Kieran Hannon of social media consultants eSocialMedia, says Facebook can be “incredibly accurate” in terms of the types of people a company wants to target

Kieran Hannon of social media consultants eSocialMedia, says Facebook can be “incredibly accurate” in terms of the types of people a company wants to target

The decision by Wyke Farms to launch a Facebook campaign to get its cheddar re-listed at Morrisons could signal a new tactic from suppliers in getting their voices heard.

Wyke launched the online campaign at the weekend after Morrisons delisted the UK firm's Mature, Extra Mature and Vintage cheddars.

The cheese manufacturer says its cheddars have generated "strong" sales but MD Richard Clothier claims the company faced an e-auction for shelf space, which it subsequently lost. "What it came down to was an arm wrestle between us and the bigger companies," he told just-food.

As a result, Wyke has used Facebook to call on consumers to tell Morrisons in-store customer services "if you wish to continue to buy your Wyke cheese in Morrisons".

Wyke has managed to secure a meeting with Morrisons but the company is hoping the campaign will prove to the retailer that consumers do want to see its product listed.

FMCG consultant Hamish Renton believes the rise of Facebook campaigns is a "modern twist" on an older means of communication.

"Manufacturers have been advising shoppers for years on how to complain to get their products stocked, so Facebook is just a more efficient, quicker way of doing this, it's just a new twist on something they have always done."

However, Renton points to a disadvantage of using this means of communication - that of the impersonality of the method, which he says can result in the communication "losing its punch".

"On the one hand it's good for the retailer as he or she can directly see how many people support the campaign but then it's another thing to 'click' in your lunch hour when you're bored rather than go to a store and buy it," he tells just-food.

Kieran Hannon of social media consultants eSocialMedia, believes Facebook can be "incredibly accurate" in terms of the types of people a company wants to target. However, he also points out that such is the rise of Facebook that 'followers' can be now be purchased, which only serves to add to the "cloak and dagger" of social media.

He also points out that the effectiveness of a campaign will also depend on how well run it is.

"If it was my product I would create an e-commerce platform that allows you to set up a blog, a YouTube channel on how cheese is made, and set up an online shop for sales and then promote those through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and other social channels. The real indicator or success and interest is the sales they could generate themselves. A well-run Facebook campaign would drive an awful lot of traffic."

Of course, developing such a campaign would be time consuming and could also involve a substantial amount of resources - something companies may not be prepared to part with. With the reach Facebook offers, many may see a simple campaign as sufficient enough to get their voice heard.

Whether Wyke Farms has been successful enough in its efforts will be known in two weeks time when it meets with Morrisons. The retailer said it took the decision to remove the Wyke Farm cheeses following an "extensive" category review of all of its pre-packed cheese. The retailer insisted that feedback from customers suggested there was duplication in its cheese range.

Renton says the e-auction Morrisons used to review its cheese range was used "fairly widely and pretty regularly" and is not dissimilar to a retailer asking for a manufacturer's "best price" for a deadline. However, he has his misgivings about the tactic.

"The idea is that the lowest bid wins and therefore if your cost is GBP1 and you're not prepared to go lower than GBP1 then you drop out of the auction. The trouble with them is, it accelerates the buying process but sometimes you can get a loveless marriage where the supermarket got the best price but quality starts to wobble."

Above all, Renton sees Wyke's Facebook campaign as "a good tactic from the supplier point of view, but mildly irritating from a retailer's point of view".

Yet, he adds: “To be honest, if there were one million people that obsessed about the cheese it wouldn't have been de-listed in the first place. Maybe the truth is, it's a good little PR stunt for Wyke and hats off to them for giving it a go, they’re not the first to do it and I'm pretty sure they won't be the last.”