By Teri Lichtenstein APD
When I graduated after completing my dietetics degree, the main methods we had to communicate with the general public about nutrition were in person or in print. Fast-forward to today’s online world and we all know how easy it is for anyone to access nutrition information, albeit controversial, based on pseudoscience or touted by the latest celebrity chef.
As a profession of qualified dietitians, I believe we need to embrace the power that social media offers us to get our voices heard and believed. There will always be another “Pete Evans” celebrity around the corner and whilst it may not appear to be a level playing field, when it comes to social media, we all have access to the same free tools and the same speaking box.
As more and more dietitians set up their own social pages, here are my top three tips to take social media to the next level and let your fingers do the talking.
1.Be controversial and be passionate
We know hard-hitting news headlines grab attention. Consumers are more likely to click on a link to a tweet that shouts out “five foods you never knew could kill you” rather than a mundane “five foods you should eat to stay healthy.” Our job is to get the right information about there but we need to do it in a way that piques your reader’s interest. Tim Crowe illustrated this very well in his recent parody post on Facebook showing how “science” demonstrates a correlation between increased rates of autism and increased sales of organic foods. Part of the success of his post was the reaction from his fans, including those that did not realize the post was a parody! Tim used a great graph to illustrate his message that what you see is not always what you should believe – see post here. Always remember that statistics and science are like a bikini, because what they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital!
If we go back to the fundamentals of social media, it’s all about relationships with your fans and followers. As a dietitian, you have the ability to “own” a specific nutrition segment and build relationships with your fans that will look to your posts and web pages for nutrition advice. Be consistent in the tone and nature of the content you post and stand by your convictions. You may need to defend yourself at times but if you stay true to your beliefs, your online personality will pervade long after the celebrity chefs have eaten their last organic chook and fled the pasture.
Below are some examples of well-known brands that consistently use images and other content to show their brand image and never deviate from what they stand for – Starbucks is about “the moment”, Oreo is cheeky and fun and Coca-Cola is happiness.
3.Relationships are two-way
It goes without saying that social media is a fantastic tool for building professional relationships (e.g. LinkedIn). But if you are using social media to grow your brand or business, it is essential that you have a strategic content plan for building relationships with your customers and fans. With so many brands fighting for the small amount of space on our Twitter or Facebook feed, you need to nurture these online relationships. Social media is essentially a two-way conversation and your content should align with this principle.
Below are two examples of a coffee and tea brand. One shows an image of a teacup with a simple statement. The coffee brand uses a similar image, but invites their fans to engage and let them know what type of coffee they prefer.
The tea image received 8 likes; the coffee brand received over 350 comments within the first few days. Now which one do you think is more engaging?
Social Media affords all of us so many more opportunities than we had in the days before print became a dying industry. No matter what area of dietetics you practice, social media can help grow your business if you build trust with your fans and followers, create and maintain your unique brand and keep the conversation going.
Teri worked at Nestle for over a decade in nutrition marketing and for the past five years in digital marketing. She has recently established her own consulting business FoodBytes, providing specialist nutrition and digital marketing services to the food industry.
You can follow Teri on her social media platforms: