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    Expert Column: A Grocer’s Guide to Strategizing Social Media

    Engage with shoppers through deep listening, analytics

    By Will McInnes, Brandwatch

    Grocers are wholeheartedly jumping on the digital train, embracing Apple Pay, digital "intelligent" freezer doors with current product availability, and, of course, an up-to-date social media presence. As 2014 draws to a close, social media is more important than ever before as new platforms like Ello crop up, and social data becomes more and more vital to food and beverage businesses. But grocers would be remiss if they forgot the one key to success for winning at social media: strategy.

    Get Your Strategy On

    This magic word, "strategy," applies to all types of brands in any industry, but especially to food and beverage companies. Even with the rise of home grocery delivery, thanks to companies such as FreshDirect, a huge number of consumers still do their shopping in-store. Social media can make or break a company's brand, as the current social media landscape calls for immediate customer service and real-time updates, often rewarding a "fun" social media personality.

    A social media strategy includes much more than a calendar of Twitter and Facebook posts and wishing followers a happy Thanksgiving. Deep listening and analytics of social media platforms allow food and beverage brands to understand consumer preferences and trends, as well as how certain products and events can define a market opportunity.

    A perfect example would be if a refrigerated pizza crust brand were getting a bad rap for using a hashtag that was trending because of a domestic violence scandal in the NFL. If grocers were tuned in to the backlash on social media from consumers, they could accordingly adjust their inventory orders to address changing trends –- ordering more as demand skyrockets, or cutting back when a brand's getting some heat. But that's just a random example.

    Having a plan in place to address local emergencies and actionable social media opportunities for relevant trends, as well as sharing company updates in a fun way, should be woven into a grocer's social media strategy.

    Invest in Social

    Even after a grocer decides to implement a social media strategy, there are a number of steps before execution can begin. First and foremost, grocers should hire the right in-house staff, or outsource an agency, to handle social media activities. Community managers and social media staff not only strategize how to implement social, they're also the ones to draft the content, post it, engage with customers and respond to real-time opportunities.

    Another important initial step is employing the right social media sites for your audience. Using a social media listening and analytics platform is a great way to understand where your target demographics and loyal fans are present online, saving you time and effort when it comes to posting on certain sites. If your audience isn't on Facebook, don't bother posting too frequently on that page. Social listening can help you identify where your fans have been hiding -- let's say on Pinterest -- and uncover the benefits of posting seasonal recipes, or photos from in-store events.

    Brandwatch’s food and beverage industry report outlines the industry's social media landscape, how leading brands are optimizing their social strategies, and techniques for intelligent consumer listening. All of these things directly affect a social media strategy plan, whether that's mapping out content for the next quarter or having an escalation plan and chief stakeholders involved if a major customer issue (or world event) happens and needs to be addressed on social media.

    And let's face it, most things will be addressed on social media sites first and foremost.

    By Will McInnes, Brandwatch
    • About Will McInnes Will McInnes is chief marketing officer at Brandwatch, a social intelligence tech company. With offices in New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Brighton (U.K.), Brandwatch provides social media listening and analytics for global brands such as British Airways, Digitas, Whirlpool, Dell, PepsiCo, Monster and Papa John’s. Regularly speaking at key industry events, most recently at Social Media Week London, dmexco, and TEDx, McInnes is a frequent presence on the world stage, speaking to audiences of all sizes. His book "Culture Shock" was published by Wiley in August 2012.

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