Red Diamond Wins Regional Social Media Competition Again

Red Diamond Wins Regional Social Media Competition Again

Red Diamond Coffee and Tea Co., one of the three oldest coffee, tea and foodservice companies in the U.S. continuously operated by the same family, repeats as the winner of the Alabama Region of the ‘Social Madness’ contest hosted by American City Business Journals, a national publication of 40 business newspapers across the country.

The Social Madness Challenge is a one-of-a-kind competition that measures a company’s social media engagement. Last year, nearly 4,000 companies participated, generating nearly three-quarters of a million votes. Red Diamond once again proved successful by outscoring competitors throughout the competition.

“Social media is an excellent vehicle for Red Diamond to deliver on our commitment to drive business to our retail partners, communicate efficiently with our consumers and provide great customer service,” said Wilbur Christy, director of innovation at Red Diamond. “Red Diamond has long been recognized for having loyal and enthusiastic fans around the country. We were fortunate to win this competition because our fans engaged with us and with their friends and family. To enjoy Red Diamond is to share it. That’s exactly what our fans did.”

Added Crest Foods buyer David Judd, who recently introduced Red Diamond’s tea products, “Red Diamond’s social media drove their business, and my category to outpace my competition. I’ve rarely seen a new brand come into Oklahoma and perform this well, this fast. Social media was the key.”

Red Diamond has moved on to the national competition, which began July 16.

To learn more about Red Diamond, visit


United Supermarkets Expands Social Media Presence Across Three Banners

United Supermarkets Expands Social Media Presence Across Three Banners

United Supermarkets LLC is better connecting with its guests by expanding its social media presence for three of its four store formats. The new structure gives each of the banners—United Supermarkets, Market Street and Amigos—its own unique and separate set of social media pages on several platforms.

The growth of social media and unique positioning of each banner drove the decision to diversify outlets. While the company’s social channels were previously aligned geographically, the new alignment by brand allows each banner to have unique representation on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

“As we became more active on social media, we realized that publishing content about all three of our banners to a single Facebook or Twitter page wasn’t the most desirable way for our guests to stay updated on what was happening in the stores where they shop,” says Kelly Podzemny, social media coordinator for United Supermarkets. “Now they can follow only the banners where they shop, or all three if they like and not be exposed to the same message twice.”

In early February 2013, the company converted its former “West Texas” Facebook page, which represented all three West Texas brands, to represent only its United Supermarkets stores. The company also converted the previous Dallas/Fort Worth Facebook page to represent Market Street stores across all of its regions. New Facebook and Twitter accounts were created for the Amigos banner.

“Social media has been a great way to engage with our guests. We are evolving from simply being a grocery store to becoming a valuable source for interesting, entertaining and useful content,” says Jennifer Nanz, digital media manager for United Supermarkets. “Our goal is to provide relevant information to our guests, and narrowing our message to the specific banner helps us achieve that goal.”

United says the changes have been well accepted by its fans. New followers for Facebook and Twitter channels have increased by 38 percent, and regional diversity has increased among all channels. Most guests continue to follow and engage on multiple banners and channels.

Additionally, the company has created Pinterest and Instagram feeds for United Supermarkets and Market Street. Links to all of the United’s active social media pages can be found at


Smartphones May Be Your Most Valuable Retail Space

Smartphones May Be Your Most Valuable Retail Space

by Rick Rusch

Rick Rusch

Rick Rusch

Last year social media was the topic of considerable discussion among ­retailers, including grocers. Many grocers’ questions centered around the why, what and when of social media. Today, even for those who have been in ­social media for two years or more, they remain vague and difficult to measure.

While social media has not gone away, the biggest game-changing trend we’ve seen in technology is the growing usage of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and how consumers use them for decision-making, sharing and purchasing. In essence, mobile devices put the internet in consumers’ pockets or purses. And consumers are using that power to do everything from accessing promotional coupons and scanning QR codes to researching ­products, comparing prices and making a purchase.

[gn_quote style="1"]Mobile will influence 5.1 percent of all retail purchases in 2012—that’s $158 billion.[/gn_quote]

By 2013, if you’re not mobile, you’re simply not going to be competitive. Worse still, your in-store and e-commerce business will both suffer as you lose sales to competitors who provide a good shopping experience on mobile devices.

So why is this trend one grocers cannot afford to stand on the sidelines for? Numbers. That’s right, numbers. Consider these numbers….

