Publix engages customers where they are (on social media)

Discussion
Feb 18, 2016

Publix Super Markets is big on social media. The employee-owned grocery juggernaut, which currently has 2.4 million fans on Facebook and 190,000 Twitter followers, announced it has expanded its social media presence with accounts on Instagram (soft launch Oct. 2015) and Pinterest (Dec. 2015).

To date, Publix has attracted 14,000 followers on Instagram and almost 1,000 on Pinterest.

“Our social media presence has always been about engaging with our customers where they are and extending our in-store service online,” said Maria Brous, media and community relations director at Publix, in a statement. “Pinterest allows us to inspire and entertain with recipes and holiday and event planning ideas. Instagram will further our connection with our online community through photos and videos showcasing our brand personality and strong company culture.”

Publix has been on social media since July 2011 when it joined Facebook. The company quickly learned the social platform was a draw when 10,000 identified themselves as fans within the first 24 hours. The company went live on Twitter in February 2013 with two accounts, @Publix and @PublixHelps, which it uses for brand content and customer service.

Source: instagram.com/publix

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is your assessment of how Publix is using social media to engage its customers? What do you see as the relative strengths of the different social media platforms in helping retailers engage consumers?

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"I think this would be even better on a store level — the retailer could highlight specials, a particularly delicious looking shipment of apples or recipe ideas for that day’s weather."

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13 Comments on "Publix engages customers where they are (on social media)"


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Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

While Publix has been successful at engaging its customers on social media, many retailers have not found many “raving fans” who remain engaged.

A real key to using social media effectively is how retailers approach social as a medium. Consumers want to be engaged, not sold. This is particularly true for Millennials!

An even greater case study in the holistic approach to using social media to build a retail brand is Nordstrom, which has more followers on Pinterest (4.3 million) than likes on Facebook (3.2 million).

The keys to Nordstrom’s success are bringing customers rich content, showcasing fashion trends and even using customer pins on trends to merchandise displays in stores. Nordstrom’s 64 boards and 13,000 pins is an indicator of the deep commitment to consistency, breadth and depth required.

Stating the obvious: social media is “social,” not advertising an offer per se. Those retailers who use social media as consumer touch points ultimately realize sales through engagement and loyalty. It is a long-term approach of relationships, not a quick path to sales.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

The keys to success on social networks are engagement, participation, honesty and authenticity. If Publix continues to hit all three “hot buttons” I think their approach will prove extremely beneficial to them and their customers.

As to platforms, I guess some of that depends on the retailer and the target customer market. Should the two independent stores where I shop be on Facebook (which they are by the way)? Well, it doesn’t hurt, but I’m not sure it helps as much as it would if they were a national or multi-regional chain.

And again, in the end, where you are isn’t as critical as how you engage.

Zel Bianco
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Pinterest and Instagram are excellent ways for a grocery store to engage with the public. They are both visual mediums which matches up well with the way people shop for food. I think this would be even better on a store level — the retailer could highlight specials, a particularly delicious looking shipment of apples or recipe ideas for that day’s weather.

Dave Wendland
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Although I applaud Publix’s commitment to social media, until I have an opportunity to see how seriously they are taking engagement, personalization and relevance I cannot really evaluate their efforts.

The strengths of each platform are unique. I tend to favor Pinterest as a very good experiential/visual medium; Facebook for its conversation-generating ability and Instagram for interaction and exchanges among users.

As Chris Petersen stated, social media IS NOT an advertising vehicle where messages simply get pushed to audiences. Social media IS social and requires sincere and genuine engagement.

Shep Hyken
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Publix is a role model for social media in retail. They recognize the importance of engaging their community in different channels. The Millennial community likes to interact on these channels. That group is the big future for any business. Kudos to Publix for hanging out with them where they like to hang out.

Also, Publix recognizes the content and engagement side of social media. It’s not so much a forum for promotion as it is for relationship building.

