Future Implications

Social media is a constantly changing animal. As it grows, develops and changes, brands need to be responsive to it. Even if it to compete with their competitors who have are receptive to its transformations, inevitably their strategies will have to be pliable and quickly ready to be enforced. Social media is not going away and will always be a form of communication, information getting and research for people and generations to come.

So, what are companies to do? They need to know where future trends are going and how it will impact them. Customers who follow businesses are looking for information. If your business does not put any out, someone else will. Conversations will happen whether your company is a part of it or not. A brand has to be on many social media platforms in order to be part of the dialogue and administer some control over it. Twitter is the top social media conversation piece with blogs and forums following in second. However, new tools will replace old tools, so a company needs to prepared for that. Remember MySpace? It fell to a far second to Facebook over the past few years. So as new media is created, companies must be ready to expand into these new ventures and be on the cusp instead of falling behind others.

As more and more companies get into social media and the ones currently there continue to expand, the need for consumer ratings to equate with ROI will become more and more crucial. With customers looking for ratings from other customers, the ability to readily show that is imperative. ROI of adding ratings to e-commerce sites is starting to become established, but it may go beyond that. Customers may turn away from sites that do not show ratings in lieu of others that will.

Companies have determined that one social media account is not enough. Whole Foods has accounts for each store as well as foodie groups. The more specified accounts will attract the attention of more customers overall. One account cannot contain all the specific information that many accounts can provide. Also, having more tailored accounts can create different strategies for those accounts based on age, interests, and geographical locations.  

 

References

Cohen, Heidi (July 30, 2012), Social Media’s Future: 5 Important Trends [Research & Charts], http://heidicohen.com/social-media-future-5-important-trends/

 

Tobin, Jim (July 28, 2008), 5 Predictions on The Future of Social Media, http://www.ignitesocialmedia.com/social-media-trends/future-social-media/

 

 

 

Differentiation

Since I am in the grocery business, I have found that a couple of truths. People will always buy food and grocery stores will have to come up with more innovative ways to get those people into their markets. My company, Giant Eagle, is grocery chain that has five brands over 270 stores and 170 gas stations in four states headquartered in Pittsburgh PA. I currently work for the Market District brand which is our upscale and flagship stores. One of our direct competitors over the past couple of years has been Whole Foods. Although Whole Foods does not carry many of the items that we do, they have taken a large bite out of organic and natural foods.

            Giant Eagle at one time was a force on social media especially in the western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio markets. In 2011, Supermarket News, voted Lisa Henriksen, then VP of Marketing and Own Brands, as Marketer of the Year for 2011. At that time, Giant Eagle had a promotion called Food Perks and Fuel Perks in which customers who had an Advantage Card could accumulate money off their food and gas purchases. The social media campaign used the tag line, “That’s My Giant Eagle” advantage. Customers and employees would post videos stating how they used their perks and saved money and finished the video with the tag line. However, since then, the social media presence has dropped to just some informational posts, promotions and questions for the customers such as, “Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?”. Very recently, each market district has gotten their own Twitter and Facebook accounts. Although they are only weeks old, the followers have been increasing rapidly due to promotion within other Giant Eagle site and within the stores themselves.

            Whole Foods, on the other hand, are probably have over 1.75 Twitter members and over 600 individual accounts including each store having their own Twitter and Facebook accounts. Whereas Giant Eagle utilizes their social media for getting information out and getting people to discuss their “foodie” preferences, 85% of Whole Foods responses to Tweets are responses to customers comments. They strategy is to keep their customer informed and be accessible for questions, comments and concerns that they customer has. They know their market is a more educated, younger conservative crowd who wants to be knowledgeable than entertained, so their concentrate more on the Twitter than Facebook medias.

            Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, is one of the very few CEOs that writes and manages their own blog site. And, he can be quite outspoken. This has caused a backlash of negative posts on their social media sites. However, Whole Foods, being quick to respond to any posts including the negative, they can usually head off any major negative media backlash. Giant Eagle did not fair so well earlier this year when they decided to end the Food Perks in lieu of another food promotion. The reasoning that Giant Eagle posted was that the customers did not utilize the food perks to its fullest potential and that it was too difficult to use. This caused a major uproar from insulted customers who took offense to being told that they were not smart enough to use the foodperks. Giant Eagle did not handle the response well. In fact, they did not respond much at all. To make matters worse, the replacement coupon based marketing plan was delayed by over three weeks, thus continuing the negative campaign. For the past three months, Giant Eagle sales have been lower than the year’s numbers by a companywide 3%.

            Giant Eagle can learn much from Whole Foods and it seems that they have decided to do more with social media as part of their major marketing campaign. How will it work out? We will have to wait and see.