The mobile trend is here

  • 54 percent of mobile users own a smartphone
  • 70 percent of mobile searches result in interaction with a business within one (1) hour
  • 27 percent of consumers are scanning QR codes in-store
  • 48 percent feel better about purchasing after viewing on mobile
  • 14 percent make unplanned purchases as result of mobile influence

Statistics and trends are great, but grocers live by sales metrics. And that’s exactly why ­grocers cannot afford to ignore mobile. The mobile trend numbers above lead directly to sales and can be measurable against sales. Unlike social media, where monetizing friends and likes is nearly impossible, mobile should be viewed as another connection point with ­consumers.

That said, it is a mistake to think of mobile as simply the 21st century version of the ­newspaper insert. Here’s why:

Reach—Your mobile store reaches anyone with a smartphone, not just those who subscribe to the local paper.

Access—91 percent of smartphone owners keep their devices at their side 24/7…your mobile site provides on-demand access to products, service and your brand.

Low Cost—A mobile website and apps are less costly to build and maintain than a ­traditional website—and less than print mediums, too.

Targeted—Rather than broadcasting an offer to everyone via a newspaper, mobile allows for more intelligent, targeted marketing offers that blend both location and relevance.

Timely—Mobile makes real time offers a reality.

Smart shoppers are consulting multiple platforms to aid with shopping and to save money. Mobile coupon usage, in particular, is skyrocketing. According to a July study by media and marketing services company Valassis, use of mobile coupons or apps increased by more than 100 percent in 2011, and 100 percent again in 2012. Although trailing online coupons by a few percentage points, the Valassis study showed that 79 percent of U.S. inter­net users were using more mobile coupons this year—on par with print coupons and circulars. According to the Valassis findings, of consumers using a smartphone for savings, 21 percent accessed a coupon in an email, 19 percent used the device to compare deals and 18 percent downloaded the coupon on their phone.

OK, so the numbers look good and they can be tied more directly to sales. So what’s a grocer looking to add the mobile channel to their marketing ­strategy to do?

Mobile commerce is all about your customers

When it comes right down to it, mobile commerce works only if it benefits your customers. That means you need to determine how your customers find and shop at your site or store. Here are four mobile strategies to get you up and running in the mobile economy.

1. Optimize the Mobile Web

Mobile internet usage is projected to surpass desktop web usage by 2015—or sooner. Take advantage of these mobile consumers by providing an experience optimized for mobile and for the specific device format a consumer is using. Mobile websites and apps provide a much more engaging and simple way for users to view and interact with your brand. Although many businesses are ­marketing via mobile or social networks, 90 percent of websites are not ­mobile.

As a result, mobile traffic lands on a website that can be ­frustrating or nearly impossible for consumers to use. Optimizing for ­mobile will reduce consumer abandonment due to a poor user experience.

How to optimize the mobile web?

  • Simplify site design by putting top consumer actions front and center
  • Use large, touchscreen-friendly buttons
  • Trash the flash as it’s not supported by Apple’s iOS
  • Ditch large images and video that take time to load

2. Link Mobile and Email

Consumers are using their mobile devices to do tasks they would previously do using a desktop computer, especially reading email. Consumers who make purchases through ­marketing emails spend 138 percent more than those who do not receive email offers. Ninety-three percent of online consumers interact with brands through email, more than any other platform.

How should you link mobile and email?

  • Format emails to be read easily on mobile devices
  • Keep links to a minimum
  • Encourage sharing
  • Connect weekly at a minimum

3. Linking with QR

To date, QR (Quick Response) codes, those little black and white squares of pixels, have been more a favorite of marketers than consumers, but that is about to change. A QR code that takes a customer to your Facebook page or a website that is not mobile-optimized is a waste of time. As stated at the beginning of this article, today 27 percent of consumers are scanning QR codes in-store. Provided with an informative destination, 48 percent of consumers feel better about purchasing and 14 percent are making unplanned purchases.

How is it best to link with QR?

  • Make the destination worthwhile—an offer or information—not to your Facebook page
  • Tell customers where the QR code takes them and why they should go there
  • Change the content of the destination frequently
  • Keep it close to the product so a purchase can be made

4. Socially Mobile

By the end of this year, nearly 82 million U.S. mobile users will use a social networking site on their phone at least monthly; that’s more than a quarter of the total U.S. population. Research firm eMarketer says that most of these users—95.5 percent in all—will be ­checking social sites on a smartphone, and smartphone users are about twice as likely as overall mobile phone users to do so this year. But if you think one in four is a lot, by 2014, eMarketer believes nearly half of the total U.S. mobile population will be mobile social ­networkers.

How to be socially mobile…

  • Promote across multiple social networks
  • Create experiences that drive interaction and sharing
  • Collect valuable data by customer action
  • Measure and optimize

Are you ready for mobile?

Your customers are! Booz & Co. states that 31 percent of customers use mobile tech­nology in their grocery shopping. They are signing up for offers, downloading coupons, price comparing, evaluating nutrition labels and scanning QR codes.

