After publishing the infographic showing the number of social media followers for U.S. grocery stores, I thought I'd ask a number of colleagues in social media land several questions about what the numbers mean for the industry.
I've been receiving back some great answers, and I've decided to start publishing them as they come in (my dead line is September 13th) partly because I think a single post would be two long, and partly, I think it would be interesting to get individuals comments on each set of answers (though I'm also thinking a round-up post capturing opinions across the people who answer will be good as well). Here's my first, from Chris Heuer, one of the Founders of the Social Media Club:
Chris: First impression is that grocery chains are predominantly focused on red, which has never been more evident then by seeing all their logos together.
John: What does this chart say about the state of social media adoption among large grocery chains?
Chris: Clearly the power of video is not yet fully realized by most in the grocery industry. What we also note is that Facebook is the preferred social channel for them - this is most likely due to the fact that the general audience on Facebook is much more mainstream and family oriented then Twitter. In other words, its their target audience. The clear exception here is Whole Foods, whose more upscale demographics and price points means that cutting edge technologists, are more their market and this is evidenced in their twitter following.
John: Why do you think national chains have a more active social media presence than regional supermarkets?
Chris: Two words, budget and audience. A bigger national footprint means there are more resources to put against social channels and the more potential people they can reach. This is expected.
John: What's up with Whole Foods and their big Twitter presence? Do you think those numbers have anything to do with the celebrity status of the CEO?
Chris: It has everything to do with the fact that they were widely viewed as a case study that was talked about among twitter marketers. They also had a very succesfull promotion for followers who would get the 'word of the day' and go into stores to get gift cards. This strategy was a success. Also, as mentioned above, its a matter of demographics - more upscale shoppers in technology hubs like San Francisco, Seattle, NYC and other major metros use the technology and are their target customers.
One of the clear differentiators in having the scale and budgets is that ability to invest in high quality content and people to engage in conversations around that content. The principle strategy I have been emphasizing for large corporations across all sectors has been to think like a media company. The most under-valued transformative aspect to social media is around increased technological efficiencies of media - the reduction in the cost of production and in its distribution. In effect, it is now cheaper and less complicated to create the media directly, or in conjunction with a partner (agency / media company/ production company / independent talent / community).
This is exponentially more value when considering the ability to source content for free, or nearly free, from the market of those interested in the industry, product, idea, company, or well respected individual.
This is something that Tom Foremski has been talking about for many years - the fact that "Every company is a media company". I agree, and have been thinking that way ever since the first article I read on this idea of internal corporate tv stations on intranets in a business magazine back in the late 90's.
John: What suggestions would you have for grocery store marketers for YouTube?
Chris: Don't be afraid. Its not the difficult, but it takes time to do it right. It's a real opportunity to connect. No reason why regional grocers in particular can't go and turn their weekly flier into a show and tell of what's on sale. This will work very well with meats, fish, bakery, cheese and deli where those who run the department could be the one's on the video. That said, just putting a voice to the special's is not enough, it needs to be engaging, informative, educational and yes, funny if possible.
John: Lastly, for my future research, what analysis would you like to see of the industry in terms of social media?
Chris: Its clear that these numbers are not enough to develop real insights. In order to go futher an in-depth research project should be undertaken to get to the qualitative issues such as whether or not the strategy is working, redemption rates, levels of engagement with facebook pages, real relationships built and anecdotes about customer stories connecting with the brand or connecting with each other through the brand.
Something to add to the graphic - a few archetypal visuals for representing the strategies they employ.
Integrated multi channel
John: Thanks Chris, super answers, and great ideas for more research!