 

 

References

 

Hamstra, Mark (Jan 24, 2011), Advantage: Giant Eagle’s Lisa Henriksen, SuperMarketNews.com, http://supermarketnews.com/marketing/advantage-giant-eagles-lisa-henriksen

 

Carr, David (September 6, 2012), How Wholefoods Handles Social Media, Informationweek.com, http://www.informationweek.com/social-business/social_media_monitoring/how-whole-foods-handles-social-media/240006793

 

Friedman, Brad (August 4, 2011), Whole Foods Market’s Subtle Social Media marketing Plan, SocialMediaToday.com, http://socialmediatoday.com/bradfriedman/326139/whole-foods-market-s-subtle-social-media-marketing-plan

 

Giant Eagle Dumps FoodPerks (Feb 4 2013), Progressivegrocery.com, http://www.progressivegrocer.com/top-stories/headlines/industry-intelligence/id37268/giant-eagle-dumps-foodperks/

 

Blogging and Tweeting Brands

In a recent MIT Sloan Management Review post, a research study applauded Fortune 500 companies for their efforts and progress of becoming more social. In the report, it showed that 28 percent of the Fortune 500 companies had blogs. In addition, 73 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have a corporate Twitter account. A Forbes post named Twitter the fastest growing social platform in the world. However, less than 20 percent of the Fortune 250 companies have CMOs on Twitter and of the 20 percent of the Fortune 250 CMOs on Twitter, more than half are below average in being very social.

For brands, there is a knack to using Twitter. Research has to be done before engaging customers. Companies need to know how their customers use Twitter by finding out if there are any conversations happening about their brand, product, service or industry. Also, it is good to know what customers are tweeting about in regards to brand. Also, companies need to know why Twitter is being used in the first place.  They have to determine what is to be achieved. After determining its use, a branded or personal profile has to be created. Employees are using Twitter to primarily engage with people on behalf of the company, they should have a branded profile. A branded profile is one that clearly identifies the user as an employee of the company or has a branded background picture and bio. Sometimes, a more personal profile that unites your a personal brand with that of the company can be used.

For blogging, there are practices that need to put into play as well.  First and foremost, blogging can lead to legal issues. Companies should have real concerns about liability, exclusions and limitations, and indemnity for statements made by employees that are harmful to others. The site should carry some sort of disclaimer and limitation of liability. It is necessary that whoever is writing the blog and senior management know what they are doing. They should be educated by the corporate communications and legal department about what blogs are and how they might affect business.

Blogging policies should be created to prevent the possibility of leaking trade secrets or financial information and ensure that trade secrets are kept secret and personal lives do not become public. It should become a marketing blog. In a blog, customers are looking for real answers and honest opinions not empty advertising. Keeping a blog fresh with new content and making it easy to add onto so it can be updated constantly keeps the readers coming back. The blog can be used to interact with customers so that the company’s core values, mission, goals and direction are reflected. Also, employees should be encouraged to use it, but they need to be reminded of the public nature of the blogs and the ramifications for their actions.

            Whole Foods utilizes Twitter as a main source of promotion for their company. Their research showed that most of their customers are young, conservative and business-oriented. They tend to be more businesslike on social media therefore engage Twitter more often than Facebook. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, has his own blog and the company has a blog easily accessible on their website. This popular blog is full of how-to’s, best practices and exciting product ideas. Wegman’s changes their blog design every few weeks to reflect colorful seasonal themes. The company has managed to attract a loyal and engaged audience through posts from President Danny Wegman and other store employees on ideas for entertaining at home, recipes and nutrition. In fact, there was a post where the deli chef was responding to questions by telling customers which aisle to find ingredients for some tasty muffins.

 

 

 

References

 

The 10 Best Corporate Blogs in the World (January 10, 2011), http://www.businessesgrow.com/2011/01/05/the-10-best-corporate-blogs-in-the-world/

 

Afshar, Vala (February 25, 2013), The Top Social CMOs of Fortune 250 Companies on Twitter, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vala-afshar/the-top-social-cmos_b_2754385.html

 

White, Kari, Corporate Blogging: 7 Best Practices, http://www.businessknowhow.com/internet/corporate-blog.htm

 

Brito, Michael (June 2009), 10 Twitter Best Practices for Brands, http://mashable.com/2009/06/24/twitter-brand-best-practices/

LinkedIn and the Grocery World

Businesses, as they  begin to use social media more and more, they are realizing how to get the most of the applications that they are using in addition to knowing which applications to use. That goes for consumers and job hunters as well. I get closer towards my graduation; I am starting to build my new profile for my career search. One of the applications I will put my profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with millions of members and growing rapidly. It can help establish a professional profile and control one of the top search results. In addition, it can build and maintain a broader network of as well as learn about other companies. But, LinkedIn can do more than just that. It can actually help develop and leverage powerful tools to find and reach the people you need including customers and other companies with which to do business.