Savvy grocers will see mobile as the ultra-effective connection channel it is. As such, they’ll position their mobile strategy as the most valuable and productive retail space in their store. It’s safe to say their customers will respond positively.

Rick Rusch is managing partner of Thought-Tech LLC, a brand ­communications firm. Thought-Tech guides clients in branding, marketing and selling. Thought-Tech has launched MobileBrandLinx a custom Quick Response (QR) code product and service to extend branding and packaging for retailers. Rusch can be reached at


Kellogg Introduces ‘The Crunchy Nut’

Kellogg Introduces ‘The Crunchy Nut’

The Crunchy Nut has made it his mission to seek out people suffering from dull breakfasts and put the fun back into cereal bowls everywhere, according to a new campaign by Kellogg. Armed with a bottle of milk and a wooden honey stick, this masked hero is always on the lookout for citizens in need of his nutty intervention. Faster than a speeding milkman, The Crunchy Nut steps in to save the day by bringing joy back to everyone’s mornings—one bowl of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal at a time.

One of these ordinary people, a simple milkman named Clarence, testifies that Crunchy Nut cereal has forever changed his life.

“I used to dread waking up every morning to a bowl of stale toast,” said Clarence. “Now with Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut, I live a life devoid of a taste bud numbing meal. Breakfast is actually fun again!”

Unlike other lackluster morning meal options, Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut spreads smiles as taste buds encounter the cereal’s combinations of sweet and nutty flavors. Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal is available in three varieties – Crunchy Nut Roasted Nut & Honey, Crunchy Nut Golden Honey Nut and new Crunchy Nut Caramel Nut.

The Crunchy Nut is recruiting supporters all across the land to join this cause. His first high profile appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! happened June 12 to get the word out that mornings can be nutty again. Watch on YouTube at

Join The Crunchy Nut’s mission to bring fun back to breakfast and see videos of him in action at For more product information, visit


Singh: Cold Digital Tools Can Build Warm Connections

Singh: Cold Digital Tools Can Build Warm Connections

by Terrie Ellerbee/associate editor

There are two sides to everything. Depending on your point of view, the digital revolution is either God’s gift to mankind and will change everything, or it is a consumer phenomenon but doesn’t really do much for business.

That’s according to Shiv Singh, an expert in digital marketing.

Singh is the global head of digital for PepsiCo and author of the book “Social Media Marketing for Dummies.” He spoke on May 2 in Dallas to attendees at FMI 2012: The Food Retail Show.

Companies large and small are doing digital very well, and Singh offered examples of each. Pepsi itself has been a big sponsor of The X Factor television program. The company created a social TV environment, a real-time chat room, and invited fans of the show to come on the site and talk about the show. People who participated were awarded points based on how others responded to their feedback. Rewards were incentives like coupons that would drive a consumer into a retail store.

Then there is AJ Bombers, a small hamburger joint in Milwaukee. It successfully used the check-in service Foursquare, which has 30 million to 40 million users. The service allows people to “check in” at locations and earn badges based on various factors, like the frequency of visits. The coveted “Swarm Badge” is awarded when 50 or more Foursquare users check in at the same place at the same time in just one day, 161 people checked in at AJ Bombers, even though fewer than 500 Milwaukee residents were using the Foursquare app at the time. Over five days, the event pulled 500 new customers into the restaurant.

“The beauty of this program is that they now know those consumers and they are really able to market to them,” Singh said. “Whenever they check in on Foursquare at that food outlet location, guess what? They’re sharing that information with their friends, and that’s further building interest and awareness for them.”

It works across the board, no matter the size of the business, he said.

Food retailers and manufacturers have got to get on board with social media, Singh said. They have to get to where their customers are.

He said three numbers “scare the living daylights” out of him. The first: 30 billion, the number of status updates published every month on Facebook. The second: 5.3 billion, the number of video views in a 24-hour period on YouTube. The third: 340 million, the number of tweets sent on Twitter each week.

It is easy to get lost in the distractions today’s customers have at their fingertips.

“Our consumers, our customers are flooded with information in a way they’ve never been before,” Singh said. “You’re competing with the attention of their cell phones, whether they’re talking to someone or tweeting or updating their status.”

Consumers are giving out more information than they ever have before, too, and it’s all “hyper-personal, hyper-relevant and hyper-in-the-moment,” he said.

He compared attitudes about digital media to those about television 50 years ago and radio before that. Both were massive phenomena that quickly gained interest and enthusiasm, but no one really knew then how they would meaningfully affect or influence business.

He asked the FMI 2012 audience to consider that the growth rate of people using mobile devices and smartphones is steeper and quicker than it was for AM radio, television or even the internet, and that growth occurred during a recession.

