March 1, 2012 at 12:47 PM ET
Food appears to be a thriving social media driver, with photo sharing, recipe look-ups and exchanges, deal shopping, recommendations and other ingredients constantly adding to the culinary culture.
A consulting firm, The Hartman Group, recently published a report called, "Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture" that surveyed 1,641 adult U.S. consumers ages 18 to 64 between Dec. 5 and 11.
It's apparent that people don't separate eating time from social media time, as the survey found 29 percent respondents said they have used a social networking site while eating or drinking at home in the last month, and 19 percent have done so away from home. Another 32 percent have either texted or used a social networking site or app in the last month while eating or drinking. Millennials probably have the most tendency to eat and tweet, with 47 percent texting or using social media while eating or drinking.
Lunch is the most common time for folks to access social media while they're chomping down on a meal, the Hartman Group found, but this kind of activity happens all day. "Consumers virtually break bread by sharing their food experiences, uploading photos and posing stories."
And, they "desire better and more highly specialized tools for shopping and meal planning. Moms and primary cooks and shoppers want easy-to-use apps that can make shopping, meal planning and saving money easier for them."
Hartman found most consumers fall on a continuum of not very engaged to very engaged when it comes to combining food and social media:
The most engaged are social media “Doers” who are highly active in both food and social media and create content that inspires followers. "Doers" can be virtual brands themselves and are typically bloggers. Doers convert the “public” into their friends, fans, and followers. They are a very small segment of online adults. Social media “Dreamers” are active social media users that connect people and curate and push food -- and other -- related content through social networks in ways that reflect their styles and sensibilities. They aspire to have larger followings and more influence than they currently do. Social media "Spectators” use social media as an extension of their actual social networks of friends, family, colleagues and schoolmates. They use social media for product reviews, recipes and good deals.
Of these, spectators are the most prolific consumers, with 60 percent of online consumers say they read social networking sites weekly vs. 47 percent who say they contribute weekly. 32 percent of consumers say they read social networking sites daily vs. 18 percent who say they contribute daily.
This report confirms what many of us probably already know: Social media is a means of vicariously sampling other cuisines -- how many times have you salivated over photos that friends post? -- or for getting heads-up on new places to eat, new techniques or products to try.