Half bad: social media opinions about U.S. food stores

August 22, 2011

Facebook and Twitter carry lots of comments about supermarkets – Costco and Whole Foods are hot, Walmart not so much.

More than half the opinions expressed online about U.S. supermarkets in the past 12 months were negative (54%), and these comments were largely aimed at Walmart, reveals a new social media analytics report, Public Opinion on Supermarkets in the U.S. on Social Media, from Amplicate.

Walmart was the most talked about food retailer. It generated three-quarters of comments (73%), yet only one-third of opinions about the nation’s largest food seller were positive (36%).

In the minds of social media commenters who posted 82,478 opinions about U.S. food sellers in the past 12 months, the biggest isn’t the best – and a high-volume wholesale club operator that typically requires a longer drive for shoppers to reach is tops. Costco Wholesale earns the highest collective esteem with 85% positive comments, driven by enthusiasm for their chicken, pizza and meal deals.

While acknowledging that the views of social media users may not represent the entire U.S. population, Amplicate CEO Juan Alvarez said in an interview with The Lempert Report that “price is not the most important thing for social media users who post positive opinions about supermarkets. People are much more likely to tweet about some great food they had from the store rather than about how cheap it was. It’s likely that people who appreciate Walmart’s competitive prices are just not posting about it.

“The great pizza they had at Costco or the delicious organic produce from Whole Foods [is what] people are telling their friends on Facebook and Twitter about,” he added. “It’s likely these comments influence where their friends shop [but] our data doesn’t tell us.”

With that caveat in mind, the study offers three key takeaway messages for conventional supermarket operators:

  • The supermarket that had the highest percentage of positive opinions (Whole Foods Market, 95%) has the great social media presence among food retailers.  Supermarkets should engage more with social media users if they want them to sing their praises.
  • Low prices aren’t likely to gain positive comments on social media.
  • Social media users talk about supermarkets in large numbers, and their opinions reach a wide audience. Social media posts about U.S. supermarkets had a potential audience in excess of 72 million during the August 2010 to July 2011 study period.