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While a strong majority of grocery marketers admit they don’t understand the world of social media, they can wield tremendous influence by simply responding to tweets and exploring the potential of professional networking site LinkedIn, where activity has been supercharged by the recession, according to new research published by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America (CCRRC).
The report, “Untangling the Social Web: Insights for Users, Brands and Retailers,” informs supermarket executives about how to leverage social resources to build effective sales and communications strategies. The final installment of the five-part report is now available on the Council’s website.
“The explosive growth of social networking seems to have caught much of the marketing world by surprise,” says Michael Sansolo, research director, CCRRC of North America. “In one survey, we found nearly 70 percent of supermarket chief marketing officers state they feel unprepared to integrate social media into their marketing mix.”
The key dilemma? Lack of a starting point.
“This report provides ideas about where to begin and how to gain traction using social media tools,” explains Craig Elston, SVP, The Integer Group (www. integer.com), the promotional, retail and shopper marketing agency that conducted the study. “It’s vital for the supermarket industry to engage because their customers spend significant time talking about shopping experiences, stores and products on social media platforms.”
In fact, the research revealed that food is one of the top subjects of discussion among social web users. “There is tremendous opportunity to listen, as well as influence opinions,” says Elston. “While each company or brand needs to develop customized approaches to the social web, listening across the different platforms is the ideal place to start."
The report also examines how social networking is changing the workplace, especially recruiting. The nation’s recession has played a significant role in boosting activity of professional networking sites. “In 2008 after five years online, LinkedIn had about 32 million users, which paled in comparison to Facebook,” said Sansolo. “By early 2012, after more than three years of economic challenges, LinkedIn’s population jumped to 130 million, a gain of more than 400 percent. The number continues to grow by adding two professionals every second.”
Companies report a strong increase in their use of social networking sites and websites for recruiting, while also predicting a sharp reduction in campus recruiting, job board and third-party recruiters. Job hunters recognize this change and are increasing their use of social networking sites to seek employment opportunities.
When devising a plan, it’s important to understand that not all social web users operate the same way. Research identified four categories of users along with their style, the manner in which they interact and their influence as shoppers. Insights into “bonders,” “sharers,” “professionals” and “creators” can help retailers more effectively leverage social media for strategic business purposes.
The CCRRC report also examines questions companies must ask as they begin marketing on the social web, especially as they try to project their core values.
“Merely providing coupons or specials is not enough,” said Sansolo. “The social web demands something deeper and provides an ideal venue to listen to and understand consumers, to participate in their discussions and to create places for them to gather and build loyalty.”
As companies begin interaction, price is only a piece of this strategy, the report found. Some businesses find ways to build interest by creating specific triggers, such as time-sensitive offers, sweepstakes or limited supplies, to drive rapid responses. Others discover that a specific element of their offerings -- a single clothing style or a specific menu item -- can become a star in its own right, creating a loyal, devoted fan base. Learning how to cultivate these deeper relationships is the key to successful engagement.
Among the topics encompassed by the five-part CCRRC study:
- Assessing the social networking landscape
- Identifying the allure of social networking: traits, behaviors and motivators
- Social networking personas: A look at consumer and shopper mind-sets
- The value of social networking for brands and retailers
- The effectiveness of professional social networking
The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America (CCRRC) is dedicated to understanding and developing practical responses to strategic challenges experienced by the grocery industry and its operators. As a result, CCRRC generates ideas and solutions by retailers, for retailers. Composed of 18 visionary grocery store executives, the group oversees research initiatives conducted by independent third parties, serving as an authentic and comprehensive “voice of the customer.” The Coca-Cola Company sponsors CCRRC as part of its commitment to help customers drive their business forward and to expand knowledge in the retail community.