Ben & Jerry’s Social Media Strategy: A Brand Case Study

We analyzed Ben & Jerry’s primary social media profiles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from July 2019, to August 2020. Here’s what we found out.
Veena Ramakrishnan
Veena Ramakrishnan
September 14, 2020 - 13 min. read

Did you know that Ben & Jerry’s has an ice cream flavor called Netflix and Chilll’d?

A peanut butter ice cream with sweet and salty pretzel swirls sounds perfect to go with your Netflix date night, doesn’t it?

(Or, in my case, it sounds like the perfect ice cream to cry into whilst I spend yet another night watching movies on Netflix all by myself. *Sniffles*)

via GIPHY

So, is Ben & Jerry’s just an ice cream company that makes delicious ice cream for movie nights and other mundane occasions?

Hell, no!

In a time, where brands are still skeptical and confused about whether to take a stand against controversial issues, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t think twice about sharing their beliefs and vocalizing what they stand for.

Whether it’s a tweet from Ben Cohen (the “Ben” from Ben & Jerry’s) recounting his personal white privilege, or a social post illustrating how to defund the police and defend the black communities, Ben & Jerry’s aren’t afraid to offer their opinions on defining issues of the day—even at the cost of losing money.

To find out what sets Ben & Jerry’s apart from the rest of the ice cream brands, we took a deep dive into Ben & Jerry’s social media habits, performance, and their approach to controversial world issues. We’ve also packed in a few takeaways for any brand that aspires for a social media presence like that of Ben & Jerry’s.

About the report

This Ben & Jerry’s social media report is created using Falcon Benchmark. It listens to over 100,000 brands and helps our clients create more engaging content, get more certainty around their social strategy, and automate their reporting.

We analyzed Ben & Jerry’s primary social media profiles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from July 2019, to August 2020. Here’s what we found out.

Ben & Jerry’s on Facebook

Follower growth

Ben & Jerry’s largest fan following comes from their Facebook page which boasts over 8.8 million ice cream enthusiasts.

If you look at the graph below, you can tell that Ben & Jerry’s has had quite a few noticeable dips and upticks in fan growth during the analyzed period, which overall resulted in a negative fan growth rate of 0.22 %.

Ben & Jerry's facebook follower growth

So, the curious minds that we are, did a little digging using Falcon Benchmark to see if Ben and Jerry’s ran any campaigns or posted something controversial on social that may have cost them a few thousand followers.

But no, that wasn’t the case. Ben & Jerry’s was crystal clean!

So, our best guess is that Ben & Jerry’s might have indulged in some spring cleaning and gotten rid of all the fake followers. It’s either that, or Thanos snapped his finger and wiped out 0.22% of Ben & Jerry’s followers on Facebook. Our money is on the latter.

Content Strategy

Ben & Jerry’s published 355 posts of which 142 were videos, 121 were photos, and 92 were plain text posts. Posts with plain tests saw the highest engagement followed by photos and then videos.

Ben & Jerry's facebook content strategy

What was so engaging about Ben & Jerry’s plain text posts, you ask?

Well, for starters, most of these posts had nothing to do with their ice creams.

A good chunk of these plain text posts was all linked to Ben & Jerry’s blog articles that threw light on controversial world issues and the social causes that Ben & Jerry’s cared about.

Here are a few top engaging plain text posts from Ben & Jerry’s:

Exhibit A: There’s one other thing that melts when exposed to extreme condition that is not your average chocolate sundae and that’s our planet. Climate change is real, people!

In this post, Ben and Jerry’s shared a link to their article explaining their participation in the youth-led climate movement and what the company did and is still doing to combat climate change.

Exhibit B: The murder of George Floyd by police officers led to millions of Americans taking to the streets which birthed the Black Lives Matter Movement, a global rally against police brutality, systemic racism, and white supremacy.

Qualified immunity allows police officers, while in the line of duty, to do pretty much anything to anybody, without fear of punishment. Here’s a post from Ben & Jerry’s explaining why qualified immunity has to go.

Exhibit C: The last thing you want from students, especially those belonging to the Black and Latinx community, is to feel monitored and frightened than safe and supported at school. Here’s what Ben & Jerry’s had to say on school policing and the front-end criminal justice reform.

Now you know why these posts, in particular, received more engagement than still life images of ice creams.

Promoted posts

A cool functionality in Falcon Benchmark is that it can detect posts that have been promoted on Facebook. Benchmark’s promoted post detection pulls back the curtain on the paid social strategy of 100,000+ brands on social media. Pretty cool, right?

(Alrighty, we’ll stop with the not-so-subtle product plug.)