“There’s something big going on whether we want to accept it or not,” he said. “The question for us, for all of us, is what does it mean for business?”

The fundamental change is that anyone can market to customers in any given moment. There used to be something of a “safe zone” inside a retail store. The retailer controlled the environment. That’s changed now.

It is a big change, Singh said. And it can be exhausting for the customer, too.

“Probably what is one of the most important and one of the most simple points that often gets missed … is anytime we do anything in digital, you must put it in the context of what those consumers and those customers are doing, what else they’re doing, how else marketers and brands and retailers and manufacturers are hitting them, and do something different,” he said. “But it’s forgotten so easily, and we all end up trying to do the same thing with our customers. Then it gets chaotic and meaningless.”

Retailers and manufacturers must look to new data, new forms of engagement and new measurements, but with a caveat.

“I want to emphasize that this is not a case of leaving everything that has come before behind, by any means. This is rather a case of complementing and supplementing all of business marketing and strategies and tactics and bringing them all in together,” he said.

The new data revolves around how customers are using these new technologies. It is now possible to know an awful lot about them: whether they like a brand, when they walk into a retail location, whether it is their first or fifth trip and whether they have stopped buying a brand.

“I can know all of that data,” Singh said. “But here’s the beauty: I can know it in the moment that he’s walking in, and, even more so, I can market to him as he is walking in.”

Engaging consumers can now go far beyond coupons and offers designed to pull them into a store. Thanks to digital technology, it can be more human-based.

He gave the fictional example of seeing Lady Gaga on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and she happens to be holding a Pepsi can. If he could keep his wits about him, he said, he would snap a photo and send it to PepsiCo’s corporate headquarters. The company could then put it in a digital advertisement or offer a digital coupon.

“Imagine that 10 minutes later that image of Lady Gaga drinking Pepsi reaching 20, 30, 50 million people around the country just like that,” he said, snapping his finger. “And imagine if that advertisement even says, ‘Lady Gaga was on 5th Avenue. Got to these specific retail environments.’

“The world would go crazy,” he said.

Other than his chances of seeing Lady Gaga, the rest is very possible and is happening today. The point is that historically, companies would do planning in January but didn’t execute those plans until much later in the year.

“In reality, though, our consumers are living real-time lives, day-by-day. They’re in the moment, living for now in real time,” he said. “We as companies have to live in real time with them. That Lady Gaga scenario wouldn’t be funny, wouldn’t be interesting, would have any meaning for business if that photograph got translated into a piece of engagement advertising about a year later.”

Technology allows for real-time marketing and customer engagement partly because it allows businesses to know where a large majority of their consumers are at any given time.

To play in that world, a business or brand must have a strong cultural point of view, Singh said. The goal is to create experiences, build loyalty and attract brand advocates. And that is the case for every business.

“Whatever your business may be, large or small, massive or tiny, you never have enough money to engage your customers,” he said. “You just won’t. Trust me. I’ve worked in different organizations. What you need to do, though, increasingly is depend on your brand advocates, activate them, influence them, trigger them—and in ways that don’t just drive purchasing, but encourage them to reach other people as well.”

That is at the heart of real-time marketing, Singh said.

There is more data to capture than ever before, but there also are a lot of companies whose function is to help retailers understand it, make sense of it and integrate it into a company’s database.

“Have your finger on the pulse of these companies who are really making those statistics real and practical,” he said.

He said he wanted to dispel the myth that there is no return on investment with digital.

“I have seen it time and again … when you do digital right, it has a very, very specific ROI, but it all comes down to how you measure it,” he said.

He said he wasn’t arguing for moving budgets en masse to digital.

“My point is this stuff is worth taking seriously today,” he said. “Don’t wait for tomorrow.”

Singh described a “marketing eco-system and business eco-system that are changing faster than we realize.

“Don’t depend on the past to predict the future,” he said.

Finally, digital is about being more personal and human, he said. The fictional Lady Gaga sighting and the real-world AJ Bombers event work, he said, because they are emotionally compelling.

“They connected to the real world, and that’s the critical thing,” Singh said.


[gn_box title="Photos of the Event" color="#339900"]

Cheryl and Dennis CaireKevin Davis and Mark SchortmanPeter Larkin FMI 2012



[gn_button link="" color="#339900" size="3" style="3" square="2" target="blank"] More Photos [/gn_button]




Social Business is What’s Next for Social Media

Social Business is What’s Next for Social Media
[gn_note color="#FFCC00"]The following is a Guest Column as a part of our EST Feature in the April Shelby Report.[/gn_note]

by Rick Rusch, Thought-Tech
Special to The Shelby Report

The year 2012 is likely to go down as the year of social business. As you read this you’re thinking, “Wait a second! Social business? I’m just getting the hang of social media.” That’s OK. You’re on the right track.

