Lisa Grimm

“Our customers mean a lot to us, legitimately,” says Lisa Grimm, Social Media Lead at Whole Foods Market.

For paid social, know your audience, know the channel, and really understand those key moments for the customer.

“I know a lot of companies say that, and sometimes it can be disingenuous. But here, local communities and being a part of them really is a core value of the company.”

She says that when Whole Foods Market started in social media, they mirrored that focus on community digitally. Every store had its own Facebook page, Twitter account, and in some cases, Instagram pages and media presences. But things have changed.

Since channels like Facebook have become established, mass advertising platforms, it’s much harder to reach their audiences in a meaningful, relevant way. Lisa says it was time to reimagine their local community strategy.

“We want to maintain the integrity of our core value of staying local, but reposition that from a global platform,” she says.

Now, they’re focused on delivering meaningful messages to their customers via hyper-local paid media.

“How can we leverage paid media and deliver the right message to the right people at the right time? We’re honing in on the messaging that matters, what moments matter, and delivering on that.”

To do it, they’re relying heavily on internal and agency partners. According to Lisa, Whole Foods is still rather new to advertising. “We literally did our first ad campaign right before I started in 2015. We’re dipping in a toe to build an evergreen strategy here, and the advice I have is this: For paid social, know your audience, know the channel, and really understand those key moments for the customer.”

They’re seeing a lot of success in promoting offers via paid social.

While we know that value and sales are important to our customers, that can’t be the only thing our customer sees.

“We’re extending the value of what we’re seeing in our online community to the in-store experience,” Lisa says.

She explains that sales promotions around national food holidays have been big a big success on social media and in the store. On National Cookie Day, they sold 750,000 cookies in one day.

“National food holidays are inherently an Internet thing, and as Whole Foods, we have a right to play in that space. We’re seeing what people are excited about, catering content to them, interacting with them, and translating that into the store.”

They’re also taking food trend insights from social straight to the store. For example, Whole Foods plans to have pop up stores to sell sushi burritos for a short period of time — all based on the food’s rise in popularity on social media.

“Any time we can create those digital-to-physical connections is a huge passion point for my team,” says Lisa.

She says that social media can get a bad rap because you can’t always attribute initiatives to ROI. And now that they’re more focused as opposed to having a lot of different things happening on different channels, they’re able to hone in on messaging and getting people into the funnel:

  • Get them to sign up for the newsletter
  • Get them to download their app
  • Drive people to the e-store

“While we know that value and sales are important to our customers, that can’t be the only thing our customer sees,” she says.

But it’s not all about paid social. They’ve also shifted their Instagram focus to feature more user-generated content.

“We shifted our strategy from sharing what we wanted — beautiful food and celebrating the joy and love of food — to sharing more user-generated content.”

She explains that they turned their Instagram model on its head and went from sharing 80 percent original content and 20 percent user-generated content to sharing 20 percent original content and 80 percent UGC.

Since then, they’ve grown by 400,000 followers in six months. In fact, Instagram is their highest performing channel, with some posts surpassing even paid media — all organically.

Lisa’s been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2015. Follow her on Twitter and ask about her love of motorcycles.


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