Tag Archives: Publix

The Bane of Social Media

Social Media Conundrums

Social media is the bane of all brands.

@Publix crowd flow
@Publix crowd flow (Photo credit: mvndrvrt)

Things can go wrong so easily, often impacting your brand  without any warning.

You should definitely stay away from social media at all costs.

You should definitely stay away from social media at all costs

Okay, maybe I really didn’t mean all that. Actually, I did.   Just kidding.

You don’t need to stay away from social media, but you should know what people are saying about you.  Here’s a couple of recent examples where social stuff happened.


As reported by Huffington Post, #CancelColbert trended for more than 36 hours starting Thursday, March 27, after an offensively Orientalism-themed tweet from the show’s Twitter account. “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” read the tweet (sent and later deleted by a web editor for the show’s account).

The now-notorious “twit,” as Colbert called it in his Monday apology, was a line pulled from a segment about Dan Snyder and the Redskins, which targeted the use of racial slurs in his aggressively offensive “Washington Redskins for Original Americans” organization.

The other social event was an April Fool’s prank pulled off by a Miami blog that claimed Publix Super Markets was going to open stand-alone sub shops to compete with Subway.  This rumor spread like wildfire in Florida, leading to huge traffic for the305 blog, and a lot of extra work for the Publix social media team that day.

In the words of Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great  responsibility”.   When it comes to social media, most people forget that.


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Colorful post, colorful title: How do you do it?

Blue Ridge Mountain respite

Good morning from the cold yet gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. I’m working out of my mountain house for a couple of days before hitting the road for business for most of the next two weeks. I like to think of this as “taking the better with the good.” I’m having a Venti Starbucks dark French Roast and a sausage biscuit. What are you having for breakfast?

Business seeing red over proposed NLRB rule changes

Good analysis in this article covering proposed NLRB election rule changes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The rule change is opposed by corporate lawyer organizations and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has organized its own “Workforce Freedom Initiative.”

In a statement about the issue, the chamber said the new rule allows unions to quietly go about organizing employees without informing employers of the effort, then spring the election on employers.

“Cutting short the election period favors unions by limiting employers’ free speech rights and preventing workers from hearing both sides of the story,” the chamber’s statement reads. “Under the new rule, employers will then have a very limited window to discuss unionizing.”

Greenfield North Carolina store for Publix

Most of you know I rarely write about my employer, Publix Super Markets. Frankly, I wish I could write about the good stuff we do more often, but I can’t. I was a blogger before I started working for them, and when they hired, we made an informal agreement that I would keep blogging, but I wouldn’t write about Publix very often, and especially as it relates to business and HR strategy.

I’m breaking that a little bit today for a very good reason. I want to share a little bit of personal/professional pride with you. As we say at Publix, today I’m bleeding green.

On February 26, 2014, Publix reached a huge milestone. We opened our first new store in the state of North Carolina, when we opened the doors of store #1442 in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte. We open new stores all the time, but we rarely move into a new state, so this was a huge deal for us. There was huge anticipation from Publix customers, who have been begging us to open stores in North Carolina for years.

The grand opening was a smashing success. There was a live tv broadcast. We had many visiting VIP guests at the store, and at the media event on the preceding day. We had visits from many executives from competing grocers. Customers thronged to the store all day. We even had a clown.

That’s not what interested me though. As usual, I was interested in the people. I spent the day walking the floor at the store, or out in the parking lot recovering carts. It provided plenty of time to chat with customers, our associates, and even the SVP HR of a retail competitor who visited the store. I’ll put some of the bigger conversation into another blog tomorrow, but here was the gist of what I heard.

Customers: “I’ve missed the friendly Publix people so much since I left Florida/Georgia/Tennessee. I couldn’t wait to get back to one of your stores near where I live. I’m so excited! Your employees are just as friendly and cheerful as I remember. How do you do it?”