Ben & Jerry’s exclusively utilized paid promotion on Facebook to push its product posts. During the analyzed period, the brand published a total of 357 posts of which 55 were promoted on Facebook.

The promoted post below is Ben & Jerry’s most-engaged Facebook post with over 72K interactions. Looks like the arrival of the Cannoli ice cream created quite a frenzy among the Ben & Jerry’s fans.

Ben & Jerry’s on Twitter

It’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re scrolling through Ben & Jerry’s Twitter feed. Their use of social media in recent times, especially on Twitter, is an inspiration for any brand that aspires for a thriving social media presence.

From amplifying the voices of the black community and raising awareness on climate change, to talking about how private companies are profiting from mass incarceration, Ben & Jerry’s is pretty much running their own daily news on Twitter.

A lot of their social mission-driven campaigns are deployed on Twitter as opposed to their Facebook and Instagram channels.

Have doubts about voting by mail? Ben & Jerry’s got five facts that will knock your socks off.

What’s the deal with Cannabis Justice, you ask? Ben & Jerry’s has got the answer.

Want to learn more about the differences between jails and prisons and why it matters? Say, no more. Ben & Jerry’s got a video to explain that to you.

All of this from a company that makes ice creams!

via GIPHY

Let’s talk numbers!

Ben & Jerry’s added over 117K new followers and registered a 34.7% fan growth in the analyzed period.

A total of 3,038 tweets went out from the brand’s handle, of which a whopping 78% were replies, 19% were proactive tweets, and 3% were retweets.

On average, Ben & Jerry’s sent eight tweets per day and most of them were replies to their audiences. This is a clear indication that it’s important for Ben & Jerry’s to engage with their audience on Twitter.

Much like Facebook, proactive tweets with links to their blog articles received the most traction with an average engagement score of 7,053. No surprises there!

Customer Service

Ben & Jerry’s responded to 568 tweets against a total of 542,841 mentions, keeping their response rate at only 0.10%. Ben & Jerry’s ensures that 85% of their customer queries are always responded to within a day, most frequently between 8 am and 1 pm. This is also the time when brand mentions peaked. The brand also ensured that customers are replied to on all days of the week.

Ben & Jerry's Twitter Average Reply Time

Generally, customer tweets are either about delayed deliveries or product damages and misplacements, right?

Well, for Ben & Jerry’s, it’s quite the opposite.

Fans of Ben & Jerry’s have only two things to complain about. They either show their disapproval for not having enough cookie dough in Ben & Jerry’s cookie and cream ice cream…

…or they’ll be crying a river over the discontinuity of a particular ice cream flavor.

Fans also showed a ton of support and love to all the social causes Ben & Jerry’s cared about.

Ben & Jerry’s on Instagram

Ben & Jerry’s added 608K new followers on Instagram, bringing their total follower count to 1.5 million in August 2020. The brand also registered the biggest fan growth compared to their Facebook and Twitter accounts with a 66.7% growth rate.

Ben & Jerry's Instagram follower growth

As you can tell from the graph above; Ben & Jerry’s saw a major uptick in followers’ growth during the month of June 2020. The brand registered close to half a million followers, a 49.2% fan growth rate in just under 30 days. Now, that’s a lot! So, what happened in June 2020? Let’s dig deeper.

Ben & Jerry’s Instagram strategy in June 2020

During the month of June, the Black Lives Matter Movement was in full swing after the murder of George Floyd by police offers.

Ben & Jerry’s content strategy predominantly focused on covering the BLM movement by sharing content and resources that spoke about defending the Black community and ending systematic racism.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

As if the lived experiences of Black people weren’t enough, we present you with some truly eye-opening numbers. Link in our bio!

A post shared by Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) on

While many brands struggled to grapple with taking a stand on political issues, Ben & Jerry’s didn’t shy away from posting facts and statistics about the broken criminal justice system in the United States. Even their Instagram stories were blowing up with facts about racial bias in wealth, criminal justice, and unemployment amongst the Black community.

Integrating photos of their ice creams along with educational posts about politics, history, and the American justice system garnered the brand an average engagement score of 135,508 on their social posts and half a million followers in just under 30 days.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

🚨 We need climate action NOW. 🚨 Link in bio for 5 ways to vote for climate action this November!

A post shared by Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) on

Content Strategy

Ben & Jerry’s published a total of 327 posts during the analyzed period of which 198 were photos and 129 were videos. In terms of engagement, posts with photos saw the best engagement with an average engagement score of 28,387.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Make ours a double. 🥃⁠ ⁠ Link in bio!