            LinkedIn is a great network for finding leads, growing their business globally, or finding the right vendors. However, they are more ways to get use LinkedIn. Current customers can post recommendations on a business’ profile for visitors like potential customers to peruse. Also, businesses can link blogs from their LinkedIn profiles about their products. When looking through the LinkedIn, I found many grocery store chains miss this opportunity. Giant Eagle (my company), Wegman’s and Delhaize have very basic profiles basically advertising positions that they have open. However, Publix, a southern grocery store chain based in Florida, has a much more expansive profile. They include updates, Facebook and Twitter accounts’ links as well as links to blogs about the company and products. They also have a look into their culture and interviews with employers. Whether or not this is the cause, Publix has many followers than the other three.

            LinkedIn offers a way for businesses to sell to and work with other business through their own profiles and researching others. Businesses can also utilize LinkedIn for business to business transactions and couplings. There are grocery forums and groups such as Progressive Grocer and retail and Wholesale for Network where businesses can interact and sell their services and products to each other.

            Regardless, these social media is used sparingly with the grocery store chains as well as many other businesses. It is mostly used as a job search tool.  The site states its mission is “to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” There is no desire on the LinkedIn site to be a social networking site for the masses. The site is for managers, primarily middle managers and young professionals who want to build contacts and look for employment. However, there is room for companies to develop a more PR usable tool. By filling out the LinkedIn profile completely, such as what products or services they sale would expand their ability to show what they have to offer. Also, adding more links to other social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter as well as adding the LinkedIn links to those outlets can continue to bring in potential customers. But many companies just have a small explanation of the company and just job postings.

 

References

 

The Value of LinkedIn, http://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/45, accessed on Feb 2013

 

Kawasaki, Guy (April 2010), Ten Ways for Small Businesses to Use LinkedIn, http://blog.linkedin.com/2010/04/12/linkedin-small-business-tips/

 

LinkedIn accounts of Publix, Wegman’s, Giant Eagle, and Delhaize.

 

Evans, Meryl K (Jul 2009), 33 Ways to Use LinkedIn for Business, http://gigaom.com/2009/07/13/33-ways-to-use-linkedin-for-business/

Horton, James (2011), How Fortune100 Companies Use LinkedIn, http://www.online-pr.com/Holding/Fortune%20100%20and%20LinkedIn.pdf

 

 

 

 

Social Media in the Grocery Business

I work for a large grocery store chain in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio called Giant Eagle. Social media in the grocery world can be extremely influential if done properly. However, according to the report, “Untangling the Social Web: Insights for Users, Brands and Retailers,” one of the surveys uncovered that nearly 70 percent of supermarket chief marketing officers state they feel unprepared to integrate social media into their marketing mix. The main reason was lack of a starting point. But this report provides ideas about how to start a successful social media campaign and gain footing as it grows.

Food is one of the top subjects of discussion among social web users. So, it is important for the grocery industry to engage because their customers spend significant time talking about shopping experiences, stores and products on social media platforms. Because of this supermarkets are not just providing coupons and specials. They are engaging their customers by listening to and understanding their consumers, participating in discussions with them and creating places for them to gather and build loyalty.            Facebook seems to be the preferred social channel for the grocery industry. With the exception of Whole Foods whose upscale clientele and price points lean towards the cutting edge technologists have a larger Twitter following, grocery stores’ customers are more mainstream and family-oriented which fits in better with the Facebook platform.

In addition, supermarket chains have used social media to promote the corporate social responsibility. Whole Foods, an organic and natural foods chain from Austin Texas, hired 5W Public Relations to promote their “School Lunch Revolution” and theLunchBox.org campaign. Whole Foods backed website designed to help transform school lunches across the country and combat childhood obesity. It became of the most innovative and successful marketing campaigns to help changes school lunches and procedures. Giant Eagle has a loyalty program, Advantage Card, which is used when purchasing food and gas from its GetGo gas stations. Her campaign, along with Young & Rubicam, Chicago, “That’s My Giant Eagle Advantage” allowed a place for customers and team members to display various reasons for choosing Giant Eagle. People posted their stories online through Facebook and the Giant Eagle’s internet site either through text or video. This was a very popular campaign with the customer focus groups and team members alike.

