Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Social media and the grocery store

Whole Foods, on Ray Road in Chandler Arizona, is by far my favorite grocery store. That's not the same thing as my preferred grocery store. It's not the same thing as my closest grocery store. No, I used the word favorite, and I used that word on purpose.

Every employee I've encountered there has been fun, smart, personable and -- perhaps most importantly -- social.

The social activity of the Whole Foods Chandler employees is simply remarkable. And that's another interesting word. Wiser folks than me have said that advertising is a tax on the unremarkable, but I say it every chance I get. Whole Foods Chandler embodies this. So much, in fact, that I lead a group of 40+ of the most highly-engaged social media mavens from the east valley cities of Phoenix to my personal mecca the last Friday of every month. And nearly each time, a few new folks show up, often because of what they've heard about this place. But sometimes the word has bypassed them, but they leave as a convert, ready to carry the message forth.

And that's a good thing, because as remarkable as Whole Foods Chandler and their employees are... they're really only dabbling in the social media world. Only building whuffie at a fraction of the rate they could be. Yes, they are on Twitter... but sporadically. And with less engagement and action than they could be doing. Yes, they have a Facebook fan page, but they've yet to secure their custom URL, the "Info" section is devoid of critical information, and their engagement is lacking. Yes, they have a Flickr tag on their corporate Flickr account, but there are many times more pictures on Flickr taken by Whole Foods Chandler patrons than in the "official" account.

Their outreach method of choice? An email newsletter, usually sent out weekly that highlights the near-future in-store events. Don't get me wrong -- email can still be a valuable tool. Like any tool, it has specific uses and is appropriate for certain jobs, but not others. I'm skeptical that calendar updates fit that bill.

Social Media Triage for Whole Foods Chandler

Whole Foods MarketImage by evo_terra via Flickr

You knew I had a point to this, right? With a few subtle tweaks to their current social media presence, Whole Foods Chandler could see vast -- and measurable -- improvements. No, I've not sat down with anyone at Whole Foods and discussed the people, objective and strategy they have or should have in mind. All I can use are the tactics I've seen and some assumptions I'll make. So with that, here are some tweaks I feel they should make:

  1. Fully embrace Twitter. You are tweeting about the right things -- do more of it! And don't be shy about engaging with people. If you don't have a listening campaign in place -- start one! If there's too much for one person, give the keys out to others!

  2. Beef up Facebook. First, get that custom URL. Then fill out the info section. I want to know about the CHANDLER Whole Foods, so make sure it's locally relevant. Give us stuff about various departments. Post photos and videos. Let this be your outlet for ALL of your info. Don't worry about flooding people on Facebook... it's Facebook!

  3. Encourage the use of Flickr. Your store is beautiful. Your people are funky and engaging. Get that stuff captured in pictures! Have patrons bring their cameras to events. Give them the tags you want them to use. Tweet the images you find. Go nuts!

  4. Post your events EVERYWHERE. Upcoming? Yelp? Eventful? Make it a point to spread the news about your events beyond the mediums you have complete control over. Go!

  5. Host more groups. I can promise you that we have a blast when #evfn comes to town. Why not encourage more groups to use WFC as a meeting place? And then SHOUT about those meetings. Help them grow, too!

  6. Video is the way. Think events. Think fun stuff behind-the-scenes stuff like how you build those crazy display walls of product. Focus on a department. Let your employees' personalities shine. And yes, people on YouTube DO want to see fun stuff that happens at Whole Foods.

  7. Tap local indie media people for your events and guests. You should never have a beer tasting with out inviting Charlie The Beer Guy to interview the brewer. Sure, you're telling the big news outlets about it, but there's a much more involved indie community just waiting for the invite. Tap 'em!

  8. Send out multiple emails. Stick with the "this week at Whole Foods" for one, but also educate me with another. Not about new or on-sale products, but about environmental and social issues that you care about... that is likely tied to product. Send me "seasonal" updates, since I know I'm not supposed to be able to get everything all year round. And make ALL of them pretty. You've go a beautiful store -- use it!

  9. What else? What do you all think? While I'm giving out free advice (I need more clients, btw), I might as well open up the floor to my peers. What else should a store like Whole Foods Chandler be doing? What should they watch out for? Got any insight for a single location of very large chain? Your input in the comments section is appreciated.

Speaking of advice, this is a taste of my Social Media Triage service, of which the full treatment goes into much more depth.

Oh and if any of you at Whole Foods Chandler read this? Come by your Tapas & Wine bar between 6-8p Friday, July the 31st and say "hi". I love meeting new people genuinely interested in doing things differently!

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  1. [...] Schedule of Apperances « Social media and the grocery store [...]

  2. Love what you're doing with these type of posts. What's next, a bookstore? Bar?

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