Original Author: Pam Huff
Director of News Operations
Tampa Bay Business Journal
@ Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc., the user experience doesn’t have to end at the checkout. The grocer is going beyond the aisles to keep customers engaged, informed and coming back for more.
The company has two different Twitter handles that serve their own purpose.
@Publix is meant for interacting with customers, sharing information about products, services and events, and for answering questions. When there’s an issue with a store and a customer needs assistance, @Publixhelps is the place to go.
“Usually when we’re resolving an issue, we need more so we try to take them offline to get additional information,” said Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Publix.
The company has a customer service and social media team, with one social media manager and five social media specialists on the team, handling Twitter and Facebook — the two main networks where “customers are having conversations with us and about us.”
But the company didn’t jump into Twitter the moment it began. Like many others, it did some research about the social media platform to see if it was the right fit.
“We wanted to be sure we understood the social world,” Brous said.
While Publix launched a Facebook page in 2011, the Twitter handles weren’t established until Feb. 4, 2013.
“We wanted to make sure we were growing fans, that we understood the way they
communicated with us, then the same with Twitter,” Brous said. “Anytime we do anything — social or in-stores — we’re always very careful to … do the analysis.”
‘A whole different animal’
Part of that communication with customers, especially on Twitter, is the quickness to respond. “Twitter is a whole different animal; the speed in which they expect interaction,” Brous said of followers.
Indeed, while a standard customer service line at a company can be expected to remain open during Monday through Friday business hours, people are on their smartphones and tablets 24/7, 365 days a year.
At Datz in Tampa, the restaurant’s social media manager isn’t a 24/7 employee, but she watches social media — including
@Datz4Foodies on Twitter — quite often, and gets support on that end.
“She’s kind of always keeping an eye to make sure we’re responding more or less in real time,” said Datz Marketing Manager Kate Perry.
Datz Owner Suzanne Perry is always watching Twitter, too, and will jump in at times if needed, as will Kate (no relation).
While there are no set rules or time frame to respond to direct tweets, Kate Perry said it’s pretty organic, and it would be “very strange if someone tweeted us and we didn’t respond within a few hours.”
The eatery also created a handle for @DatzDough, its newer endeavor earlier this year.
Datz’s main goal is to connect — but that doesn’t mean a promotion or two won’t sneak its way in from time to time.
“We absolutely do not use it as a place to inundate our customers with promotional materials,” Kate Perry said. “That being said, we do get a lot of traffic on Twitter from people … some saying ‘I’m here right now, what should I have?’ We actively engage in that all day long.”
For the love of products
Let’s face it: when a customer hates a product, they’ll say it any way and anywhere they can. The same goes for customers who love a product — or most retailers would hope.
@ Tervis Tumbler (@TervisTumbler), based in North Venice, Melissa Allen, vice president of eCommerce, has a threefold way of using Twitter: as an extension of customer service, a way to bring the popular tumbler brand to life, and to create engagement and fun fodder with customers.
A social media specialist position was created almost three years ago, around the same time the company’s social media presence ramped up.
“We’re on the fortunate end where the vast majority is a true profession of love,” Allen said. But when there is an issue and a customer is looking for help, the team tries to respond within one to three hours, and keeps an eye on it during the evenings and weekends.
When Allen started at Tervis five years ago, Twitter was still coming into its own. Now, it’s a place where the conversation can continue constantly.
“Don’t just let them post one thing and let it go,” Allen said of followers. “Get more out of it. Be that means where your fans can unite.”
Not just sales
Christopher Karlo, partner at Mercury New Media (@ckarlo), often hears clients say, “OK I’ve tweeted, so I get more sales, right?” He has to tell them: Wrong.
He agrees it’s more about the conversations created and dialogue waiting to be had. Most importantly, it’s about listening to customers.
“Go listen for a bit — that’s where I tell people to start,” he said.
Along the same lines as Publix, he advises clients to research and see if Twitter fits into the marketing strategy.
“Maybe not,” he said, “because it takes a lot of time and attention to do it well enough to generate business value from it.”
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