Jorie Mark was brought on as Kroger's Social Media Manager to fix a problem.
We found these in-store experiences were much more valuable than a picture of a pretty apple.
With only one dedicated social media employee, Kroger's social content was reduced to sharing circulars, sale ads, and press releases. And they often left customers hanging when someone mentioned them on Twitter or shared a photo from their store.
“I didn't see enough content that was focused around talking with customers. We weren't following through on our ‘Friendly and Fresh' motto on social media. Fixing that problem was what I saw as a top priority,” says SocialMedia.org member Jorie.
She explains that with a lack of adequate support, communication, and driving principle, their hundreds of stakeholders were left in the dark about what was happening in social — and all of the opportunities they were missing.
To turn it around, Jorie focused on four areas that would require some heavy lifting.
- Tone: Share better branded content that focuses on starting conversations and earning user-generated content.
- Engagement: Foster one-on-one conversations by responding to everyone who reaches out to the brand on social media within a few hours.
- Channel-specific strategies: Treat each branded social channel differently instead of posting the same content across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
- Local relevancy: Create “on-the-ground” content and share stories specific to each region. Get someone reporting to headquarters who lives near where the action is happening.
Then, with these goals in mind, she set out to earn buy-in from a large group of stakeholders.
For one thing, Kroger has a large family of companies across the country. Your local Kroger Store might be called Fred Meyer, Fry's, Ralph's Smith's, Dillon's, or Quality Food Centers depending on where you are in the U.S. Each store is organized into different governing bodies, and each has a division executive.
“We needed to explain to them why we were making this change and why we needed to get their buy-in as well as their participation.”
The other large group of stakeholders: The business units within each supermarket. Imagine if each aisle in your grocery store had a team of employees behind it making those marketing and merchandising decisions.
She says on top of all of that, they also had to convince their paid media group that putting money behind great social media content could make a difference.
So she held two Divisions Social Media Summits.
At these in-person summits, Jorie presented her strategy, explained why it was important, and showed how some changes were already working in their favor. Then, she explained how those stakeholders could support social through participation.
The two all-day summits involved flying stakeholders in from across the country, entertaining them, educating them, and even a little schmoozing. How did she pull it off?
“I actually feel none of this would have been possible except that I was hired specifically to make a difference. Our marketing team understood there was an opportunity with social media to do better,” she says.
“But one thing I always came equipped with was the value of the socially engaged customers,” Jorie explains.
Here are some slides she shared in her Summit presentations to prove that value:
She says the Summits were crucial to bring together the otherwise isolated divisions, get everyone on the same page with corporate, and make them her friends. And since then, she's done a lot of work to keep those relationships going.
But something else helped Jorie make her case: the Kroger baby.
One week into her new job, Jorie checked her Google alerts for Kroger to see that a woman had given birth in the middle of one of their stores in Atlanta. She did some investigating with their customer care team and reached out to the associate that had helped the new mom and the family. One cute Facebook post later, and Kroger's social engagement went from crickets to an amazing story.
Jorie says this was the perfect moment to explain to leadership, “See what happens when we really try?”
Since then, she says they find about one or two stories from customers and associates a month that generate a lot of excitement like this.
“Then we started to really show numbers. We compared our metrics from posts with ones from the previous years to prove that this was the way to do it. We found these in-store experiences were much more valuable than a picture of a pretty apple.”
For example, one Kroger division in Atlanta donated a police dog to a K9 training unit and asked their Facebook fans to help name it. Another Ralph's store held a sushi chef cook-off. And one Fry's in Arizona had a wedding giveaway complete with cake, flowers, and funding for the event.
Looking forward, she's working to get more people on the ground to find stories like these.
So far, they've brought on one social media manager local to their Fred Meyer Supermarket in Portland.
“We've already seen a tremendous impact with engagement with him,” Jorie says.
“What we want to do is going to take years, but we'd like to get someone like this social media manager at every one of our divisions.”
Find Jorie on Twitter and ask about her favorite place to go running. Jorie has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2015.