The Big Brand Theory: Publix Has Come of Age with Social



ImageIf you live in, or visit Florida, it’s very likely that you’re familiar with the grocery store chain Publix and its bright green logo. Since its establishment in 1930 by entrepreneur George W. Jenkins, the chain has spread to six other southern states with a total of over 1,100 stores.  Wherever it opens, the store tends to garner a passionately loyal following from its customers, earning the title of being a love brand.

Slow to jump into the world of social media platforms, prior to July 2012 the only Facebook pages dedicated to Publix had been set up unofficially by employees and customers. According to Abby Pemberton, the social media manager at Publix, “what we learned, especially when we weren’t on social, was our customers were still having the conversations without us – so it really didn’t make sense for us to not be there.”


ImageAfter about a year and a half of planning, the official page was quietly launched with no fanfare. What happened next was even a surprise to the company: in the weeks after their official Facebook page launch, about 100 people were liking the page each minute.

Only a little over a year later, Giselle Abramovich of Digiday noted that the page had over 25 million interactions to brand-initiated posts, and referred to Publix as one of the most engaging brands on Facebook.

Engaging the Customer

There are several major types of posts that Publix is making on its Facebook page:

Answering customer questions and comments: The social media team, comprised of about six individuals, works closely with the corporate customer care team. Sometimes, someone has to shout over the cubicle wall for a piece of information from one of the other team members. The team is on duty during the same hours that the actual stores are open, with an individual dedicated to Twitter and another to Facebook.

The social media team is responsive to anything posted on the Facebook wall or Twitter. They even monitor social messages where they aren’t explicitly tagged and determine whether it’s appropriate to respond.

Promotions: the team is always wanting to educate customers on ways to save in stores, whether that’s through weekly ad, specials, BOGOs (Buy-one-Get-One), – and just different promotions happening in the stores.

Recipes: Recipes are an important source of content for the company’s social media efforts. Publix has long featured special displays in the stores where someone is giving lessons on making certain recipes.

Supporting non-profits: As each store exists within a physical community, there is a great deal of effort given towards supporting local and national charities, including the United Way and March of Dimes.

Entertaining: particularly with each holiday, the company is able to provide entertaining ideas.

New Stores: As the company is continuing to grow across other states, and with the fact that the organization has real fans, there is a lot of interest in new store openings.

Pemberton told me that being on the social media team for a major grocery chain comes with its own challenges. Not only do customers want information about the stores, but they are often seeking information about food and nutrition, an area of information that can change quickly. Pemberton explained, “It’s interesting; when you’re talking about food, especially all the things that can happen – major recalls, or something that’s being talked about as far as what to avoid in your diet – sometimes we will start to get an influx of questions. As a team, it’s really good to make sure we’re on the same page in our responses.”

The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.

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