Liking & tweeting
|Grocers take to social media marketing|
The resource allocation that grocery stores nationwide devoted to social media tripled in 2011, and is predicted to further expand, according to the Food Marketing Institute's national survey, The Food Retailing Industry Speaks, which recently surveyed large and small chains and independent grocers. While still a small part of the advertising pie, social media is starting to be seen as an integral part of a retailer's total strategy, reported the survey.
About 87% of retailers said they would spend more time on social media in 2012 than they did last year, with Facebook and Twitter being the vehicles of choice. The top three reasons to deploy a social media strategy were that it helps build relationships with current and new customers, it generates exposure for the business and it provides a feedback forum for customers.
Social media is still a thorny issue among some independents, however, who have lived by a code of personal interaction. Since most supermarkets attract every generation and income bracket, it can be hard for to decide how much time to devote to a social media strategy.
“We have a website, but I don't use Facebook,” says Calvin's Market at Bocage owner Calvin Lindsly. “I like talking to people face to face.”
But only about one-quarter of shoppers do not use any form of social media, says FMI, leaving retailers to find new ways to connect with the remaining 74%.
Brooke LeBlanc Knight, 29, of LeBlanc's Food Stores agrees that the diversity of customers complicates how the decision to go viral.
“You don't want to isolate anybody,” she says.
But she believes that social media will become a more robust component of LeBlanc's strategy.
“Social media can help a small business like ours respond quickly to customers,” she says. “Anytime they have a question or an issue, we can respond immediately.”
Knight posts regularly on LeBlanc's year-old Facebook site and distributes weekly sales flyers by email to tech savvy, budget conscious shoppers who want to plan their shopping trip in advance.
“They want to come in prepared–a lot of it has to do with the economy,” Knight says. “For them, the easiest way to get a flyer is by email blast.”
On Facebook, Knight engages customers by asking what they're cooking, by touting specials and posting philanthropy projects and by showcasing the handiwork of employees, including decorated cakes. Regional chain Rouses Market, soon to hit Baton Rouge, uses Facebook to show off the local farmers from whom it buys produce. It also announces specialty foods demos, including a recent promo for New Orleans Saint Joe Horn's new Bayou 87 barbecue sauce. Other postings affirm the store's vigilant Louisiana identity.
Twitter is a close second behind Facebook, reports the FMI, with 75% of food retailers declaring they use Twitter at least weekly. LeBlanc's Wine Specialist Mickey Martin, known for his weekly wine tips in LeBlanc's ad in The Advocate food section, recently began using Twitter to pass on wine tips. Other wine-centric independents still rely on email blasts. Matherne's Supermarket on Highland Manager Bill Hounshell communicates with hundreds of customers every few days about wine specials and weekly tastings exclusively through email.
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