This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

Playing the Grocer on Social Media

I have fond memories of going to the local grocer with my mom when I was young. He knew our names; knew that I liked Handi-Snacks, and always listened then responded when my mother made a request for a particular product. You might say we had a relationship with our grocer.

Granted, as consumers opted for mass quantities and convenience over customer service, small grocers were replaced by large chain grocery stores.

Today, I believe that people want the same acknowledgment and attention that the local store owner used to provide, but they want it from the large brands and businesses they purchase everything from groceries to running shoes from.

Which is why I believe social media is a valuable tool with widespread use and well-deserved hype. It gives businesses/groups/orgs. the chance to engage their consumers and facilitate some form of a relationship with them.

Not that complex of a process. Time consuming – absolutely – but so is showering; both are sort of a must.

But many businesses aren’t present in the social media marketplace, which would be like the grocer simply not being present in his own store. Who will his customers ask questions, converse with, or share their opinions with? Further, imagine if, back in the day, the local grocer behaved like many businesses currently do on social media – either constantly hollering out messages to buy a product; constantly citing reasons why he was an expert on grocering; constantly repeating, verbatim, other peoples’ thoughts and words (the equivalent of a RT@). The dude would’ve been out of business and sent to the nuthouse.

My point is – social media offers businesses a chance to engage their customers – whether through direct conversation, by offering expertise, sharing ‘behind the scenes’ information, by providing useful information or entertainment, or by genuinely acknowledging that the business is glad that Consumer A exists. And again – none of these tactics are entirely complex.

Brian Solis summarized my lame attempt at a metaphor quite nicely in
a recent interview with “Winning the Web“:

“[Social media] is much more than collecting followers, fans or clickthroughs. It’s now the responsibility of the brand to program meaningful content that creates branded, yet personalized experiences to steer activity, offer guidance, provide resolution, and also spark word of mouth.”

To conclude, businesses large and small must now make a genuine effort to play the corner grocer in real-time and online. Ignoring social media, or behaving ridiculously through SM channels, is simply a bad idea.