Associates from a blended staff of experienced transfers and new hires: ” I’m so blessed to get the opportunity to work for a company like Publix, and to transfer back to my home, and open such a great new store! I’m from Miami, but my husband and I always wanted to live in the mountains, and now here we are. My four weeks with Publix have been the best work experience I’ve ever had; even the training was fun. I don’t know they did it, but they made opening this store fun.”

Think about the end of each of those sections:

“How do you do it?”
“I don’t know how they did it..”

I’m about to reveal huge proprietary secrets. You should take note. I don’t do this every day. The secret is….

Wait. I’m wrong. Actually, I do use the secret I am about to reveal. I use it every day. So does every Publix manager.

Here it is:

1. Credibility. I say what I mean, and I do what I say.
2. Opportunity. We provide jobs with the chance to grow and develop, just like in Charlotte.
3. Recognition. We reward good performance in a variety of ways.
4. Ownership. Every Publix employee has a chance to become a shareholder. We have skin in the game, and a regard for mutual interests. What I do, or fail to do affects my fellow owners. They are not just my co-workers.

There’s more, but I can’t give away ALL the secret sauce.

That’s how we do it at Publix.

Cheap Trick Thursday: Old School Social Recruiting Tip

 Invite Good Candidates to Apply

Wait staff w our food
Wait staff w our food (Photo credit: Food-ie Cho)

The title on today’s post is almost as long as the post itself.  Long before Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn came along, I used to utilize a really cheap social recruiting methodology on a regular basis.  Many of the managers that I work with today still use it to recruit new talent at Publix.

Here it is in a nutshell.   If you are out and about in your local market and encounter someone who delivers great service, or shows a terrific work ethic, take note of that and thank them.  Then pull your business card from your pocket and tell them about the great place you work, and how you think they might make a great fit for that organization and invite them to come in and apply sometime.

Talent pipeline.  Boom.  It works especially well in the service industry sectors.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s cheap and effective.  You’re welcome.

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One Definition of Social Media ROI

Social Media ROI not always about the dollars

I’ve been thinking about social media ROI for a while.  I still haven’t figured it out.  If you asked, I couldn’t give you a great recommendation on the best metrics to use to prove ROI for your business.   Every brand wants to make a buck or two from their social media efforts, but I don’t think that is where the real value resides.

Our social media mission

When we entered into social media at Publix, our CEO wanted two things:

  • any social media efforts we offered must be an extension of our retail store experience, where we strive to offer a premier shopping experience for each customer.
  • we needed to differentiate the social media experience for our customers from those offered by our competition.

While we still have work to do, I think we have accomplished both those goals.    According to all the metrics we can find, we have a higher level of engagement with our Facebook fans than any of our retail competitors.   Our growth has been stellar, and our own fans have commented many times that they can’t believe how often and how quickly we respond to questions and customer concerns on Facebook.   I can’t share numbers, but our push marketing works too.

We accomplished this by one simple method. 

We talk to our customers.  The benefit of that is that our customers talk back to us.  We are engaging in conversation about our products, new store locations, how to save money shopping, and even suggestions on how to improve the shopping experience, coming from people who want to engage with our brand.  How awesome is that?

The ROI lies in the value added communication

We’re not able to measure customer conversions or how many sale are generated by a Facebook post.   We create our social ROI by offering the same kind of service to our customers on Facebook as they receive in our stores.

In our stores, we differentiate ourselves by offering service amenities to customers, such as assisting a customer in locating a product by walking them over to the proper area and pointing it out to them, and not just saying “over on aisle 7”.   We  offer carry-out service to each customer, offering to carry their groceries purchases to their car, even though many decline.   I can’t point to a metric that demonstrates the direct ROI of doing this, but we view them as value added services that are a part of a differentiated shopping experience.  Offering these services is a part of our cultural DNA.

Social media has not yet reached the level of being part of our cultural DNA yet.  Right now, it is a value added service that we offer to tech savvy customers that want engage with our brand.  It will be interesting to see how it looks in a couple of years.


Gary Vaynerchuk: What’s the ROI of your mom?

Here’s another perspective on ROI from a social media guy who is a little more well known than me:

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