Industry Voices

Social Web Success: Big Tools for Small Retailers


Michael Sansolo is research director of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America.

In many ways the social web merely provides technology to accelerate the community and communication humans have always treasured. Instead of gathering around the fire or the water cooler — depending on what era of history you look at — people today gather on Facebook, Twitter or similar social sites.

Michael SansoloFor independent operators who have long made their mark by local presence and community service, this change brings a new series of needs. No longer is it enough to communicate through the local newspaper or other media. Today’s times require a social web presence.

One of the topics covered in “Untangling the Social Web,” a study unveiled earlier this year from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) of North America, is the challenge of building an internet presence, even for smaller operators. As the study details, many of the steps retailers can take are actually fairly simple, but the social web requires some new skills and new thinking.

Consider Pat Ptacek, a one-store IGA operator in Prescott, Wis. Through the social web Ptacek is able to give his shoppers reasons to connect personally or through the community at large.

For instance, this summer he ran messaging on Facebook about making great s’mores for July 4th. He also utilizes this platform to talk directly to the community needing gluten-free products with personal taste reviews of some new cakes and pizza dough.

Other small operators do similar events, using the social web to build those connections that were once only built in conversation. Anna Stewart at the Susanville, Calif., IGA used her store’s Facebook page to build up donations and community support for a new swimming pool in addition to sharingstore promotions, recipes and specials. As the store’s page explains, Susanville IGA is a unique place to shop “just like the community we serve.” The Facebook page serves to reinforce both.

But the social web can also allow a small operator to appear large. Ptacek has an upcoming promotion with Budweiser that will bring the famous Clydesdales to his store as he attempts to build a 150-foot-long, world-record brat.


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Based on the web traffic he’s already seeing, Ptacek expects the crowds at the store that day to dwarf the population of his hometown. He hopes the crowd will help him bring significant support and donations for a new public park. As Ptacek explains, he manages to do all these promotions at a low cost, simply by using the tools Facebook provides publicly.

He’s not alone. Many small operators looking for ways to track web traffic and discussion of their stores have found free or extremely inexpensive tools available on the web. For instance, HootSuite provides an array of choices allowing individuals or businesses to follow comments on a variety of social media sites. Other sites like Klout help businesses determine if their messages are getting shared and pass around the social web.

Key resources and tactical ideas like this are included in the CCRRC study to help companies of all sizes get a sense of how to best use the social web to tell the story of their company, their town and especially, their point of distinction.

It’s a lesson that’s invaluable for companies of all sizes, from one-store on up.

Click here for more information about “Untangling the Social Web.”

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