Social media plays an important role in both online marketing and customer service for a wide range of businesses. Supermarkets have sometimes struggled to attract attention and followers on these platforms as they don’t always fit in with the image that consumers want to project online. However, a shift in focus from the brand to the food that it sells or the values it upholds has often proven successful.
Supermarkets on Social Media
Social media has become a key part of marketing strategies across all sectors, but it hasn’t always been easy for some kinds of businesses to reap the rewards. While brands in sectors such as travel, entertainment, fashion, and beauty can easily fit into social media trends, others have struggled to attract a following. One survey of social media users found that there was some reluctance about becoming online friends with a supermarket brand.
However, 57% of respondents would be willing to interact if they were offered a coupon or discount.
Another big question for supermarkets using social media is whether the resources they invest in this medium are worth it. Although supermarkets can promote their own brand products or special offers, many of the items they sell are available from their competitors too. A supermarket that promotes healthy foods or suggests a recipe on social media can’t guarantee that people will buy from them rather than another brand.
Since managing social media can take up a substantial amount of time and resources for a big brand, it is vital that supermarkets monitor the impact carefully. Marketers who are working with these brands also need to consider how social media can be used to drive sales and boost footfall in supermarkets.
How Do Supermarkets Use Social Media?
Consumers expect businesses to have a presence on social media, especially when they are looking for way to contact or talk about a brand. All of the major supermarket brands in the UK can be reached through social media and they post content regularly. Most supermarkets will post company news and ads for specific products, special offers, or competitions designed to drive customers into making a purchase. Social media profiles can also be linked to the brand’s online store in order to make these purchases easier. However, a lot of the content posted by UK supermarkets is more subtle. Instead of posting obviously promotional material, these brands are creating content that blends in with popular topics on social media platforms.
Food and Recipes
Although supermarkets do use social media to post company news or to highlight specific products or special offers, this doesn’t usually make up the majority of their content. Instead, most UK supermarkets focus on posting recipes ideas on social media, especially on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. This approach enables supermarkets to post stylish photos of the finished dishes or to create their own cooking show style content. Focusing on recipes and finished dishes rather than on the products that are actually for sale enables supermarkets to fit in with the kind of content that is popular on social media. Research suggests that it is a potentially effective approach as 56% of consumers indicated that they wanted to cook more of the dishes they saw on Instagram.
One possible route that could lead on from this focus is for supermarkets to work more with influencers and to merge social media more with in-store offers and marketing. While some brands have taken steps in this direction, such as using celebrity chefs to host YouTube videos, this is still an underutilised option. It could provide one route for turning interest in recipes shared on social media into actual purchases. Streamlining the process of buying the ingredients online could also make social media more valuable for supermarkets.
Social Responsibility on Social Media
Supermarket brands can’t use the same approaches as the fashion and lifestyle brands that tend to dominate social media, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t use these platforms to build up their reputations. Many supermarkets in the UK support charities, run their own social or volunteer programmes, or promote healthy eating and exercise. Issues such as health, Fairtrade and organic production, and plastic packaging have all generated increasing amounts of attention on social media, providing opportunities for supermarkets to engage. After plastic pollution was highlighted by the Blue Planet series in 2017, Waitrose reported receiving more than 30,000 posts and questions about packaging on Twitter in just six months. Focusing on these kinds of stories and issues enables supermarkets to enhance their reputations. It also produces the feelgood or emotionally striking content that people want to share online.
Supermarkets have had to adapt their marketing strategies in order to fit in with the interests and expectations of social media users. Part two of this series on supermarket social media will discuss how four big supermarket brands in the UK are using these techniques to interact with consumers.