Let’s start with two events in 2012 that epitomize the power of social media in American life and business. First, the Super Bowl and its somewhat over-hyped commercials set two new records on Twitter for the number of tweets per second (TPS), according to PC Mag. After the New York Giants’ victory, Twitter traffic reached 12,233 TPS, and there were 10,245 TPS during Madonna’s half-time performance.

Then there’s the anticipated Facebook initial public offering with a potential valuation of $100 billion dollars. For those of you keeping track, that’s five times the size of Google’s 2004 debut.

But neither of these are the reason why 2012 will be the year of social business. Rather, it is because in 2012 ­businesses of all types will begin to refine their social media tactics and see tangible, measurable outcomes as a result. Aren’t tangible, measurable outcomes what we’ve all wanted to see from social media? It appears we’re in luck in 2012.

Are these outcomes expressed in terms of likes or follows? That’s part of it, but social business is bigger. Fast Company blogger Drew Neisser believes that social media will be dwarfed by social business.

Neisser writes, “While social media has helped many ­companies become more customer-centric, it is treated primarily as a modestly effective marketing tool.”

In Neisser’s article, Ethan McCarty, senior manager of ­digital and social strategy at IBM, explained, “Social media is about media and people, which is one dimension of the overall world of business. With social business you start to look at the way people are interacting in digital experiences and apply the insights derived to a wide variety of different ­business processes.”

Said simply, social business is about communication and ­relationships presented where and how all parties will enjoy a benefit.

To that end, grocers should consider evolving their perspective on social media into that of social business. An efficient way for grocers to become a social business is to add a mobile com­ponent to their marketing.

As of the 4th quarter of 2011, Nielsen Research reported that 46 percent of U.S. mobile phone owners had a smartphone. This is important because Facebook and Twitter have developed a growing mobile audience. On average, slightly more than half of U.S. smartphone owners (50.9 percent) accessed Facebook on their device in the three-month period ending in June 2011. Twitter has more than 165 million users and 50 percent of them use Twitter Mobile. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest in mobile marketing, consider that half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices.

Social Network GrowthThe convergence of social and mobile provides significant opportunity for grocers. Neilsen also reports that across age and other demographic groups mobile social networking is on the rise big time. The chart below shows increases almost across the board in the range of 40 to 60 percent, and even as high as 109 percent for those 55 and older.

To make the leap from social media being a “modestly effective marketing tool” to something more substantive for retailers like grocers, it is helpful to take a look at how social media is being used to benefit grocers right now.

Wisconsin, considered “fly over country” by some folks, is home to several grocers who are enjoying success in social media. These grocers are likely to be transitioning to social business in 2012.

Burnstad’s Market, with three stores in Central Wisconsin, has been refining its social media approach for the past two years. “At first we were hesitant,” said Derek Burnstad, VP of the market, “But it kind of exploded on us—in a good way.”

Burnstad, who is 29, championed the move to Facebook.

“The best results come from interacting and relating to our guests. We don’t even post our weekly ads,” he said, bluntly pointing out that “we’re competing with a Walmart Supercenter, we have to be different, and guest services, which include social media, are key to differentiation.”

Also in the heart of America’s Dairyland is Gordy’s County Market. With seven locations, Gordy’s has jumped into social media with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Since late 2009, Matt Selvig, a company spokesperson, has served as “Gordy’s Guru,” the face and voice of Gordy’s multi-channel marketing.

Selvig’s approach from day one has been “to develop ­relationships, not just to bombard with specials.” The “Guru” has learned much in the past two years.

“We’ve learned that whenever there’s a prize, people come out of the woodwork,” he said.

Selvig’s observation aligns with national trends. ExactTarget, a global provider of cross-channel interactive marketing ­solutions, reports that 63 percent of Facebook users who “like” a brand or product on Facebook expect something in return. A majority (58 percent) who “like” expect both access to ­exclusive content, events or sales, and discounts or promotions through Facebook. Only 37 percent do not expect anything to happen.

Selvig points out that social media is a two-way conversation, “so our goal is to take everyday situations and apply them to Facebook.”

What’s next for Gordy’s?

“We want to leverage ­immediacy,” Selvig said.

Without specifically identifying it as social business, it appears that is exactly where Gordy’s County Market is heading. Gordy’s is focused on beneficial communication and relationships.

How did Wisconsin become a hotbed of social media success for grocers? Two years ago, Brandon Scholz, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association (WGA), knew nothing about social media. Today the WGA offers a three tiered (beginner to expert) learning approach to social media for its members free of charge.