A post shared by Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) on

Ben & Jerry’s cross-posts content across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visually appealing, still life images and videos of products with a blue and white color scheme in the background is the uniform content strategy on Instagram.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

End the school-to-prison pipeline and invest in youth! 🎓 Learn more at the link in our bio.

A post shared by Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) on

The hint of blue and white, the colors consistent with their brand logo and product packaging, is found in most of their posts and is an exercise in visual branding.

Ben & Jerry’s in the news

By now you must have figured out that Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t shy away from making bold statements or being vocal about political issues. So, here are some snippets from when Ben & Jerry’s made it to the news this year.

1. Ben & Jerry’s joins Facebook and Instagram Ad Boycott.

We all know what happened after President Donald Trump’s controversial statement on the #BlackLivesMatter movement blew up on social media. While Twitter chose to put a warning on the President’s tweet, Facebook chose not to respond. Facebook’s inaction in this case has made a group of civil rights groups and brands, including Ben &Jerry’s, to hit pause on all paid advertising on Facebook. A campaign in the name of #StopHateForProfit was launched to call on major advertisers to pause their Facebook ad spend in July 2020.

2. Ben & Jerry’s new ice cream flavor for the climate change campaign.

A limited-edition ice cream flavor by the name “Unfudge our future” was launched by Ben & Jerry’s to urge Australia’s leaders to tackle climate change and rebuild a clean and resilient future. Ben & Jerry’s joined forces with 350.org Australia and the Climate Council to urge the Australian Federal Government to set aside investment for a sustainable and clean future for Australia in the upcoming October budget.

3. Justice Remix’d—the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor for criminal justice reform.

A new ice cream flavor dedicated to criminal justice reform? Sign us up! Ben & Jerry’s worked with the Advancement Project National Office, a multi-racial civil rights group, in support of transforming the criminal justice system that can benefit everyone. The Justice Remix’d ice cream has cinnamon and chocolate ice cream with gobs of cinnamon bun dough and spicy fudge brownies. This campaign had received over 135K signatures from people to take action in reforming the front-end criminal justice system.

3 Takeaways from Ben & Jerry’s Social Media Success

Any brand that aspires for a bold social media presence can learn a thing or two from Ben Jerry’s ultimate social media playbook.

1. Turn your purpose into action

Ben & Jerry’s, a brand that has been around for more than 42 years, has picked up on a lot of social, political, and environmental issues that they care about. From supporting LGBTQ equality to demanding climate justice, Ben & Jerry’s channels their corporate social responsibility and brand activism in innovative ways to make the world a better place.

If you’re a brand that has been relatively silent about social and political issues, it’s never too late to take a stand for what you believe in and why it’s important to you. But don’t just make noise. Commit to what your company believes in, be resourceful, and turn your purpose into action.

2. Let your product do the talking

If you’ve noticed, a lot of Ben & Jerrys’ social campaigns take on a life of their own in the form of a limited-edition ice cream flavor that supports the social cause. The Justice Remix’d and Unfudge the Future ice cream flavors are both good examples of such campaigns.

By associating their ice cream with a social cause, Ben & Jerry’s was able to achieve two things: one, they took part in issues they cared about, and two, they made business by selling their delicious ice creams. Now, isn’t that a win-win situation?

At the end of the day, Ben & Jerry’s is still a business that sells a commodity in exchange for a monetary return. But that clearly didn’t stop them from taking part in brand activism.

Your brand just needs to use your own product in innovative ways to be a socially responsible brand without compromising on your business goals. Find a way to let your product do the talking!

3. Be a brand with a soul

Ben & Jerry’s has featured social media campaigns that were great examples of digital storytelling. The brand published human interest stories that had nothing to do with their ice creams.

Real-life stories tend to connect with consumers in a profound way that creates a positivity surrounding the brand. Emotional connection has been known to be a key driver of brand awareness and loyalty. This also enhances the authenticity of the brand.

Create your own report like this

This report was put together using Falcon Benchmark. It listens to what over 100,000 brands are saying on social media and understands how the audience is reacting to that. Clients use Benchmark to help them create better content, get more certainty around their social media strategy, and automate all their reporting.

Bonus!

After reading this report on Ben & Jerry’s social media strategy, you’re probably left thinking, “is brand activism good for my business? Should my company participate or maintain an apolitical brand?

You’d be lying if you said these questions didn’t cross your mind!

Lucky for you, we have free tickets to a session we’re hosting at the 2020 Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference (DMEXCO) on brand activism with guest speakers from Ben & Jerry’s and two other companies. Click on the link below to get your free tickets and watch this expert panel discuss how to turn your purpose into action.

To Act or Not To Act: Turning Purpose Into Action Through Brand Activism.
Catch our expert panel discuss how you can be committed to social change.
Get your free tickets