Even though all supermarket chains can benefit from social media, there is a vast difference active social media presence between the two. National chains have more of a budget and audience. A bigger national impression means there are more resources to put against social channels and the more potential people they can reach. One of the clear disparities in having the scale and budgets is that ability to invest in high quality content and people to engage in conversations around that content. So, the large chains began to think like a media company. Since there is a large reduction in the cost of production and in its distribution, it is now cheaper and less complicated to create the media directly, or in conjunction with a partner. This has opened up a greater YouTube presence. Whole Foods has many recipes and how to prepare those videos as well as videos from founder John Mackey discussing who Whole Foods is and its culture. Giant Eagle has videos ranging from preparing Market District products (their own line). This started customers to bring in their own ideas on recipes and post them. The grocery chain had many good recipes that a book by made. It is being considered.

Social media in the supermarket business can be very beneficial for promoting their brand, their products and their culture. Although many chains use it relatively proficient in it, many more are still apprehensive. Either way, social media is a powerful tool that is growing in followers and for stores to be successful, they need to utilize it.

References

Twitter, LinkedIn Logical Social Media Entry Points: Study (Apr 2012), http://www.progressivegrocer.com/top-stories/headlines/technology/id35201/twitter-linkedin-logical-social-media-entry-points-study

Chris Heuer On Grocery Store Social Media Marketing (August 31, 2010), http://pr.typepad.com/pr_communications/2010/08/chris-heuer-on-grocery-store-social-media-marketing.html

Whole Foods Market Case Study, http://www.5wpr.com/practice/casestudy-WholeFoods.cfm, accessed on Feb 2013

Hamstra, Mark (Jan, 2011), Advantage: Giant Eagle’s Lisa Henriksen, http://supermarketnews.com/marketing/advantage-giant-eagles-lisa-henriksen

Whole Foods Market on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/user/WholeFoodsMarket/videos?view=0

Social Media Tool

Although social media has created big impacts for many different industries, the grocery supermarket business has a lot of catching up to do.  According to new research published by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America (CCRRC), nearly 70 percent of supermarket chief marketing officers say they feel ill-equipped to integrate social media into their marketing mix. Basically, they do not know where to begin and then gain sustainability

using social media tools. This is unfortunate for these companies for their inability to capitalize on the social media phenomenon. Not only do customers spend significant time talking about shopping experiences, stores and products on social media platforms, but also food is one of the top subjects of discussion among social web users.

            However, recruiting among the grocery chains have changed due to the growth of platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn as a place to start. Companies report a strong increase in their use of social networking sites and websites for recruiting, while also predicting a sharp reduction in campus recruiting, job board and third-party recruiters. Job hunters recognize this change and are increasing their use of social networking sites to seek employment opportunities.

Grocery chains need to get moving on learning how social media can work for them. When putting together a course of action, it is crucial to understand that not all social web users use social media in the same way. There are four categories of users along with their style, the manner in which they interact and their influence as shoppers. They are bonders, sharers, professionals and creators can help retailers more effectively leverage social media for strategic business purposes. In addition, companies have to reach out to these shoppers while projecting their core values.

            As companies begin interaction, they must find ways to build interest. Some ideas stem from creating specific triggers, such as time-sensitive offers, sweepstakes or limited supplies, to drive rapid responses. Another idea offers a single item to focus on.  Learning how to cultivate these deeper relationships is the key to successful engagement. The social web demands something deeper and provides an ideal venue to listen to and understand consumers, to participate in their discussions and to create places for them to gather and build loyalty.  Merely providing coupons or specials is not enough.

My company, grocery store chain Giant Eagle, had a social media campaign that came up lacking. Two years, Giant Eagle wanted to promote their own brand items. So, it decided to hand out $150 gift cards to Twitter followers who talked-up its private brands. Shoppers who tweeted about their favorite Giant Eagle-branded product were eligible to win the “My Favorite Giant Eagle Brand” sweepstakes. Customers used the provided hash tag of #GiantEagleFavorites and tweeted about Creamery Classics ice cream, ready-to-serve soup and chunky pasta sauce. However, the campaign only dealt with getting people to mention the brand names, but not on the substance of what they’re talking about or why anybody who received and noticed the Tweets would care.  Instead, Giant Eagle should have encouraged its customers to join together these products. They could have held a special for a number of shoppers who love a store brand show up at a specific store on a specific day to win something. This kind of promotion would have a brought a “community” together within Giant Eagle.

 

References

 

Twitter, LinkedIn Logical Social Media Entry Points: Study (Aug 2012), http://www.progressivegrocer.com/top-stories/headlines/technology/id35201/twitter-linkedin-logical-social-media-entry-points-study

 

Molander, Jeff (June 2011), How Grocery Stores Can Avoid Spinning Wheels with Social Media, http://www.makesocialmediasell.com/social-media-tips/grocery-stores-social/