Social Media Case Study: Whole Foods

Whole Foods Facebook

I love using Whole Foods as a social media case study in my presentations.  Whole Foods is a first-mover that doesn’t wait to see what its competitors are doing; instead, it looks to constantly innovate and embrace new forms of media to build a closer relationship to its consumers.  From a sleek, professional blog, to a useful iPhone app, Whole Foods has noticeably made the effort and succeeded in engaging consumers.

The most impressive feature of Whole Foods’ social media campaign is its use of Facebook.  It not only has a central FB Fan Page where campaigns are run and conversations held, but it also maintains individual FB Fan Pages for individual stores.  Lets dive into the details of what has made the Whole Foods FB Fan Page so successful…

Structure

A page that truly stands out for Whole Foods is its Facebook Central Hub.  From this page, a visitor is able to view and interact with the following:

  1. Become a Fan
  2. Easily locate the main FB Fan Page and view the latest postings
  3. Find a local Whole Foods location and link out to the FB Fan Page (right sidebar)

When I google “Whole Foods Facebook,” you’ll notice that the Central Hub is the fourth link above the fold, giving Whole Foods the opportunity to rank well in the SERPs and get people on their main site when searching for their FB Fan Page.

Individual Stores

Maintaining 1 FB Fan Page for a large company is hard enough; imagine the organization needed to maintain over 200 FB Fan Pages!  Well, that’s exactly what Whole Foods has done and its right in line with their brand and messaging to its consumers.

Why its so tough:

Posting on a wall doesn’t seem that hard right?  Well, it’s not just about posting one item and then snoozing; the task of maintaing an active community on a FB Fan Page and moderating your fans takes a lot of work:

  1. The company must either assign and train a specific employee at each store to become the Community Manager or hire an intern specifically to fill the role
  2. A guide must be created so that the CM knows what content can be posted and what content must be avoided
  3. Moderation rules and guidelines need to be created in case there are any belligerent fans on the wall
  4. A FB post-tree is highly recommended to keep the CM organized and keep the content on the wall alive and fresh

Example of a FB post-tree:

  1. Mondays: Special recipes
  2. Tuesdays: Tips on how to stay healthy with your food
  3. Wednesdays: Career opportunities
  4. etc…

The result:

Some of the FB Fan Pages are highly active; others are not.

Regardless, the goal is NOT to hoard fans; rather, the goal is to provide a platform that allows the community to interact with their local Whole Foods.  As can be seen from the video below, the brand goal is to be “local.”  By having a FB Fan Page for every local store, they are keeping in line with their brand and fulfilling their promise.

An Open Approach

The greatest fear that the majority of large companies have when it comes to social media is letting go of control.  Sure they want the thousands of  Facebook fans, but they don’t want these so called followers and fans to leave negative messages on their wall. Furthermore, censorship of social profiles and the complete control of what your Community Manager does with the profiles inhibits creativity, deflates the authenticity of the message, and creates an operations nightmare.

Whole Foods truly understands that a censored, red-taped, top-down approach does not work in the digital age.  A great example of this is how they use their Facebook accounts.  Facebook managers understand the guidelines to which they must abide by and are fully immersed in the company culture, but are free to add their personality and creativity into each post.  Some FB Fan Pages share fun information while other keep posts strictly focused on business happenings. At all times, the FB manager is able to have fun in the process and feel they have the ability to fully engage with FB fans and provide them a personal service.

Why the amazing engagement

Whole foods interacts with consumers and provides them with relevant content.  News features like this one are posted on the Facebook Fan Page and receive more feedback and shares from the FB Fan Page than on the actual blog.  The FB Community Manager doesn’t just post the link and let it happen, the CM actually takes the time to write a descriptive paragraph describing what the post is about:

The recent Florida freeze is affecting produce availability – in particular strawberries, tomatoes and bunching greens. Check out this blog post from our produce folks for more details.”

Furthermore, Whole Foods has not linked the blog to the Notes feed of the Facebook Fan Page.  Instead, they only post highly relevant posts that their FB community would like to read.  By taking the time to make sure only FB relevant blog posts are featured on the wall, Whole Foods does not bombard its fans with constant content and makes sure that the community loves every single post.

Whole Food is also not afraid to link out to articles and content that was not produced by Whole Foods.  In an effort to provide relevant, high quality tips to its fans, the Whole Foods Community Manager linked out to this article through the FB Fan Page: http://eating.health.com/2009/12/22/10-resolutions-to-start-today/

Involvement with real employees

Whole Foods embraces transparency, and features real life employees in its videos to support the campaigns that it is holding.  Again, this is keeping in line with the “Local” brand and allows FB Fans to see the real people that make Whole Food happen.

This is my year to… Facebook App

 

This is my year to

The current campaign that Whole Foods is running is called “This is my year to…” in which a Fan is able to choose an intention to support a worthy cause. Each cause will receive a $10,000 donation from Whole Foods, with the winning cause receiving a double donation.  Fans are able to vote everyday and share their vote with their friends.

As of this posting, the race is very close with Non-GMO Project barely in the lead:

Votes

 

In Summary…

The most important takeaway is to stay true to your brand, and to deliver your brand message on every social platform.  If your brand is about being “local,” then you better provide local service to all of your customers.  Be bold, take risks, but ultimately, stay true to your brand and your social media campaign will have a high chance of reaching success.