“Trade associations are in the business of educating ­members. We must provide value and benefit,” Scholz said. “Social media is pretty unique compared to other things ­grocers are involved with, because it’s new. We (the WGA) wanted to assist grocers make the progression of experience in social media via seminars.”

Social business is the next opportunity. Scholz is bullish on introducing this new element into grocers’ day-to-day operations.

“This is different, bigger than a marketing plan or business plan. We help our members determine where this fits and fill in the holes other partnerships don’t provide,” Scholz said.

To that end, the WGA has launched a social media services entity. The new social media services entity will provide advanced support and development in a range of social business areas. Scholz sees value in the WGA being an ally to its members as they navigate new ­waters in social business.

Of course, Wisconsin is not the only place where grocers have seen success in social media. Annette Hoeffel, director of marketing at Chief Super Market, says social media ­(primarily on Facebook) was initiated about two years ago for all 12 locations in northwest and west central Ohio.

Consumer Expectations“We saw social media as a direction for the future and as a way to create a relationship with our customers,” Hoeffel said. “Social media is managed in concert with the rest of our marketing. That gives us a consistent message.

“One of the most exciting outcomes of our social media ­experience has been the advocacy for our markets displayed by our customers,” Hoeffel said. “Our very loyal customers have been quick to offset any negative comments.”

Customer advocacy reinforces Chief Super Market’s social media efforts and drives a focus on continual improvement in social media tactics.

“Our biggest takeaway from social media is that our ­customers want to communicate with us,” Hoeffel said.

Chief Super Market customers represent a range of demographics, but Hoeffel said, “We see social media as a way to connect with younger consumers.”

That is at the core of the social business concept—com­munication and relationships presented where and how all parties will enjoy a benefit.

In a nutshell, here are four reasons why grocers need to be thinking about becoming a social business:

1. Your customers are digital—you need to be as well.

Your customers are already there. More than 40 percent of mobile users own a smartphone. If your website, weekly ad or location-based content are not mobile enabled, you are essentially hoping that nearly half of your customers look you up before coming to your store. Are those the kind of odds you want?

2. Transactions come from relationships—not business plans.

Social businesses put their employees in front of consumers. For control freaks that can be unnerving, but it does work. The “Guru” at Gordy’s County Market is a fine ­example of creating a personality for the store that connects with ­consumers.

3. You don’t have to start big—but you do have to start.

Social business doesn’t have to be a big initiative. It does, however, require an openness and willingness to expand ­thinking. Mix in a little creativity along with a good understanding of what your customers want and you’re good to go. And, it is imperative you accept No. 4 below.

4. It’s OK to fail—it’s not OK to dwell on it.

The practice of social business is new territory. Every now and then you’ll experience a flop. High hopes for a new idea are met with a thud. Get over it. Move on. Your competitors have.

Social business is an expanded view of social media. The goal of social business is to move beyond using social media as a “moderately effective marketing tool” and into a communication-based relationship. Grocers using social media ­insights to evolve their business processes will be rewarded with loyal, engaged customer relationships.

Not a bad payoff for keeping up with your customers, is it?

Rick Rusch is the managing partner of Minneapolis-based Thought-Tech LLC, a brand communications firm. Thought-Tech guides clients in branding, online connection strategies, social media, product launches, business and marketing plans as well as expert competitive analysis. Rusch can be reached at


Social Media Offerings Must Be Relevant


by Terrie Ellerbee/associate editor

It’s not about “doing” social media, it’s about “being” social.

That’s what Jesse Spencer, social media manager for The Integer Group, told FMI Midwinter attendees.

“Everything else can be a marketing channel,” Spencer said. “Social media is not a marketing channel. It’s a communication channel, and it’s not a monologue, it’s a dialog.”

And another thing, people don’t go to YouTube to watch commercials, Spencer said.

“A lot of times I think brands and retailers have this idea, ‘well, we spent so much on our commercial, let’s throw it up on YouTube and maybe it will go viral.’”

That usually is not the case.

Social media isn’t just for kids, either.

The largest demographic on social media is the over-35 age bracket. It is estimated that in 2013, 50 percent of everyone on social media platforms will be older than 35.

The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council is putting together a white paper on social media. It is releasing the paper in five parts because the topic is so big, said Cathy Burns, president, Food Lion Harveys and Reid’s.

Burns describes it as an “actionable” paper.

“Our commitment to you is to produce something that you in your organizations can actually act on,” she said. “That’s a guiding principle for us.”

Online and offline worlds

The first thing to understand is how integrated into people’s lives social media has become.

“I sleep with my smartphone under my pillow every night,” Spencer said. “I don’t have an alarm clock. I use my phone as my alarm. At night, sometimes it will buzz and sometimes I will look at it if I can’t sleep. In the morning I have to swipe my cell phone to turn off the alarm, and immediately I’m that close to a portal into the social world.”

