Supermarkets in the Social Media Space

Ample opportunity for grocery retailers to explore the social media space with campaigns and marketing tactics unique to their brand.

February 5, 2014

Every cook has a favorite family recipe, passed down from generation to generation. But if you’re looking for something new to prepare, chances are you aren’t thumbing through a Rolodex or earmarking pages in a cookbook. In fact, an increasing number of people are turning to social media for recipes.

Which is where #WLMdish comes into play.

What’s #WFMdish? It’s a hashtag created by the social media marketing team at Whole Foods, the specialty supermarket that has been pretty much dominating social media for the last several years. In fact, it’s the most used supermarket hashtag of the last year and an effective way Whole Foods market has found to connect with consumers on Twitter. Click on #WFMdish and what you’ll find is a grouping of recipes made from Whole foods products. The company also uses the hashtag to tout the medicinal properties of products it sells, cooking tips, deals of the day and more. 

If the #WFMdish hashtag has been Whole Foods’ biggest success story on social media, the chain is also far ahead of the pack in terms of customer engagement. If you tweet Whole Foods a question, someone tweets back. Rave about a product, they’ll thank you. In fact, the Whole Foods Twitter account operates almost like the neighborhood butcher who knows your name and your favorite cut of meat. They’ve taken face-to-face interaction online.

Whole Foods' social media success may be the easiest to describe, but it’s far from the only company using social media to its advantage. It makes sense that a company as large as Walmart would have a robust social media presence. The company is also heavily engaged with customers and has seen major success by using social to drive in store promotions. Last August, a “Duck Dynasty” promotion on Facebook was a huge success for the company while Walmart has used a cross-promotional approach through its social platforms to drive traffic to its Pinterest board. Its Twitter account is picture heavy, and the company used last week’s Grammy Award to bring attention to the CD’s on winners currently on sale at Walmart.com.

Target and Kroger also have a strong social media presence, with Target’s #GiveWithTarget campaign a major success last year, particularly around the holidays. The campaign, an effort to raise $5 million for public schools around the country, trended on Twitter several times throughout December. Target reported that the campaign was a major success, and checks have been mailed to more than 1,000 schools around the country. Kroger has seen success with its Free Friday Download, a digital coupon that you can redeem at a Kroger’s store for a free or discounted product.

But the success of many major supermarket chains in the social space is underscored by a number of chains who, surprisingly, have next to no social media presence. Trader Joes has no presence on social media, and the desire is clearly there. A fan run and created Twitter account (@TraderJoesList) spotlights new products and product recommendations. A fan run Pinterest page (Pinterest.com/whatsgoodattjs) is similar. Select Trader Joe’s locations have Facebook pages, but the chain’s Facebook page just draws from its Wikipedia page. While Costco is fairly active on Facebook, a Twitter account for the wholesaler (@CostcoTweets) has over 20,000 followers but hasn’t sent out a message since 2011.

Smaller chains around the country are using social with varying degrees of success. Wegmans just wrapped up a #TweetYourEats social campaign in an effort to get people to tweet pics of their Superbowl meals for a chance to win a $250 gift card. Hy-Vee, taking a page from Whole Foods and Walmart, actively engages customers with customer service issues and questions.

Several supermarkets are still clearly trying to find their footing in the social media space, with some still absent from social media altogether. Of the hundreds of supermarket chains and one-offs scattered across the country, little more than half of them are on social media. Other stores may send a tweet or two a week or post a picture of a product to Facebook, but with no clear intention behind the messaging, its clear they’re still looking at social media as a necessary evil. Superior Grocers, for example, just uses social to promote its weekly print advertisement. Gristedes out of New York promotes weekly promos on social and then, seemingly out of nowhere last week, shared an article on the popularity of Greek Yogurt. With retailers increasingly moving toward social for modern day marketing campaigns, advertising, customer feedback and more, there is ample opportunity for grocery retailers to explore the social media space with campaigns and marketing tactics unique to their brand. 

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