Harnessing the Power of Social Media

By Michael Sansolo

When the Produce Marketing Association wants to communicate with its members it turns to the social web. Karl Smith, PMA’s senior vice president for Member Value, says there’s a simple reason for that.

“Social is where the members are. That’s where the conversations are taking place. If you want to be an influencer you need to be there,” he says.

Although PMA uses social media differently than the organization’s retailer and supplier members, the goals are virtually the same for talking to businesses or the ultimate consumer. For instance, at PMA’s recent Fresh Summit, attendees used Twitter to interact with the organization. They shared photos and other information they needed, turning the social web into a type of customer relationship management tool. “The amount of activity was just immense,” he says.

Smith has a long-term understanding of social media. He says he’s been working on social media issues since MySpace was an important consideration. He’s watched the evolution of the medium and its incredible growth through Facebook, Twitter and more. That helps him hold a good perspective on what does and doesn’t work in this new space.

“Social media isn’t simple. People want it to be simple, but it isn’t,” he says. “Some of this isn’t as concrete as a single number like Return on Investment. What we are trying to do is engage. This means that people are interacting with the content we put out on social.

“Now we need to ask: Did they comment on it or share it? On Twitter did they re-tweet or mark it as a favorite? In short, did we start a conversation?”

Smith says, “Untangling the Social Web,” the new eight-part study of the social web does a terrific job explaining the realities and opportunities of this new medium. “The study isn’t a sales job; it is a peer discussion. There’s a lot of authenticity to this report. I think we will be referring back to this document down the road. It can help us know if we are still on track or need correction.”

All 8 Parts of Untangling the Social Web may be downloaded at http://www.ccrrc.org. Michael Sansolo is the Research Director of the North American Council.

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Savings and Convenience Dominate the Future

If you are surprised that the social web impacts food-buying behaviors, here’s a word of caution: you haven’t seen anything yet.

Over the next five years consumers hope the social web will become an even more powerful tool, creating easier shopping trips with more paths to savings. That’s one of many findings in Untangling the Social Web, the newest study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America.

More than 20 percent of shoppers say they expect to be able to buy products through social media sites in the near future. A similar percentage of shoppers anticipate that store-specific apps will simplify trip planning and store navigation.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web examines how shoppers currently use the social web and what they expect from companies. Filled with must-read insights, the study may be downloaded for free at http://www.ccrrc.org.

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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A New Marketing Paradigm

Success on the social web requires personnel with skill sets that fit the emerging medium. That’s a vital lesson for companies looking to improve their connections with shoppers through the social web.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the new study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, explores how associates on the front lines of the social web view their company efforts. Their insights closely matched feelings expressed by shoppers.

Front-line employees say there is a powerful mix of skills needed as companies increasingly rely on social media marketing. Ideal associates require so-called soft skills that make them naturally good in social settings. These traits help them interact with colleagues, as well as connect with customers who use the social web differently than traditional ads.

More than ever, this new medium values brand management because social strategy should be aligned with business objectives.

Insights like these can be found throughout Untangling the Social Web, which can be downloaded for free at http://www.ccrrc.org.

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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Planning a Successful Social Web Future

Given the stunningly quick growth of the social web, companies are wise to examine emerging networks and their adoption by various shopper groups.

Although Facebook is overwhelmingly the most used site among shoppers on the social web, younger patrons are tapping into many newer platforms. Top among these are Instagram, Vine, SnapChat and Tumblr — all of which put a premium on quick communication and visuals.

The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America probed how customers currently use and plan to use the social web in the near future. These findings are published in Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, a new study that can be downloaded for free at http://www.ccrrc.org.

Those surveyed report using sites like Tumblr and Instagram and claim they wield significant influence on their buying decisions. And while Vine and SnapChat only have a small percentage of users today, they may have the greatest influence over the next five years.

The message for companies is clear: if you want to communicate with the shoppers of tomorrow you’ll need strategies that engage a wider range of social networks.

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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A Generation Gap on Social Access

Considering the short history of the social web, it’s hard to remember the enormous change announced just eight years ago. That’s when Facebook stopped being available exclusively to users with a .edu e-mail address.

With that obstacle removed parents and grandparents surged into the cyberspace frequented by college-aged students and alums. And although the barrier is down, companies need to keep in mind that the generations reach the social web in very different ways.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the new study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, clearly identifies a wide disparity of methods used to access the social web.

For example, shoppers over the age of 45 are most likely to access the social web through a computer. They use laptops or desktops around 67 percent of the time and mobile phones about one third as often. That contrasts sharply with 18-24 year olds who use computers and smartphones equally.

Businesses should consider these usage patterns when designing visuals and planning the best way to convey messages via social media.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web may be downloaded for free at http://www.ccrrc.org.

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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Internal Roadblocks Hamper Social Web Success

The rapid emergence of the social web has left many businesses — retailers included — unsure of how to best use these new communication resources to build sales, profits and loyalty.

One key element of part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the latest study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, was an examination of the internal front lines of the social web. Drawing insights from a wide range of companies, the Council garnered a clear picture of some of the challenges.

Many internal social web managers say the potential benefits of the technology are being limited by internal silos that hamper communication and restrict the resources for this new area. In many if not all companies, additional people, disciplines and infrastructure are necessary.