Dan Frechtling
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Building followers and engaging with them on social media is great, but it can be hard to measure the value received. A useful yardstick for “connecting” with shoppers is responsiveness to posts on social media requesting customer service. These incidents represent shoppers with problems they need to solve.

A couple years ago, Business2Community analyzed 21 supermarkets on Twitter. After posting service messages, they analyzed response rate and response time. Publix was among the leaders in response rate. Its 60 percent response rate was only behind Save-A-Lot and Fresh & Easy. The response time was over two hours, which put it in eighth place.

Publix was among the leaders, but it has competition. Hopefully it has improved from the time the test was fielded. This is important not just on a one-to-one basis but for recommendations as well. The study found recommendations from social media influenced 86 percent of shoppers in purchasing a new food and 76 percent in choosing to shop at a different store.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Publix is the leader in customer service. Social media is an off shoot of it. What Publix chooses to do is often followed by the others. I can assure you they have the attention of this household.

The strength is the attention they give customers. No matter what the issue they will solve it to your satisfaction. Social media is a major outlet for them.

John Karolefski
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Publix Super Markets began its social media program in 2009 because the chain wanted to engage with every customer — whether it’s about the in-store experience, a person they connected with in the grocery store, the products they are carrying or not carrying. Its move to new platforms is the next logical step for this social media pioneer in the grocery channel.

Ken Morris
Guest
Ken Morris
6 years 3 months ago

Publix is curating a strong following on its social media platforms and its ongoing dialogue around products is a brilliant mechanism to further its brand affinity. The best media platforms depend on the demographics of the target audience and the message Publix is trying to communicate. Using visual social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are ideal for younger shoppers, and Facebook and Twitter have a broader audience. Pinterest is a great forum for recipes.

The most effective social media strategies are focused on inspiring engagement, participation and sharing/liking to extend the reach of promotions. Publix is a great brand with super strong traditional affinity, this only adds to that image and is geared to the new Publix customer.

Tom Martin
Guest
Tom Martin
6 years 3 months ago

Publix is appealing to their target audience by recognizing that Instagram and Pinterest, by design, favor brands with highly visual content. There’s a large focus on food and recipes on both platforms and users are encouraged to share their meals, what they’ve made and what they buy. Publix has to ensure that they provide consistent content and engage with their customers genuinely and consistently.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
6 years 3 months ago

Publix is using social media to engage customers in two ways — by providing quick and easy customer service and offering interesting ways to engage customers in creative, new ideas and reinforce the brand image.

If you study social media for retailers, the former (the customer service benefit) is the fastest to ROI and perceived customer benefit. All customers need service and support form time to time, while only a segment will seek out creative ideas. As long as Publix reinforces and supports the customer service benefit, they will be in good stead.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

In the case of Instagram and Pinterest, photos are worth 1000 words. Just checked and the quality and subject of the photos are pretty good. Given a lot of subject is about food, and #foodporn is a huge category on Instagram, it makes sense for them to invest in it. In terms of conversion it is tougher to measure but in terms of reachable eye balls, photos and food has always worked.

Matt Talbot
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

The idea behind targeting consumers where they already are is a strategic one that all retailers can take advantage of. Organic research in and of itself has become a lost art amongst younger generations. If information is not spoon fed then it is rarely accessed or sought out, leaving droves of information inevitably unexplored.

Marketing is no different than research. Consumers are looking to brands like Publix to provide them with the digestible content they enjoy — in the form of photos, videos, posts, forums, etc. If a company is representing the personable side of a brand that resonates with millennial’s they can be sure to amass a loyal following.

As is with any marketing tactic, a business has to cater their content to their audiences. Different social media platforms offer a variety of ways a business can target these demographics. Whether its in the form of images, videos, posts or forums almost all businesses can benefit from identifying and utilizing the social platforms their audiences are on.

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"I think this would be even better on a store level — the retailer could highlight specials, a particularly delicious looking shipment of apples or recipe ideas for that day’s weather."

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