In the last few years, we have seen many businesses pop up that take advantage of social media trends. We’ve seen this in the imported sweets industry and even in the vegan community. Some are long-term while others just ride the wave until things taper off.

The influence of social media
Social media provides a type of influence not found in traditional media such as television, radio, newspapers that is because people keep their phones in their possession at all times, and any time they are bored or any time they get a notification their phone goes open and they become immersed by what is on their screens. This type of indoctrination influence was usually only seen when a person spent years at an institution such as a school.  For example, a person who attends a liberal university will develop liberal values even if they were indifferent in the past. We see the same thing on social media; a girl can start using Twitter a virgin, never been touched wanting to start a family with a man one day, when the #MenAreTrash brigade are done with her she will be a bitter lesbian that hates men whereas traditionally women often only experimented after a bad heterosexual relationship. Same with veganism meat-eating people are portrayed as monsters, forget the food chain you learnt in school humans must now be obligated to be herbivores or risk wrath.

We are seeing large companies adopt this to guide their strategy as well, Netflix for example. Many people see Netflix as a leftist, left-wing propaganda machine due to its liberal and progressive content policies.  But I don’t believe that, I believe that they are pandering to social media trends. You will notice Netflix’s content agenda mirrors social media trends. When chatter around LGBTQI+ picked up Netflix adapted, same with interracial relationships, as well as putting “people of colour” in traditionally white roles, like with the prime minister of Britain we see this with the casting of Indian-origin Ray Panthaki in the ironically named SAS: Rise of the Black Swan. And no more evident was this in the Netflix series Gypsy, at a time (exactly the same period) when the debate was raging in the media about the “Born this way” “gay genes” Netflix released a series in which the daughter (Maren Heary as Dolly Hollow) of the main character is a “tomboy” – every. single. word. that comes out of that 9-year old girl’s mouth is how she wants to be a boy and her mother who is a trained psychologist lets her be.  So there is clearly money to be made riding social media waves whatever they may be. The same applies to VOD producers pitching scripts to Netflix, tread carefully,  it doesn’t matter how good it is if you casting a male and a female of the same race as a couple you might be rejected for counter-revolutionary content especially if your cast has light skin.

But today we will look at brighter subjects.

Now that we have seen the power and profit of social media there is no reason you too cannot stand behind a cash register whether or you are passionate about the subject.

Chips, Sweets & Cakes
We have seen the power of social media when it comes to the interest in foreign foodstuff especially chips, sweets, and cakes. We saw this with the flamin hot Cheetos craze and now we are seeing a similar craze with “The Spicy Mexican Candy” Dulces Enchilados aka Pica Pica Candy – the jelly sweets that you’ve been eating since Sweets From Heaven days are now coated in a sauce and spice and sold at a massive premium. The basic jelly sweets are covered with a Mexican condiment called chamoy which is a sauce made from prunes , dried apricots, dried Jamaica (roselle flowers), chili powder, sugar, and some kind of acid juice like lime or orange juice and dusted with tajin a popular Mexican spice blend made with a combination of salt, chili peppers, and dehydrated lime.  To quote an article on it: “Dulces Enchilados have been all over Instagram and TikTok and I just had to give them a try”.

Yes, its jelly sweets like Haribo covered in sauce and spice:

We are seeing social media only brands, look at this marketing material for PICA PICA TX, it looks like Instagram and TikTok had a baby (note the prominent Instagram handle on the packaging):

Then there has been the hype around Lotus Biscoff. The PR machine behind that brand makes Bell Pottinger look like amateurs – they have taken a biscuit a very basic biscuit and put it ALL over social media millions of times used in different configurations. This is a biscuit that looks like the ones Somalis sell in the townships for 10c. Locally, Bakers should fire their advertising agency and hire those guys. If a company can’t make jolly jammers, romany creams, eat sum mor,  tennis biscuits trend amongst tweens then they are clearly useless.

For the DIY food entrepreneur, there are opportunities in baking, like those small cakes that are now popular. The lunchbox/bento/South Korean cakes are described as “Instagram’s latest must-try dessert trend.

The other opportunities that exist are mainly among the popular Instagram categories, makeup/cosmetics, and fashion (with sustainability being a popular trend these days) as well as accessories such as satin hair products or anything that rides on the “natural hair” bandwagon.

Do you create a trend or ride along
With trends and fads you need to move fast or create them yourself and then fill the void created by demand. When you are riding along you need to be able to fulfill demand fast if you want to be able to be established as the “go-to” place for that product. This often includes strategies such as simultaneously importing via both air freight and sea freight, airfreight is fast but expensive so you take a knock on that, hopefully, break-even while establishing first-mover advantage, when the ship comes in the night you will either end up too busy to count all your money or not (if you overestimated local demand).

With creating trends you would hire an “influencer” to market your product. A lot of people these days buy something after being recommended on social media or that is where they first heard about it. The herd mentality on social media is unlike what we’ve seen before, the fact that it is now a campaign battleground and elections are now being manipulated on social media tells you all you need to know how people’s minds can be influenced on these platforms.

Choosing the right platform
Instagram and TikTok are the main platforms, the former allowing you to operate your shop on the platform in a holistic way. From a marketing perspective, Twitter is largely a waste of time, its majority local userbase is far less affluent (with most being poor and unemployed) and trending topics are often hijacked by unrelated nonsense – usually women looking for attention.

Image credits: A&W Dulces Enchilados y Botanas, Sabrosita Gang, The Denver Housewife,Tiktok