How Kroger adopted a new social media strategy

Jorie Mark knows what she wants in social media from the Kroger grocery chain: aggressive content marketing in the form of conversation with customers and customer stories.

Jorie Mark was brought on as Kroger’s social media manager to fix a problem.

Kroger had only one social media employee. It had reduced its social media content to sharing circulars, sale ads, and press releases. Kroger often left customers hanging when someone mentioned it on Twitter or shared a photo from one of its stores.

“I didn’t see enough content on talking with customers. We weren’t following through on our ‘Friendly and Fresh’ motto on social media. I saw fixing that as a top priority,” says Jorie Mark, a member.

Because of a lack of support, communication, and guiding principle, hundreds of stakeholders were in the dark about social media—and the opportunities they were missing.

Turning it around requires heavy lifting

Mark concentrated on these four areas:

  1. Tone: Share better branded content on starting conversations and earning user-generated content.
  2. Engagement: Foster one-on-one conversations by responding within a few hours to everyone who reached out to Kroger on social media.
  3. Channel-specific posts: Treat each branded social channel differently. Don’t post the same content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
  4. Local relevancy: Create on-the-ground content and share stories about each region. Get someone who lives near the action to report news to headquarters.

Earning buy-in from a large group of stakeholders

Kroger has a large family of companies across the country. Your local Kroger Store might be called Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Ralph’s, Smith’s, Dillon’s, or Quality Food Centers depending on where you live. Each store is organized into different governing bodies, and each has a division executive.

Then, for each aisle in your grocery store, there’s a team of employees making marketing and merchandising decisions. These business units make up the other large group of stakeholders she works with.

On top of that, Mark had to convince their paid media group that putting money into great social media content would make a difference.

The solution: two divisional social media summits.

At in-person summits Mark presented her strategy, explained why it was important, showed how some changes were already working in their favor, then explained how stakeholders could support social media through participation.

Kroger flew its stakeholders in to the two summits from across the country, entertaining them, educating them and schmoozing them a little. How did Mark pull it off?

“None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t been hired to make a difference. Our marketing team understood we could do better with social media,” she says.

“I came equipped with the value of socially engaged customers,” Mark explains.

Here are some slides she shared in her summit presentations to prove that value:

The summits brought together isolated divisions, got everyone on the same page with corporate, and made attendees her friends. Since then, her hard work has kept those relationships going.

More evidence to make her case: the Kroger baby

A week into her new job, Mark checked her Google alerts. She saw that a woman had given birth in one of their Atlanta stores. She investigated and reached out to the associate who had helped the new mom. One cute Facebook post later, Kroger’s social engagement went from crickets to amazing.

Mark says this was the perfect moment to explain to leaders, “See what happens when we really try?”

Since then, she says they find one or two stories a month from customers and associates that generate excitement.

“We’ve really started to put up numbers. We compared our metrics to posts from previous years to prove that this was the way to do it. We found in-store experiences were much more valuable than a picture of a pretty apple.”

For example, one Kroger division in Atlanta donated a police dog to a K9 training unit and asked their Facebook fans to help name it. A Ralph’s store held a sushi chef cook-off. And a Fry’s in Arizona had a wedding giveaway complete with cake, flowers, and funding.

Working to get more people to find stories

So far, Kroger’s brought on one social media manager to their Fred Meyer Supermarket in Portland, Oregon.

“We’ve already seen a tremendous effect on engagement with him,” Mark says.

“What we want is going to take years, but we’d like to get a social media manager at every one of our divisions.”

Find Jorie on Twitter and ask about her favorite place to run. Jorie Mark is a member of, where a version of this article first appeared.

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