Before his feet hit the floor, he checks Facebook and Twitter for updates from friends and finds out what is happening around the world.

“My social behavior is closely tied to the proximity of my cell phone because it’s so close to me at all times,” Spencer said. “It’s in my back pocket when I’m at work or it’s in my ear when I’m in the gym serenading me, at night when I’m watching TV I’m playing Scrabble or Words With Friends, it’s in my lap. It’s always there, and so I’m always connected.”

He said the reason he’s so engrossed in social media is because “literally everyone in my life is engrossed in this world.”

He said to think of social media as being something like high school because people self-select different subgroups. Rather than jocks and nerds, there are “bonders,” “sharers,” “creators” and “professionals.” Many in that last subgroup use LinkedIn more heavily than Facebook or Twitter.

Social media is like high school in another sense, too, Spencer said.

“Boring people are often overlooked and fun, exciting people attract a crowd. It’s no coincidence that CNN has only 3 million fans, while Lady Gaga has 48 million.”

In short, the “social” part is nothing new.

“It’s just that we’re now giving people the technology to put themselves into these subgroups that they’ve always done since high school,” Spencer said.

Burns said the retail council wrestled with trying to understand why people spend so much time with social media. Only a few of the 24 council members have a Facebook page, she said. (Burns’ 70-year-old mother has one.)

Spencer said humankind has moved from hunter-gatherer times sitting around the fire pit to gathering around the water cooler. Modern man has laptops, cell phones and everything is mobile, but in the end, it simply is human nature to connect.

There are differences in human connection on social media. For one thing, in real life, people have strong ties with some individuals and weaker ties to others.

In the social media world, a person can have a weak tie to a person, but share his or her passion for something that connects them.

Brands and retailers can be among those weaker ties if they learn to connect and be relevant in consumers’ lives.

“The key is you have to offer great content fast and better than any other medium, Spencer said.

Spencer pointed to Whole Foods Market as an example of a retailer doing social media well.

“They’re not saying buy this olive oil,” Spencer said. “Instead they are really getting people excited about the lifestyle that you can have if you shop at Whole Foods. If you shop at Whole Foods you can have this lifestyle where you have these great Caprese salads at a dinner party, where you’re recycling, where you’re being involved in these philanthropic efforts, so it’s creating that lifestyle as opposed to pushing brand messaging.”

Burns said retailers and brands have to be “meeting consumers where they are,” and they are on social media.

The introduction and parts one and two of the five-part white paper are available for viewing at

The work is about simplifying social media, demystifying it, she said, “so that it really makes sense. The opportunity it already has created for our industry is incredible.”


When Disaster Strikes, Social Media Connects With Your Customers

When Disaster Strikes, Social Media Connects With Your Customers

by Rick Rusch, Thought-Tech
Special to The Shelby Report

Social media is an integral part of every day life for millions of people. For many, social media has become indispensable.

Social media channels are no longer only sources of entertainment and interaction. Increasingly, social media has become a critical channel for communication. As a result, businesses today cannot afford to ignore social media or stand on the sidelines. In fact, social media is playing a key role in many grocers’ disaster preparedness and responsiveness.

An appreciation of social media is the first step for ­integrating social media into disaster planning and ­response. Statistics from social media documentation are jaw-dropping illustrations of just how social media has woven itself into your customers’ routine.

  • Each Facebook user spends on average 15.5 hours a month on the site
  • 30 billion pieces of content is shared on Facebook each month
  • YouTube has 490 million unique users who visit every month (as of February 2011)
  • Twitter is adding nearly 500,000 users a day
  • Google+ was the fastest social network to reach 10 ­million users at 16 days (Twitter took 780 days and Facebook 852 days)
  • 38,000,000 people in the U.S. age 13-80 said their purchasing decisions are influenced by social media, a 14 percent increase in the past six months.

These numbers illustrate the pervasiveness of social media today. If those statistics are not enough to convince the skeptical grocer, consider this: If the power goes out at your stores, the cellular network continues to work independently. Without power, communicating via mobile devices may be your only option. When Hurricane Irene battered the East Coast of the United States in late August 2011, many communities and businesses found tweeting and texting to be the most reliable way to share important and time-sensitive information.

According to Mike Siemienas, national media manager at Minneapolis-based Supervalu Inc., “We learned a lot about using social media during Hurricane Irene.”

According to Siemienas, store directors were able to use Twitter and Facebook to share information with the com­munity on which stores had power, what hours they planned on being open, and even what kind of supplies they had on hand, such as water, batteries and canned goods.

