- The internet was abuzz with speculation this week when Whole Foods changed its Instagram account to follow just three people – Beyonce, Cardi B and Sting. The specialty grocer also hid all but three posts – blank white spaces — from its feed, and its bio was changed to a bee emoji.
- Many fans guessed Whole Foods made the change to highlight the plight of bees, and they were right. According to Fast Company, the grocer acknowledged it has partnered with Whole Kids Foundation for National Pollinator’s Week and Month to raise $100,000 for 50 new school honey beehives. The goal is to raise awareness and educate the public about the importance of bees to food system and the environment.
- Nona Evans, president and executive director of Whole Kids Foundation, shared the following statement with Fast Company: “We launched the Give Bees A Chance campaign because kids are often taught to be afraid of bees, but the role they play in our ecosystem is imperative and deserving of our respect and protection. One of the best ways we can teach kids about bees is through educational beehives at their schools, where they get an up-close look into the world of pollination.”
Although some fans may be sad to learn Whole Foods is not planning to release the best mixed tape ever from these three performers, most are probably not surprised the grocer’s Instagram stunt was meant to raise awareness about the decline in the bee population. After all, the company dedicates a full page of its website to bees, noting “from apples and almonds to strawberries and tomatoes, many of our most beloved foods depend on pollinators. If pollinators disappeared from the planet, even beef and dairy products would be scarce, because pollinators are vital to crops that feed cattle and other grazing animals."
Packing a website with information won’t hurt, but Whole Foods is savvy enough to know that isn’t the most effective way to connect with customers. With about 10 million followers across more than 850 social media profiles — including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube — the retailer understands the best way to get a reaction from followers is to interact with them.
The grocer's social media campaign grabbed the attention of media outlets and the public, who spent several days speculating before Whole Foods spoke up. That's just the reaction marketers hope for. The campaign wisely does not try to sell consumers a product, but instead asks them to get involved in an effort the company — and likely its customers — feels strongly about. Millennial shoppers want to buy from companies that tout sustainability and support social causes, and this allows them to feel good about buying from the specialty grocer.
Other supermarkets may want to study Whole Foods’ successes. Despite their best efforts, most grocers aren’t connecting to their customers via social media, according to Progressive Grocer. A recent study from Retail Feedback Group shows that although 90% of grocers have a social media presence, just 25% of consumers say they’re engaged with their primary grocer in the space.
According to experts interviewed by Progressive Grocer, retailers’ social media efforts should utilize the interactive nature of the channel. Posts should also be engaging and authentic, and retailer representatives need to be quick to respond to consumer replies — both good and bad. Grocers can also create engaging original content. Ahold USA has garnered more than 14 million views for its “Fresh Stories” featuring short vignettes highlighting lobstermen, flower growers and other local producers for the company's grocery brands.
While it’s fairly easy to create a social media profile and fill it with content, the challenge for retailers is to convince consumers to stop scrolling and comment, like, or share a post. Whole Foods certainly believes campaigns like this one achieve those goals, and others would be smart to pay attention.