Social media can be one of the most effective ways to establish personal relationships with shoppers—but only when done correctly, says Caitlin McCabe, founder and CEO of Real Bullets Branding, a social media and brand consulting firm based in Boston. McCabe uses in-house research to help companies connect with their unique audiences. Retailers, she says, are better poised than ever to be effective online.
Natural Foods Merchandiser: What are the most effective social media channels for retailers?
Caitlin McCabe: Facebook is a good venue because nearly everyone is there. A few of the newer, still-developing sites like Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram, which are more visual, are poised to get a lot of traction. Remember the viral Kashi photo? I think that retailer made a brilliant move in posting that picture to Facebook, because it demonstrated the store’s transparency. It told shoppers that “we’re looking out for you, and if we feel a product isn’t good for you, it won’t be on our shelves.”
NFM: Are visual posts the future for natural products retailers?
CM: Until last year, text comprised the bulk of information on social media sites. Now it’s all about visual content. This is great for retailers who don’t necessarily have the time to sit down and write an entire blog post. I haven’t seen many stores participating in these sites yet, however, so it’s the perfect time to jump in early to increase site traffic and visibility. Not every retailer can go viral with a Kashi photo, but there are other ways to interest consumers. Posting pictures of cool new products or behind-the-scenes staff events serves shoppers’ interests.
NFM: Can you name a company that does a great job connecting with its audience?
CM: At Real Bullets we push brand continuity across all channels. I think Kraft Foods does an amazing job at this. From redesigning its packaging to how the brand interacts with shoppers online, the company’s message is unified textually and visually. Retailers can do the same thing by partnering with vendors.
To promote organic, a store might produce a video with a few of its farm partners explaining the differences between organic, natural and conventional foods. The retailer could then post a question online, such as “Did you know that over 90 percent of our produce is organic?” and link to that video. You want shoppers to connect with your message in the store and online.