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Social Business is What’s Next for Social Media

Equipment Services & Technology

Last updated on September 5th, 2012 at 02:50 pm

[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 [email protected]

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