Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What My Grocery Store Needs to Learn About Twitter

by John T. Spencer

My grocery store has a sign begging me to follow them on Twitter. Here is what I was expecting to see in their Twitter stream:

  • Hey, I’m selling food right now. You should come buy some. #hungry #food
  • Did I mention that we have food? Thought you should try it. #food #hungry #eat
  • Just sitting here full of food.  Just got stocked.  Damn I'm full.  #food
  • Hey guys, I have a ton of food and an endless supply of Celine Dion music. #adultcontemporary #food #party
  • Party at my place. Everyone is in line.  No one is line dancing.  #lamestpartyever #party #food
  • There's a #grocerchat in twelve minutes.
  • So apparently all food is ethnic food (even white people food). So do I call it Hispanic, Latino or Latin? #grocerchat
  • Really? But Latin just sounds like singing monks? Is that really what we should use? #grocerchat
  • Apparently it's not okay to switch the butcher block signs to Comic Sans. Who knew? #grocerchat
  • RT @Kroger "Wal-Mart is such a selfish blowhard.  I hope he chokes on the vomit from eating up all the little guys." 
  • Sorry for the confusion. Supermarkets are for all people, not exclusively superheroes. #apology #food
  • I'm sorry for referring to myself as the "anchor store." @kay'sbeautysupplystore - U R muy importante to me, girlfriend! 
  • Sorry for referring to @kay'sbeautysupplies as "girlfriend." #crossedalineonthatone #tryingtosoundhip
  • @Safeway - You want a link? We got tons of sausage at our site.  
  • @Safeway - Wrong link? :( You want a link to an article?  I've got a whole magazine rack.  #checkoutthatrack #supermaketinnuendo
Perhaps it's asking too much of Sprouts to act like a person on social media. However, I would assume that if they were on Twitter, they would do something different. Post some recipes. Send some links to foodie blogs. 


Maybe choose a representative from three or four departments to answer questions regarding food. What if I could tweet out to a veggie expert who can tell me the best season to buy habanero peppers? What if I could look into my Twitter feed and get some tips for grilling large hunks of animal flesh? Instead, I see a stream of advertisements for events and sales.

Ultimately, that's the real issue with social media. Companies want to learn how to use it. However, Twitter is as much a place as it is a tool. We don't learn how to use the park or the library or the town square. We learn to relate and to participate and to interact in those places. If Sprouts wants to engage with the public, it has to move beyond simply creating advertisements and tweeting them out. You can't use Twitter.


  1. I've noticed that many businesses have no idea how to apply social media to their existing model of business. Your example is a good one. What could a grocery store do? They could add value to their food by providing information on it.

    Unfortunately, businesses (people) that are successful rarely want to change, even when the tools they use are completely changing all around them.

    1. A common criticism I've heard is that businesses often assign Twitter duty to the intern/youngest staff member, falling prey to the digital native myth by assuming that because they've grown up digital they know how to tweet effectively for a company. Seems like a 21st Century Skill we should be teaching them so they are prepared to meet employers' expectations...

  2. I'd want to a grocery store to tell me when the fresh strawberries have arrived - or when it's prime time to buy other meat/produce.

    It might also be nice to have an estimated count of the numbers of people at the supermarket. I hate crowds :).

  3. "Twitter is as much a place as it is a tool." This sums it up as well as I have ever seen. The same is true for Facebook. The people in the old paradigm just do not get it. The IPO for Facebook has not a clue. Buy now while it is low.


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