer service. Now they’re engaging us on Twitter.”

Beebe continues, “That means people discovered our brand. We’ve raised awareness; they know we exist. More importantly, they know we’re listening, and that we care and that we engage them.”

Beebe describes Tyson as a social company by nature. She tells me, “As a culture, we’re very open and transparent internally. We’re trying to bring that to more so that people know we really do want to talk to our customers.”

“I want people to know that we exist in social, we’re listening, and yes, that social media is a platform Tyson cares about and we will communicate with you on. If we weren’t listening, it’d die.  We want to grow that.  Not just because we have to but because we actually care.

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