Editors note: We are republishing an article by WNIP that looks into growth of digital media. This piece was originally published on What’s New in Publishing.

Why is it confident of success, what kind of opportunities exist for advertisers and what are the lessons for others interested in the social first model?

Jungle Creations has just launched another social-first brand in the form of Twisted Green – a community focused on plant-based food and “unserious cooking.” The publisher believes the initiative will deliver mouth-watering levels of engagement across its existing platforms.

It does have grounds for confidence. The numbers engaging with the parent brand, Twisted, are impressive. The brand has a monthly reach in the UK of 12.8m people and 32 million followers across all major platforms, with 62% of Twisted audiences re-creating a recipe they’ve watched at home.

Like any good publisher Jungle Creations’ launches are based on identifying a demand and delivering content that satisfies the audience. But its secret sauce is that data lies at the very heart of the social publishing model.

Data supports the social first strategy

Jungle Creations’ own data from its suite of social-first publisher brands reveals a rapidly growing interest in plant-based lifestyles. Furthermore there was a 20% increase in searches for ‘Plant Based Diet Vs Vegan Diet’ on Google from January 2021 – June 2021.

This interest is supported by plenty of studies, some of which show a consumer hesitancy and concern around embracing a plant-based diet. Nearly two-thirds of UK adults identify as Flexitarians but 40% are wary of plant-based products because they don’t understand the ‘weird’ ingredients, for instance.

Melissa Chapman, Co-CEO at Jungle Creations says: “It’s evident there is an appetite for information and inspiration around vegan food but there is also misunderstanding and mistrust. Can it really be that nutritional? Can I have a varied and tasty diet if I eat more plant-based dishes?”

Twisted Green aims to provide the answers in a fun way with exciting, relevant content delivered where the audiences are looking for it and in formats they enjoy.

Chapman adds: “Gen Z in Europe is spending more than three hours on social media a day and 37% of Gen Z say they come onto social media specifically to discover the latest content; 33% to see what’s trending, according to GWI stats. It’s pretty clear social is where the audience is gathering and so we’ve launched Twisted Green on Facebook and Instagram with other platforms to follow later in the year.”

Virtuous circle

Social publishing delivers real time data on viewer behaviour and interactions that a publisher can track, collate and interrogate. It means editorial strategy can be based on tapping into the audience’s passion points and from one day to the next content can be dialled up or down depending on how the audience is responding.

Chapman says: “Enthusiasts will head to our publisher brands to check out what’s new. We find people recommend our content to others and this means audiences build rapidly. The nature of social media makes the discovery of and engagement with content dynamic, fast and interactive. Users can tell us directly what they enjoy and make suggestions – they feel they are part of the team and the publishing process.”

The open forum of social publishing can connect a person at scale with others who care about the same topic globally – it allows the development of  communities. Chapman argues that this approach builds incredible loyalty and it’s why Twisted has been able to sell cookbooks, create physical events and pop-ups, and even develop its own delivery-only restaurants and beer. A brand born on social can apparently build such a powerful relationship with its audiences that it can reverse engineer its presence into the real world too.

Advertising payback

Brands also need to invest their ad dollars, creative campaigns and strategic messaging in the places where audiences are spending their time, and budgets are already shifting further in the direction of social. Two-thirds (65%) of marketers say they expect to increase their social media budgets this year, with Zenith estimating that social ad spend will rise to US$225bn by 2024, when it will account for 26.5% of all advertising and be worth more than TV, OOH and radio combined.

Chapman stresses that the deep audience insights and their use to drive loyalty pays off for advertisers and media planners. “Together we can create campaigns that complement the content we know is working well. Audiences are much more receptive to commercial messages that are contextual and do not jar with the content they are enjoying.”

“But the challenge is to understand how to enter this space effectively, authentically and how to measure impact and success. It’s a complicated space; different platforms, different algorithms, evolving platform products, evolving monetisation models. Brands have to tread carefully and have a clear strategy or they’ll be wasting their investment. The right approach gives them the opportunity to become part of the cultural landscape and live within it.”

In January, Twisted launched a ‘Twisted Green’ veganuary campaign with Unilever, featuring three of their biggest UK brands; Hellman’s, Knorr and The Vegetarian Butcher, with the aim to encourage Twisted’s UK audience to go plant-based for January. The mix of original content, a twist on existing fan-favourite content and real-world activations created an environment for people to learn, share and experience new recipes and ideas. For example, for The Vegetarian Butcher Twisted produced two sponsored episodes of its show ‘Chefs Making Snacks’ that saw popular vegan chefs creating twists on their own carnivorous dishes and highlighting the likeness of the products to real meat.

Eight of the campaign videos were in the top 20 most popular food & drink videos on social media between January and April 2021 and 54% of campaign views were from an audience who have shown their interest in veganism, being meat-free or being eco-friendly, helping to cement the brands as the go-tos for plant-based food.

Get your running shoes on

It looks like there’s no time for lengthy post-mortems in social media publishing. Social trends move fast and decision-makers in the C-suite need to understand the day-to-day publishing operation and their audiences at a granular level.

Chapman points out that it’s important to accept what you know now will look different in six months. “The financial business model, operations and core revenue streams need to be clearly defined and stable but how best to unlock and scale those streams will require innovation and constant learning and questioning.

Her advice? “Listen to the data, move-fast, test and learn, test again and re-test it a month later. Never stop learning. This goes hand-in-hand with investment in your people. They too should be enthusiastic about the strategy and the topics and deeply connected to the community.”

Ultimately, publishing is about reaching people at scale with engaging stories – whatever the format. As the seismic shift to social continues those who understand how to optimise the opportunities presented by data, technology and community connections look set to carve out a competitive advantage. The recipe may not be perfect yet but Jungle Creations appear to be in the vanguard.

Photo by Aman Pal on Unsplash