But money isn’t the only problem. Social web leaders say companies must learn the culture of the social web to enable the kind of broad communication and partnership that shoppers seek. In many ways, shoppers’ disappointment in social web offerings from the retail food industry reflects these internal issues.

Both shoppers and internal experts agree that engagement on the social web will remain limited until companies understand how to more broadly communicate through these new channels.

More insights into customer and internal concerns about the social web can be found inside part 8 of the report, now available at no charge at http://www.ccrrc.org. In addition, parts 6 and 7 can be used to help create guidelines for internal and external communication on the social web.

Also, hear my FMI Webinar “Key Steps to Business Social Media Success” at

https://fmi.adobeconnect.com/_a828399537/p8692ja0ii1/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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Different Webs for Different Needs

In just a decade, Facebook has gone from a college-based social web site to a near global force. Not surprisingly, Facebook plays a large role among shoppers and shopping trips.

More than 90 percent of shoppers say they use Facebook to plan shopping or menus because they find the massive social web site offers the broadest range of content and functions. However, the time shoppers spend focused on food is relatively brief on Facebook and many other social sites.

In fact, only Pinterest seems to generate different interaction and is the only social site where shoppers spend significant time gathering recipes or inspiration. In addition, some of the newer image-heavy sites such as Vine, Snapchat or Instagram seem to provide opportunities for different types of use.

One of the key findings in part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the latest study from the
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, is that the social web keeps adding new avenues and ways of interacting. For businesses of all kinds, that means it’s increasingly important to keep an eye on these emerging sites to understand how to best engage shoppers using them.

If the stunning growth of Facebook or Twitter has demonstrated anything, it is that a small web site can become incredibly popular very, very quickly.

Copies of the study can be obtained for free at http://ccrrc.org/2014/05/15/untangling-the-social-web-insights-for-users-brands-and-retailers/.

Also, hear my FMI Webinar “Key Steps to Business Social Media Success” at

https://fmi.adobeconnect.com/_a828399537/p8692ja0ii1/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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The Social Impact

Although use of social media for grocery shopping is only just beginning, we can already see the tremendous impact of a variety of platforms on consumer behavior. But only part of that influence is coming from retail or brand companies themselves.

In part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the latest study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, the Integer Group surveyed shoppers about how much they rely on social media for their shopping trips. The study found that more than one-fourth of supermarket purchases today reflect some influence, with the number expected to rise sharply in the near future.

Although a large number of shoppers follow local supermarkets on the web, especially via Facebook, most say the important influence is coming from friends, family and news sources. Shoppers say these are their primary sources for information, not brands or retailers directly.

More insights on the social web’s impact can be found in the study, a free download at http://www.ccrrc.org.

Also, hear my FMI Webinar “Key Steps to Business Social Media Success” at

https://fmi.adobeconnect.com/_a828399537/p8692ja0ii1/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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Today is Only the Start

A challenge many businesses face in understanding the power of the social web is determining how important it could be in the future. The answer from part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the latest study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, is clear. (The study is available for a free download at http://www.ccrrc.org.)

The potential of the social web is huge.

Although the social web as we know it is only 10 years old, it already is a force in shaping shopping trips. More than one-third of shoppers say they use it regularly as a tool to simplify grocery shopping, while 57 percent use it for non-food shopping.

But that’s just the start. Shoppers say they would more heavily use the social web for grocery shopping if the content offered by retailers was more compelling. And either way, about half of those currently not engaged say that will change over the coming five years.

In other words, we could be looking at 55 to 65 percent of shoppers using the social web to plan shopping trips, menus and meals in just a few years, which means content and influence across all categories could grow substantially.

Additional insights from this study, including the impact of the retailers that created it, will be part of the council’s special presentation June 12 at FMI Connect 2014 in Chicago. More information about the presentation can be found at http://fmi14.mapyourshow.com/5_0/sessions/sessiondetails.cfm?ScheduledSessionID=1AA0

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America
http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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Attract More Business with a New Growth Platform

When a convenience retailer has a good handle on how to deliver the basics and is comfortable defending their turf, it is ready to attract more business. By deploying a new growth platform that reaches beyond shoppers’ grab and go needs, operators give customers an additional reason to visit. Such an effort could tap into consumers’ desire for food and beverages that are “a little better for you” or to take a short break during a hectic day.

The new “Get in the Game” report from the NACS / CCRRC reveals how three leading convenience retailers launched new growth platforms and achieved positive results.
• Two retailers moved to what the Council calls “the fresh value fast” platform, offering a new line of fresh food that gave shoppers the option to buy a salad, yogurt or “better for you” snack in addition to other foodservice offerings. These operators:
• Extended their stores’ appeal and sold new products with the help of new partners.
• Remerchandised their outlets to showcase the new product line.
• Increased net sales due to the new product line, appealing to new and existing customers.
• The other retailer highlighted female-friendly products already in the store, and made the entrance and in-store environment more inviting to women. These changes drove a significant increase in sales of select products without interfering with the operator’s ability to meet the needs of its traditional shoppers.

While some convenience retailers have shared with me their concern that the female-friendly growth platform may be hard to implement, this case study demonstrates it can be worth the effort. Want more inspiration? Get a complimentary copy of the “Get in the Game” report at http://www.ccrrc.org.

Bill Bishop

Research Director

NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council

Founder, Willard Bishop LLC and Chief Architect BrickMeetsClick

http://www.brickmeetsclick.com

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