The onion business is riding a wave of social media to marketing success, said Kim Reddin, director of industry relations with the National Onion Committee.

The Greeley, Colo.-based committee has retooled its website, to provide visitors with an array of recipe ideas, background and market information about onions.

The association also has dived headfirst into social media, Reddin said.

“The association’s program is more about promotions, and as far as the way the association tries to promote the crop, things have changed,” Reddin said.

Primarily, that change involves bringing social media into those promotions, she said.

The association has developed a social media persona, Onionista, a fictional character that serves as host of the site’s onion-focused blog.

Reddin handles the actual blogging duties, and she says it attracts a lot of responses.

“We’re not doing it as regularly as we would like, to be honest. It requires quite a bit of time to maintain.”

The social media campaign has been going about three years, and it’s growing, Reddin said.

The Twitter account has been more successful, she said.

“Maybe not in the number of followers but what we’ve been able to do,” she said.

The association hosted two “Twitter parties” last year. Reddin describes the parties an online forum where people get together and chat via Twitter.

“It was crazy how many people wanted to get together and talk about onions,” she said.

Last year’s parties were held in conjunction with Kitchen Play, an online forum of bloggers that showcases one item at each get-together, Reddin said.

During the association’s parties, six bloggers were challenged to put together a meal featuring onions. Each was given a part of the meal to develop, from appetizer through dessert.

The next association Twitter party is scheduled somewhere around July 4, Reddin said.

Social media are now major marketing platforms, so all marketing programs need to at least have social media as a component, Reddin said.

Marketers also have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

“I think each platform tends to have a little bit different traffic and purpose,” she said.

What they have in common is that they can drive traffic to the association’s website, Reddin added.

Rodger Helwig, marketing consultant with California Vegetable Specialties in Rio Vista, Calif., said he is a firm believer in social media marketing.

“With social media, a company can build a more meaningful dialogue with customers on a one-to-one basis as opposed to typical public relations and advertising programs, which are broadcasting to a wide audience,” he said.