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You all know I’m a huge fan of social networks – so much so that in addition to managing Progressive Grocer’s LinkedIn group and Facebook page, I also created, developed, and manage PG’s Independent Grocer Network, a custom social network for independent grocers and the wholesalers that serve them.
My reasoning behind choosing this specific segment of the industry for my first custom social media venture was that independents, being for the most part smaller regional and local operations dispersed throughout the country, rarely have the chance to connect with each other aside from once or twice a year at trade shows. And since most are not competitors, as a group they are very open to sharing information about their operations for the greater good.
So my goal was to create an online community in which independent grocers and wholesalers could share information with each other – both publicly via posts in blogs, forums, and photo and video galleries, and privately via sending each other direct messages through their network profiles.
It wasn’t easy. Most grocers are familiar with social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but the concept of a custom social network, particularly in the business-to-business space, was fairly new. (It still is for many.). Not surprisingly, the beginning was slow – both in terms of membership growth and activity on the site. Members required a lot of guidance and encouragement to contribute content, and some never contributed at all.
However, as business-to-consumer social media became an increasingly important part of grocers’ customer relationship management efforts over the past year, they’ve been more willing to get involved on the B2B side.
Today, I’m happy to say that the Independent Grocer Network now has just under 520 members – about two-thirds of which are retailers and wholesalers – and the activity on the network has far exceeded my expectations. Members contribute content every day in the form of blogs, discussions, photos, videos, and comments, and much of this content evolves into member-to-member dialogue as they trade tactics on how to better run their operations.
Perhaps what is most satisfying is seeing the number of invitations to join the network “organically grow” by IGN’s members themselves. If I suggest you join a social network it’s one thing; if a fellow grocer suggests you join, it’s a whole different story.
So, for you independent grocers and wholesalers who have yet to join, I invite you to visit the network and take a look for yourself. Not only will you find valuable information there, but probably some industry friends, as well.
The address is www.independentgrocernetwork.com – I look forward to seeing you there!