From 'show and sell' to 'involve and tell'

28 Feb 2012  |  Steve Smith 
Dr Steve Smith

Dr Steve Smith, head of thought leadership at Starcom MediaVest Group, shows how supermarkets can use social media to connect with friends of fans...

Connecting with people used to be a case of, 'Here is a product; here is some advertising. We hope you enjoy them'.

Today, brand owners increasingly understand they need to connect with people in order to enter into a dialogue with them, which can then be extended to friends and family. One way of achieving this is through the creation of meaningful experiences in social media, which people are then likely to share.

Nike is a brand that understands the power of establishing connections, which are then likely to multiply across people's networks. In 2010 alone, Nike spent nearly US$800 million on 'non-traditional' advertising. Before social media, the biggest audience Nike could achieve was during the Super Bowl, when it could reach 200 million people. Yet today, it reaches this number any day across all its sites and social media.

Yet until now it has been unclear to brand owners just how many people invite others into conversations through the experiences they have on brands' social media. Of course, once someone comments on a brand page, some of their Facebook friends will receive a message. Nevertheless, not everyone will read this update, and in any case, research consistently shows that face to face talk and recommendations about a brand, reinforced with meaningful content, are likely to have greater impacts.

Using our Social Media Behaviour Index application, we looked at the likelihood of people who post positive comments on the Facebook pages of different UK supermarkets to then recommend those pages to other people. An interesting set of findings emerged that should inform the kinds of experiences that supermarkets provide to their visitors.

Brand's FB page

People who are likely to post a positive comment on Waitrose's Facebook page are most likely to introduce other people to the conversation (i.e. recommend the page). For every one hundred people who are likely to post a positive comment, 88 of them are likely to recommend the page to at least one other person.

At the other end of the spectrum only 62 out of every 100 people who are likely to post a positive comment on Sainsbury's Facebook page are then likely to introduce other people to recommend the page.

The implication here for Sainsbury's is this. Although the experiences it provides on Facebook are successful at inviting people into a conversation with it, the supermarket needs to do more to create experiences for people that are relevant to their friends and families (for example by leveraging some of the conversations between people and their personal networks, and understanding their needs and desires). If it does this, these people are then likely to share those experiences. The following are five things Sainsbury's should consider:

  • Provide inspirational, entertaining and simple cooking videos. Waitrose does this, which is one reason its social media did so well at Christmas. Waitrose even has the caption against its videos, 'Share our love of food'
  • Provide recipes, which people can also give away. Both Waitrose and Tesco do this. Tesco even invites people to upload and share their own recipes, and so share in the conversation
  • Create competitions through which fans can include Facebook friends. For example, 'win a week's shopping for you and five of your Facebook friends'. To be included, these friends have to 'like' the supermarket.
  • Provide vouchers that Facebook fans can give away. Better still, give additional reductions if they can show they have shared money off vouchers with friends on Facebook. For example, 'Double your discount if you share with ten of your Facebook friends'
  • Give Facebook fans fuel vouchers to share with friends and family. Many are likely to visit the store to do a shop at the same time they fill their tanks

People want rewarding experiences and to show they value their friends and families. Supermarkets can help them do this and so draw more people into their conversations.

To read more SMG research and opinion, go to

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