Story time: food and social media

By Karen Fewell

- Last updated on GMT

An experiment by Digital Blonde found that the more the user is involved in the story of a dish, the stronger their emotional reaction to it.
An experiment by Digital Blonde found that the more the user is involved in the story of a dish, the stronger their emotional reaction to it.

Related tags: Catering

Karen Fewell, founder of @DigitalBlonde, a digital marketing consultancy and marketing training company for the hospitality industry, looks at why your social media about food needs to tell a story

As a year comes to a close there's always much discussion within the marketing world about what will be happening in the industry over the next year. The way we communicate has changed a lot in the last 10 years, which has had a huge impact on business, culture and human behavior. In fact, research carried out by Adobe highlighted that 70% of senior marketers 'believe' the industry has changed more in the last two years than the last 50.

Adapt your habits

Whilst change can seem daunting we've got to adapt our habits to meet the demands of customers. To fully understand today's consumer I teamed up with boutique caterer, Artizian Catering to create a scientific experiment exploring the relationship between food and digital.

The Foodology event

In the first part of the experiment Artizian Catering showcased their Foodology concept to guests including food writers, consultants and top chef Antonio Carluccio. The seven-course, fairy tale themed menu, saw guests treated to a series of dishes each designed to provoke different emotions.

Online Survey

The data from the Foodology event was then compared with an online study, where participants who had not been at the dinner recorded their emotions after viewing images of the dishes.

To give a further comparison, two separate versions of the online survey were distributed; one displaying only the food images and one showing both the food images and a description of the dish.


The experiment found that the more the user is involved in the story of a dish, the stronger their emotional reaction to it. With the ‘story’ often lost online, a neutral reaction is far more likely.

A scale of one to five measured the strength of participants’ emotions for both the offline tasting event and the online surveys. The results showed that people’s emotional reactions to the dishes were stronger offline, averaging a sore of 3.6.

This fell to 2.7 for people viewing only the images online and interestingly, increased to 3 for people who view the images accompanied by a description of the dish.

Words increase appeal

Adding descriptions to the online images also increased participants’ feelings of desire, disgust and surprise and made food appear more appetising than images alone.

The scores suggest that the more consumers can know about and be part of a dish’s story, the stronger they feel towards it.

This is something you need to consider when serving your food and drinks.

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1 comment

Say what?

Posted by Jason Navon,

As someone who works in social media for brands in the food and drinks sector I’m confused. I’m not entirely sure what, if any, this point this ‘research’ is trying to make.

Is your point about the physical or social experience? Your introduction suggests the former, the last paragraph the latter.

Using images has long been recognised as a key element in making social media posts more attractive to consumers. For the food and drink sector, it’s imperative as this is the product. Giving diners more information about the food or drink on offer is hardly an earth-shattering revelation.

This ‘article’ seems like a very roundabout way of making a couple of very simple and rather obvious points.

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