Everyone loves something sweet from someone they love – and chocolates are the UK’s most popular Valentine’s gift. British consumers spend a whopping £1.9 billion for Valentine’s Day. How are chocolatiers using social media to ensure they get a decent slice of the action?

I looked at eight of the best independent chocolatiers on Twitter to see how they’ve performed in the last month. Using Brandwatch analytics, here’s what I found:

1. There’s something for everyone

Rococo Chocolates are most loved by business executives, Hotel Chocolat by politicians and Green & Black’s by fitness gurus. See fig.1 for breakdown and more details. Women love Chococo and Hotel Chocolat while men prefer Paul A Young or Mast Brothers (both brands with something inherently masculine about them).

Fig.1: Professional breakdown per chocolate brand: Jan-Feb 2016

2. Hotel Chocolat makes the most noise

Since 13 January, Hotel Chocolat has had the greatest share of voice on Twitter with 73 per cent of mentions (7,481 in total). The conversation around the Hotel Chocolat has intensified in the lead up to Valentines Day. So far today (12th February), Hotel Chocolat has garnered a whopping 92 per cent of mentions.

Chococo (9 per cent), Paul A Young (6 per cent), Green & Black’s (5 per cent), Mast Brothers (4 per cent) are in second, third, fourth and fifth place. Rococo and Artisan du Chocolat take a mere 1 per cent each. Out of the group analysed, Melt Chocolates had the lowest share (less than 1 per cent) with just 42 Twitter mentions in the last 31 days.

To put things in perspective, when high street favourite, Thornton’s, is added to the group, Hotel Chocolat’s share of voice shrinks to a mere 29 per cent of the conversation, while others barely register on the graph.

3. Chococo punches above its weight

Does share of voice broadly sync with number of Twitter followers? Not quite.

  • Hotel Chocolat (46.3K followers)
  • Chococo (5.5K)
  • Paul A Young (17K)
  • Green & Black’s (27.3K)
  • Mast Brothers (7K)
  • Rococo (10.5K)
  • Artisan du Chocolat (6.5K)
  • Melt Chocolates (4.8K)

Looking at these figures, it’s clear that Chococo punches well above its weight in terms of engagement. This is mostly down to its collaboration with Dorset Tea to win a tasty (and beautifully presented) Valentine’s hamper. The competition launched 3 February and the Twitter wave is still going strong. To date, the original tweet has had nearly 1,000 shares.

Fig.2: Tweet volume per chocolate brand: Jan-Feb 2016

4. Valentine’s Day adds volume

The impact of Valentine’s Day on chocolatiers’ social media is clear. The volume of tweets has ballooned over the past month (see fig.2). The group I looked at generated just 70 mentions a day in mid January. This rose to 1,319 mentions yesterday (11 February).

In terms of effort, Paul A Young (author of 16 per cent of tweets about chocolate in the last month) has been tweeting more than twice as much as Hotel Chocolat (7 per cent). But Hotel Chocolat has reaped the greater reward in terms of reach and engagement. Why?

Hotel Chocolat’s #FreebieFriday promotion, asking people to “follow and retweet to win luxury chocolates” has been a massive success. It’s not a particularly original campaign but it has been highly strategic – making use of two already popular hashtags (#FreebieFriday and #FridayFeeling) to generate 2,312 mentions in the last month. Still, Paul A Young tweets from the heart – the founder runs the account himself, so many of his tweets are genuinely conversational, rather than pure broadcast.

5. Bad publicity leaves a bad taste

Although sentiment in this sector is broadly positive (it’s chocolate!), a relatively large proportion (14 per cent) of Mast Brothers’ tweets were negative. Mast Brothers is still suffering the fallout from a Twitter storm which broke last December. That month, Quartz magazine published an article about marketing spin which referred to an earlier Slate feature arguing that Mast Brothers wasn’t “craft” chocolate at all. While Mast Brothers’ founders haven’t responded directly to the criticism (no big surprise – they follow no-one and seldom tweet), they did launch a counter campaign, #morelovemorechocolate, backed by celebrities like Jared Leto, in an effort to build more positivity around their brand.

Green & Black’s has suffered too – over accusations that the palm oil in its chocolate was not ethically sourced. But the criticism died down quickly. Maybe because Ethical Consumer assessed that Green & Black’s has a positive palm oil policy.

What’s your favourite?

Will you be buying chocolates this Valentine’s Day? Is so, which independent brand would you choose? Maybe you’re swayed by the chance of winning free stuff from Hotel Chocolat. Perhaps you prefer the more bespoke, conversational approach of Paul A Young. Does Mast Brothers’ arrogance bother you? I know who I’d prefer.

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Photo: CoCreatr