By adaptive - October 14th, 2014

Nikki Newman, Social Media Community Moderator, Associate Team Leader, Whole Foods Market Global Headquarters

Nikki manages a team of social moderators that oversee the engagement and customer service for the national WFM social media channels while providing support for the 800+ metro and local accounts. She has grown the moderation program at Whole Foods Market to include 24/7 coverage.

Nikki Newman, Social Media Community Moderator, Associate Team Leader, Whole Foods Market Global Headquarters

What are the key drivers behind your organization’s use of social media?

Our main goal for social at Whole Foods Market is to join in the conversation with our community. Social media is a fantastic way to keep the pulse on our brand through a variety of communities, across various channels.


How is social media organised within your company? What organisational models do you use and why?

Overall as a company we are decentralized with 12 regional offices around the world. Those regional offices oversee the stores in their region and our Global Support office supports those regions and stores as needed. The social team at the Global level manages the brand channels while regionally and locally, the social channels are handled by PR or Marketing, depending on their regional reporting structure.

At the Global office we sit on the Global Communications team. We empower our stores to have local social channels so they can engage and meet the specific community needs of their city/metro. With over 850 social channels, this has worked well to offer a more lifestyle presence at the brand level and more community driven channels at the local level.

Whole Food Market Facebook

As a corporate user of social networks, how does your company value the networks it has a presence on?

We are very fortunate to have executives that understand the power and value of social media. Transparency and open communication are very important to our brand and social media offers these in a valuable way through social customer service, social town halls and a two-way dialogue with our customers. There is always a new channel out there for brands to explore. We like to make sure that our current channels are performing to the best of our ability before exploring new channels.


Can you outline a recent initiative that included a social media component?

We almost always try to feature a social component in our marketing collaborations if we believe it will resonate with our social community. The most recent initiative has been Non-GMO month during the month of October. We have signage in-store, in depth articles on our blog and social posts on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. Sometimes it’s hard to explain a detailed concept in-store so it’s nice to offer additional info through our social channels.

How much pressure is there to show ROI with the social media you use?

We do not currently offer online ordering so there really isn’t a way for us to correlate a social ROI at this time. Once online ordering is available through our site, we will more than likely be asked to prove ROI.


How did your organisation approach the mapping of your enterprise to identify where social media should reside in the corporate structure? And how this would deliver an integrated approach to social media activity?

Our social presence began as a grassroots effort in 2008 when brands were slowly starting to explore social. It wasn’t until 2010 that we hired for a full-time social media position at our Global office. We didn’t really have a structure for social and since we are decentralized, we could not force our stores to be on social.

Currently we have a team of 5 full-time social media Team Members at the Global level. The team has developed more of a streamlined structure for how our brand/local voice communicates online. As part of our effort, we now have 10 social/digital points at our regional offices who focus on integrating the local accounts and the overall brand voice. The Global team has always sat on the Communications team but we have moved between Marketing and Integrated Media sub-teams over the past 4 years.


What is your advice to organisations that are beginning to map their own corporate structure with the view to embedding social media activity within their enterprise?

I think it’s a great idea to figure out who the social media team will be working with the most. This really depends on the brand and the type of content that will be shared to customers or other businesses. Most organizations that I have interacted with have their social team sitting on either marketing, public relations, IT or a customer connection team.

Our social team works with individuals across the company so even though we might report to one team, we are constantly collaborating with a variety of company stakeholders. I wouldn’t let the structure of your team deter you from starting a social presence for your brand. I would make sure you explore/find the right channels where your community is already engaged and let that be your driving force for success.

Whole Food Market Instagram

Are there any specific tools you employ that help your business manage its social media activity across multiple departments?

Internally we use a tool called Opal that allows collaborative planning for brand marketing teams. As many other brands can probably relate, we have multiple marketing/company campaigns running at once. Opal allows our marketing team to work with our social community manager to make sure we are meeting target dates for campaigns and collaborations.


How do you see the management and development of social media in your company evolving over the next few years?

I have noticed that social customer service has increased over the past couple of years so I definitely see that area expanding even more as more customers move to social for a quick resolution. We are also running a pilot for an ambassador program so our team members that enjoy social can join in the conversation. Lastly, we have started to incorporate user-generated (UGC) content in our channels and our community has really been enjoying it. I foresee UGC increasing on our channels over the next few years as well.

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Learn more from Nikki at the Social Media for Customer Services Summit.

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