Skip to main content
Close Menu
  • Socially Speaking: Building an Online Presence

    Person typing on laptop computer with social media analytics overlay
Computer laptop with social media like images overlay

“Allow yourself the opportunity to test a lot of different types of content,” advises Senior Brand Engagement Manager, Colleen Thompson. “Be sure to pay attention to what types of posts are getting the most likes, comments and shares. This can help guide your future content and keep your community engaged and following along with you.”

There are so many content opportunities for retailers. Give your audience a reason why they should care about your store. “Anything that goes beyond just posting what’s in store can be interesting content,” says Wojcik. “Do you have something new and exciting happening in your store? Does your store give back to the community? Do you have employees that would like to share stories about why they work for you? It’s all about storytelling. Most people are looking to connect on social so don’t be afraid to humanize your store.”

Enjoying conversations with customers in your store, developing relationships with them, and earning their loyalty is not only rewarding but a critical part of building your business and your brand. Extending those relationships beyond customer visits is the job of social media. And today, it’s as critical a part of growing your business as the in-store experience.

If your online presence is in the early stage, answering some basic questions will help you establish goals. Who are you trying to reach? What platforms make the most sense? What resources do you have to manage your social media accounts? 

The UNFI Branding team has some advice to maximize results. First, determine who will create posts. Then take a content inventory: what do you have for photo opportunities? What kind of stories do you want to tell? “Understanding your time and resource availability will affect what you can create,” says UNFI Brand Engagement Manager, Hollybeth Wojcik. ”It’s best to start small, with Facebook and Instagram. It doesn’t take a big financial investment, but it is a time investment. It’s important to monitor your accounts for messages and, for best results, post at least a few times per week.”

A common misconception is if you build it, they will come. Growth can be slow at first. “Getting your first 1,000 followers on Instagram is the hardest,” cautions Thompson. “Don’t get frustrated and whatever you do, don’t buy hundreds of thousands of followers. There are plenty of other ways to gain momentum with social media giveaways and instore signage encouraging your customers to follow you.” It all begins when you take that first step. “The best thing you can do is start your accounts,” says Thompson. “You’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with your customers if you’re not on social media. So, don’t be afraid and have fun with it.”

More tips from the UNFI branding team:

  • Get creative and have fun with your content. Take photos in store with product on shelves, fun endcap displays, or your employees. Don’t limit your content to the sales in your circulars.
  • Take time to write back to your fans. Engage in two-way conversations by replying to messages and comments on your posts.
  • Be thoughtful and personable. If people have a good customer service experience on social, they’ll be more likely to recommend your store to friends and families.
  • Be selective with your photography, but you can also be scrappy without large budgets! Avoid stock photography if possible; try taking instore photos with a newer phone and good lighting.
  • Sell without selling. Instead of saying “Bananas are on sale this week”,  try: “5 creative ways to use bananas...” (and pair this with a list of ideas).
  • Build relationships with the brands you sell instore. Many of them have large social followings. Tag them in your posts. Ask them if you can share their photos to help promote their product and drive sales. Most brands are happy to support retailers and share their content. Let the brands be a valuable content resource for your store.