Assignment - Select an online persona or organization and evaluate its social media presence. What is your perception of this identity? Comment on the positive and negative aspects of how the identity is presented. Offer some insights on how to improve this identity.
New Seasons Market is a 21-store regional supermarket chain based in Portland, Oregon. Most stores are in the Portland metro area, with two locations in Seattle and one in San Jose, California. New Seasons is northwest-focused and features a lot of regional products. It has a progressive workplace and attempts to be involved in local communities. Its identity is based in its regional, progressive foundation and the company's social media presence reflects its mission of being the “ultimate neighborhood store.” Social responsibility is central to New Seasons' social media outreach efforts and its online posts reinforce stated commitments to connect local tastemakers with customers and “champion the regional food economy.” My perception of New Seasons’ online identity is that it aligns with the company’s stated social responsibility goals.
New Seasons’ social media presence is polished and professional. The company uses a PR firm to manage its online profile and it shows. The photos and videos feature individual products and spotlight local producers and vendors. The posts are professionally produced and include positive, hip copy without being edgy. The content focuses on promoting products and engaging with local communities. I think the social media presence shows authenticity but also seems packaged, if that makes sense. The content looks exactly like what a PR firm would test in focus groups and produce for clients.
New Seasons has 75,000 Facebook followers. It is connected with 23,800 people on Instagram and 13,700 on Twitter. Not bad numbers for a regional retail company, but not a large following overall. To put that number in perspective, Safeway has 1.4 million Facebook followers and Whole Foods Market has 4.3 million Facebook followers. A more apples-to-apples comparison may be that of New Seasons to Metropolitan Market, a similar upscale grocery store chain with about a dozen stores in the Seattle area. Met Market, as it is colloquially known, has 14,000 Facebook followers and a similarly curated social media presence. Based on New Seasons’ relatively small following on social media and the few comments each post generates, there doesn’t seem to be a communitas of like-minded grocery shoppers.
Like most companies, the social media persona of New Seasons is curated to be positive. It wouldn’t make sense for a company to willingly expose its real self. Companies want to control their own narrative. For example, many people in Seattle are opposed to New Seasons entering the market here because the company is non-unionized. Union supporters here say that the company is anti-union and its presence in Seattle is accelerating the gentrification of a historically minority neighborhood. I happen to live about a mile from where the new New Seasons is opening later this year and I can say with first-hand knowledge that gentrification has been going on here for a long time. New Seasons is not to blame for displacing people who can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood.
New Seasons could improve its social media image by posting more content online. Currently, the company posts 1-4 times per week on its accounts. This could be increased. In-house videos could also be produced featuring employees or aspects of its stores that are better and more interesting than the competition. Most people know what a Safeway experience is like: boring, bland, and slow. New Seasons strives to be different, so that needs to be displayed more on social media. Featuring the food is fine, but most markets have good food. I personally like shopping at New Seasons because it is a better overall experience than going to Safeway. The New Seasons experience doesn’t show up enough in social media posts.
As I mentioned earlier, New Seasons only has 23,800 Instagram followers. This could be because most people don’t engage online with grocery stores. But 23,800 people do, so the company could profile some of its shoppers to help tell their story. Using real customers would bring credibility to the story and would show how loyal customers are to their neighborhood store. Loyalty is hard to measure, but I am reasonably confident that New Seasons customers are more loyal to their store and enjoy shopping there more than Safeway customers are loyal to their local store. A “customer of the week” could be a fun way to feature New Seasons products and customers. I would be willing to be featured in an Instagram post and many other customers probably would be as well.
Photo Credit: Mercer Island Reporter