Siemienas adds, “Social media also gave us an effective communication channel with employees.”

This has obvious implications for store operations and ­employee safety.

Supervalu and other grocers are being joined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in integrating social media into its disaster response toolbox. FEMA ­administrator Craig Fugate told the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, “Cell phones are data centers, capable of quickly accessing and storing a large amount of information. One of the major lessons we learned from the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti was that even if the physical infrastructure of an area is completely ­destroyed, the cellular infrastructure may be able to bounce back quickly, allowing emergency managers to relay important disaster-related information and enabling the public to request help from local first responders. This new, free public safety system allows customers with an enabled mobile ­device to receive geographically targeted messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area whether nearby cell phone towers are jammed or not.

“We are also expanding our use of social media tools. Social media is an important part of the ‘whole community’ approach because it helps facilitate the vital two-way communication between emergency management agencies and the public, and it allows us to quickly and specifically share information with state, local, territorial and tribal governments as well as the public. FEMA uses multiple social media technologies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach the public.”

One of the most interesting points Fugate makes is that “rather than asking the public to change the way they communicate to fit our system, we are adapting the way we do business to fit the way the public ­already communicates. We value social media tools not only because they allow us to send important disaster-related information to the people who need it, but also because they allow us to incorporate critical ­updates from the individuals who experience the on-the-ground reality of a disaster.”

Supervalu’s Siemienas echoes that sentiment: “Our goal is to reach our customers how they want to be reached.”

Supervalu uses that philosophy for disaster preparedness/response as well as its overall marketing strategy.

Hy-Vee, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, has become more involved with social media in the last couple of years.

Ruth Comer, assistant VP of media relations at Hy-Vee, says, “We’re a 24/7 operation. Things happen around the clock. We’re using social media to reach people where they are at.”

That goes for customers, emergency personnel or first-­responders and employees.

Comer says that Hy-Vee monitors social media, for a variety of reasons, during “waking hours.”

And, at Hy-Vee, the social media effort is a cross-functional responsibility. Hy-Vee’s communications, marketing, technology and customer service departments all share in monitoring, creating and managing the grocers’ social media.

Comer adds, “We’ve had a couple situations occurring in store parking lots” that were not ­disasters, but incidents “where we’ve heard it first on social media. Once the store manager has been reached they ­typically say they haven’t had time to call in” while managing the situation on-site. Social media assists Hy-Vee in a response to disasters and incidents in real time.

For grocers to maximize social media in the scope of ­disaster preparedness and response, a simple two-stage ­approach works well.

First, create a plan before a disaster strikes. As obvious as it sounds, it is frequently overlooked. Take care of three ­essentials beforehand:

  • Create a Social Media Disaster Contributor Team. Social media can go a long way in providing the media, bloggers and the public with factual and ­pertinent information relating to the situation. Connect with bloggers and the media with the intention of enabling them, in case of a disaster, with the ability to share or re-tweet your messages.
  • Identify a social media disaster leader or leaders to ­manage the team’s work once a disaster occurs.
  • Train the contributor team before the disaster. Hy-Vee’s cross-functional social media monitoring team is trained, prepared and ready for a range of situations.

Second, during the disaster, have a checklist to accomplish these basics:

  • Create a media center on your website to feature press releases, announcements, images and links back to your social media sites.
  • Consistently provide updates to all social media channels. During a disaster, the volume of communication can skyrocket. As a result, it can be easy for your customers to miss notices from you.
  • Monitor other social media. Other sources in the area may have pertinent or timely information that may be of value to your customers and, as a result, be worthy of re-tweeting.
  • Keep employees informed of operational status so they can plan accordingly.
  • Update key constituents such as executives, human ­resources and operations on an hourly basis, or more frequently if the situation calls for it.
  • If possible, document the disaster with images. They may not be necessary for social media communication but could be invaluable after the event for insurance or legal purposes.

Like most things, success comes from preparation. Utilizing social media for disaster preparedness and/or response is no different. That’s why it is important to develop your social media strategy now. When asked for advice on how a grocer should get into social media, Hy-Vee’s Comer offers solid advice: “You just have to start. Your customers will lead you to where you need to go.”

Both Hy-Vee and Supervalu have seen benefits from integrating social media into their disaster preparedness and response. And, while their social media strategies continue to evolve, both believe social media will remain critical to their com­munication toolboxes.

“Social media is absolutely a part of our disaster preparedness,” says Siemienas. “It’s the best way to connect.”

Rick Rusch is the managing partner of Minneapolis-based Thought-Tech LLC, a brand communications firm. Thought-Tech guides clients in branding, online connection strategies, social media, product launches, business and marketing plans as well as expert competitive analysis. Rusch can be reached at