SHīDO Vegan Business Masterclass: VFC’s Recipe for Social Media Success

Alice Johnson

Alice Johnson

NB At the time of writing this article, VFC has 15.2K followers!

Built a social media page but no one has come?

via GIPHY

Many fellow vegan business owners feel your pain. According to the 2019 Sprout Social Index, developing a successful social media strategy is the number one challenge for social marketers.

Not started your vegan business yet? Check out our founder’s advice on how to start one in 2021!

With so many different social media platforms and tactics to choose from, devising a strategy can be pretty overwhelming! How do you know where to start and how do you build a successful campaign?

Taking inspiration from vegan brands that are smashing it is probably a good place to start. So we thought we’d ask the experts to tell us how it’s done…and who better to speak to than VFC?

If you haven’t heard of VFC, where have you been?!

Who the cluck are VFC?

A vegan start-up with BIG plans to disrupt the chicken industry, VFC (Vegan Fried Chick*n) is a food brand on a mission.

Matthew Glover, the co-founder of Veganuary, teamed up with prominent chef and restaurateur Adam Lyons last year to launch a plant-based alternative to fried chicken.

Their products are made from wheat protein and, according to @thelittlelondonvegan, VFC is:

“probably the juiciest, most moist seitan I’ve tried. I tend to find seitan a little bit dry and heavy. They’ve nailed the crunch on the coating too.”

After their launch, VFC went from 0 to 13K followers in just a month and they only follow 1 account…can you imagine who that might be? Yep, you guessed it…KFC!

So how on earth have they been so successful on social media?

We spoke to Imogen Hibberd, the Social Media Specialist at VFC, to find out.

Without giving away your secrets, could you tell us about your social media strategy?

Imogen: Our social media strategy so far has been solely focused on growing our audience and building brand awareness, specifically on Instagram, as that is where we determined the majority of our target audience hangs out. Since launch, we’ve already seen substantial growth with our Instagram following going from 0 to 13k in less than a month, and we plan to grow this even more.

How have you achieved such rapid social media growth?

Imogen: From a bigger picture perspective, our rapid social media growth has been impacted by the clear demand for Vegan Fried Chick*n and that the brand name “VFC” has resonated with our target audience, as I think it reminds them of a semi-famous fried chicken company (not sure why?). Alongside this, our early adopter audience has bought into our story and mission as we’re a vegan-run, activist brand which is outwardly fighting factory farming and the meat industry. There aren’t currently any vegan brands in the food industry being as vocal about their values, and I think this has helped our audience buy into our brand quicker, thereby increasing shareability and growth in the vegan community.

scrolling through a vegan social media account on a persons phone

Getting into the nitty-gritty, we have a carefully thought-out content strategy that is strongly branded with our sassy and humorous tone of voice, and, most importantly, mission-aligned. As a brand and a team, we don’t shy away from discussing difficult topics. For example, we made the bold move of launching with a video of our two founders, Matthew and Adam, going undercover in a chicken factory farm to show why they started VFC and the suffering we are trying to end by providing a tasty and animal-free alternative. I think being unafraid to confront issues head on has helped us have the impact we have had, and will help our growth going forward.

What other techniques did you use to grow your following?

Imogen: Aside from engaging content, we have also created a number of strategic partnerships, the most successful being with Plant Based News. We partnered with them to release exclusively the news of our launch as their social media audience is large and extremely relevant for our brand. They shared our undercover factory farm video which generated over 175k views and drove a substantial amount of traffic to our platforms. We continue to collaborate with them on other content, including on a competition which helped grow our following.

Alongside this, we have a strong influencer marketing strategy and have partnered with and sent free samples to a wide variety of vegan influencers who have shared reviews of our product with their followers. We will continue to work with our vegan friends and partners as we grow and hope to have more exciting news soon.

Any other tips for building engagement?

Imogen: Last, but definitely not least, a big part of our strategy is building a community of VFC “rebels” on social media. As we all know, customers trust other customers, and by engaging with every follower when they comment, DM or post a story we are building relationships and a community of brand advocates that will share their VFC creations and join our positive rebellion.

three people getting shocked by vegan social media account VFC

Have you had any response yet from KFC (or omnivores in general)?

Imogen: Our motto is that if we aren’t pi**ing someone off, we’re not doing it right. After all, we are taking on the meat industry with the aim of putting them out of business. 

So far we haven’t had too many trolls. Omnivores seem to like us and many have even tried VFC and loved it.

And no response from KFC yet, but we’re hoping to ruffle their feathers soon.

What made you decide to only follow KFC on Instagram?

Imogen: We just want to keep an eye on what the competition is doing.

And you know what they say, keep your friends close…

Do you have any advice for other vegan start-ups hoping to grow their social media?

Imogen: The biggest bit of advice I can give vegan start-ups is to not underestimate the power of the vegan community on social media. 

If you ensure your brand has a strong personality and your product is exciting, the best thing you can do is engage and work with vegan influencers, press, vegan groups and, of course, your customers. They can have a huge impact on brand awareness and will advocate for your brand, turning engagement into customers.

It’s also vital to ensure you have someone in place to manage your social media community and to nurture that audience. If you regularly engage with your followers in your authentic tone of voice and have some fun with them, you will humanise your brand and make people buy into it more.

Of course, there is a lot more you should do to set your brand up for success on social media, from a strong content strategy to the nitty gritty of well-researched hashtags. But I think that is too much for this article, and besides, we have to keep a few secrets.

Is there anything else you can tell us about VFC’s future plans?

Imogen: Let’s just say, they’re big!

Watch out, Colonel.

For more inspiration, check out THIS incredible vegan marketing campaign