Expert Column: A Grocer’s Guide to Strategizing Social Media


Grocers are wholeheartedly jumping on the digital train, embracing Apple Pay, digital "intelligent" freezer doors with current product availability, and, of course, an up-to-date social media presence. As 2014 draws to a close, social media is more important than ever before as new platforms like Ello crop up, and social data becomes more and more vital to food and beverage businesses. But grocers would be remiss if they forgot the one key to success for winning at social media: strategy.

Get Your Strategy On

This magic word, "strategy," applies to all types of brands in any industry, but especially to food and beverage companies. Even with the rise of home grocery delivery, thanks to companies such as FreshDirect, a huge number of consumers still do their shopping in-store. Social media can make or break a company's brand, as the current social media landscape calls for immediate customer service and real-time updates, often rewarding a "fun" social media personality.

A social media strategy includes much more than a calendar of Twitter and Facebook posts and wishing followers a happy Thanksgiving. Deep listening and analytics of social media platforms allow food and beverage brands to understand consumer preferences and trends, as well as how certain products and events can define a market opportunity.

A perfect example would be if a refrigerated pizza crust brand were getting a bad rap for using a hashtag that was trending because of a domestic violence scandal in the NFL. If grocers were tuned in to the backlash on social media from consumers, they could accordingly adjust their inventory orders to address changing trends –- ordering more as demand skyrockets, or cutting back when a brand's getting some heat. But that's just a random example.

Having a plan in place to address local emergencies and actionable social media opportunities for relevant trends, as well as sharing company updates in a fun way, should be woven into a grocer's social media strategy.

Invest in Social

Even after a grocer decides to implement a social media strategy, there are a number of steps before execution can begin. First and foremost, grocers should hire the right in-house staff, or outsource an agency, to handle social media activities. Community managers and social media staff not only strategize how to implement social, they're also the ones to draft the content, post it, engage with customers and respond to real-time opportunities.

Another important initial step is employing the right social media sites for your audience. Using a social media listening and analytics platform is a great way to understand where your target demographics and loyal fans are present online, saving you time and effort when it comes to posting on certain sites. If your audience isn't on Facebook, don't bother posting too frequently on that page. Social listening can help you identify where your fans have been hiding -- let's say on Pinterest -- and uncover the benefits of posting seasonal recipes, or photos from in-store events.

Brandwatch’s food and beverage industry report outlines the industry's social media landscape, how leading brands are optimizing their social strategies, and techniques for intelligent consumer listening. All of these things directly affect a social media strategy plan, whether that's mapping out content for the next quarter or having an escalation plan and chief stakeholders involved if a major customer issue (or world event) happens and needs to be addressed on social media.

And let's face it, most things will be addressed on social media sites first and foremost.

Demographics Are Your Friend

Deep social listening and analytics can do more than show what products and store locations consumers favor. Analyzing trends about what foods or brands are trending in a store's specific region, or determining the male/female gender split for a brand as a whole, can help a grocer adjust not only its social media posts, but also its business strategy.

Social media is the place where consumers go both to vent and to praise.

Beyond listening directly to what folks are saying specifically about a brand, your company itself or specific products, social media analytics can provide so many more insights that can improve business and flag lucrative opportunities. Social intelligence can help grocers:

  • Analyze trends in white-space conversations to identify how products may perform across regions, genders or interest groups
  • Gain an accurate picture of a trend's viability
  • Discover how products align with new trends
  • Identify and leverage influencers and brand advocates/local social heroes

The past decade has brought with it a social movement enthusiastic about healthy, high-quality food and beverage options. "Paleo," "gluten-free," "organically grown" and "locally sourced" aren't foreign terms to the mainstream consumer any longer. For the grocer's perspective, knowing its audience's tastes, preferences and health-related mindsets can bring about cost-effective change. Adjusting product offerings, coordinating in-store tasting or cooking events, and addressing in-person what people are saying online are great uses of social intelligence to make smarter, more strategic business decisions. If a town that has two of your stores has become obsessed with gluten-free living, host a gluten-free new-product tasting. But how would you know to do this? By listening.

Social Strategy Now!

Now is the time to get a social media strategy up and running –- not tomorrow, right now. Grocers are a vital part of the food and beverage industry, connecting brands directly with consumers and influencing preferences and business decisions.

Listening closely to important food and beverage conversations, taking advantage of relevant social media trends, and executing a smart social strategy can elevate a grocery brand beyond just being another place to buy food.

Strive to be an entertaining, educational and vital part of consumers' daily life. Social intelligence insights hold the key.

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