Grocery Stores have Community in the Bag with Social Media

Grocery stores have played a pretty important role in my life. One of my first jobs, at age 12, was cleaning shelves and bagging potatoes at one of the two small stores in town. My first “real” job, where I got a weekly check and paid taxes, was as a cashier at the other store. So you could say I sort of played for cross-town rivals.

In my tiny town of 1,200, the grocery stores were real community centers. Local events were advertised there, they sponsored little league teams and you could count on seeing a host of regular characters make a daily appearance to pick up a newspaper or chat with the owner. You felt connected. You could get advice on products and recipes, rejoice when the first summer fruits and fresh sweet corn made their appearance, and know that your presence there made a difference.

A sense of community like this is (I’m delighted to say) still alive and well today, although it takes a slightly different form thanks to digital.

Community wherever you are

My relationship with grocery stores has gone from clocking in to checking in—online, on my phone, on my iPad. Whole Foods is my newest crush, with a locally focused Facebook page that shares recipes, community events and neighborhood news (such as the state of the street repairs in front of the store). Whole Foods is where I discover local farmers and food purveyors (pickles and pimento cheese, anyone?). I love the company-wide commitment to making the world a better place and I appreciate how my local store makes the same commitment to my city.

Jumping over to Pinterest, there is a plethora of pins to choose from for my recipe inspiration. And on my local Whole Foods website I can track events, get coupons and check up on the next topic for a Twitter chat.

I was pleasantly surprised to visit the Whole Foods YouTube channel, which is a lot more whimsical than I expected. The channel provides quick video recipes that are not only informative, but fun to watch. And if you have kids that are picky eaters (doesn’t everyone?), there’s a section for that, too! In short, Whole Foods social media gives the same sense of belonging that we had in our hometown stores.

Introductions are in order

I became aware of the Florida-based grocery chain Publix about a year ago and was impressed by their employee ownership model. When I found out one would be built in our city, I joined in the general joy around town.

Publix has a smart business going on: Selling is what they do, but they combine product sales with giving back. For examples, this plan announced on Facebook gives $1 to sustainable fisheries for every pound of mahi-mahi sold during April. Even if you weren’t planning to have fish for dinner, you might change your mind for a good cause.

Another plus to Publix social engagement is that you get to know the employees through their channels. Those that work there are pretty active in discussions. Not only does the store display their values and encourage interaction around bettering the community, but also the community that works at Publix supports the store and their good deeds.

Sharing is caring

Social media for both Whole Foods and Publix successfully conveys that feeling of being connected, that you know people that are part of their business, that their business is part of your own community and that you are part of a larger community.

How have you felt connected to your local grocer through social media? Share what grocery chains keep you connected to your food and also to your community.

By Sheri Masters

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