Amy Morgan

ConAgra Foods’ Amy Morgan on how to use social listening to inform product changes

At our Member Meeting in Chicago, ConAgra Foods PR and Social Media Manager Amy Morgan shared a case study on social listening and its impact on several of their brands. ConAgra Foods has been a member of since 2009.

“We knew we had made a mistake.”

ConAgra Foods' PR and Social Media Manager, Amy Morgan, says that for one of their oldest brands with the most loyal following, they had taken away something they didn't realize was so precious to their customers.

It was a simple product change: removing pop-top cans from their Chef Boyardee brand. But they soon realized their fans were very unhappy and very vocal.

“We heard complaints immediately through social media listening tools, calls, and emails to our consumer affairs,” Amy says.

“They were missing the convenience factor. Lots of people would take Chef Boyardee to work where they didn't have a can opener with them.”

“Social media was our early warning system,” Amy explains.

But it didn't stop there. Amy says Chef Boyardee sales were suffering, and the sustained complaints had surpassed their average threshold for consumer disapproval of product changes.

Even as their PR teams tried to explain the reason for the changes on social, people were still upset. This presented a big opportunity for social listening.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

In her presentation at Member Meeting 32, Amy shared that famous quote by Stephen R. Covey. She says that the great thing about social listening is that you get to do both: understand more about your customers and create a dialogue.

With social listening, they were able to turn around the PR debacle with Chef Boyardee and show their fans they cared. Within six months, they had pop-top cans back on the shelf and were running a “Pop-tops are back” social campaign.

Amy admits, “This isn't something that happens every day.”

But their fans played a bigger role in the comeback and other product changes along the way.

Amy explains that at ConAgra Foods, they use social listening to not only hear what their customers are saying, but also to ask for their opinion with polls and surveys. For example, with the Chef Boyardee comeback campaign, they even asked fans to help choose the new label to go back to the shelf. (And they got over 400 responses in five hours.)

She says polling ConAgra Foods' social fans has helped inform a lot of their product decisions. For example, fans have also helped them choose product names for their Healthy Choice brand, decide on new flavors for Slim Jim, and crowdsource new ideas for Reddi-wip. They've even discovered new ways to market their products like RO-TEL from following the recipes people share on Pinterest and Facebook.

“This is a very simple and scrappy thing we do — just listening for how people are using our products,” she says.

Amy says that while social listening is a good start, it helps to have other platforms back up your findings.

“Social media is a great sounding board for us to determine if a trend is relevant to our consumers. But we want to know where these common themes are, so we also listen to consumer affairs, digital channels, our ratings and reviews,” Amy explains.

“I can say we're seeing one thing on Twitter, but I'll have a much stronger case if I'm able to show it across channels.”

Follow Amy on Twitter, or watch her full presentation, “Social listening and engagement for consumer insights.”