Wegmans – Facebook Fans, Social Media and More

December 3, 2012

Let’s start this post with some transparency. I really like…maybe even love…the Wegmans brand. It’s a community-focused supermarket chain that has opened my eyes to what true customer service and caring are. And it doesn’t hurt that they have great products, low prices and locations relatively nearby.

That said, let’s get right to the social-media aspect of this post. The reason Wegmans is in the title is because they decided (for reasons that I’ll explain shortly) to take down the Facebook page associated with their Northborough, MA store. This move caused an uproar amongst the 7500 or so fans on the page. It caused my community to shout #fail repeatedly because they thought Wegmans was fumbling the social media football.

Bear in mind, these are folks who are so rabid about the brand, they share videos of the store! Here’s one of mine…

Here’s another from a vocal Wegmans fan…

While the takedown of the FB page caused people to fret and complain, it caused me to tweet some snarky comments and even offer my opinions on ways Wegmans could better communicate with their online customers.

Take a look at the notice they posted and tell me what you think. Could there have been a better way to shut down the page – and is their strategy appropriate for today’s consumer base?

REMINDER: We have enjoyed a tremendous year with you at our Northborough Facebook page. Thank you to our 7,490 fans for being a part of it. We will be taking this page down on December 9th because our Northborough store is now up and running.Remember, our employees are there to serve you in person. Whenever you have a problem or a question, talk directly to one of our employees. They want to hear what you’re thinking.

If you want Wegmans news, sign up here:http://bit.ly/erqU4T.

Or follow @Wegmans on Twitter here: http://bit.ly/QawlRU.

And you can always reach our Consumer Affairs department by email here: http://bit.ly/XBAySW.

I got lucky because I got to speak with Erica and Eric (really) from the Wegmans’ social media team earlier today, and I got these questions answered on the phone. I also came away from our discussion understanding the reasons behind the page takedown and the company’s social strategy. Here’s that info in a nutshell.

1. Wegmans is a company that takes a lot of care in how it treats its customers. To that end, they focus heavily on personalized service and responses both in real life and online. Based on their current resources, the team decided that they couldn’t properly respond to Facebook interactions (for Northborough and every other store in the chain).

2. While they gave folks following the Northborough FB page many alternate ways to reach Wegmans, this information was buried in their notice. The main thing people saw when they read the update – especially if they were reading on a mobile device – was “We will be taking this page down on December 9th.” Eric and Erica thought it was a good idea to be more straightforward with these alternate communications channels (Twitter, the Wegmans blog, consumer affairs dept., and in-store methods).

3. While it’s a slight social media faux pas to establish a communications channel and then yank it away, the Wegmans team maintains that they want to keep things manageable. Somewhere down the line they might come back to Facebook on a corporate or store-by-store level, but they’d love to chat with their customers on Twitter and on their blog. I did get up on a soapbox a little during our phone call and stressed the importance of using the tools that their customers use to communicate (i.e. Facebook). But it came down again to an issue of staffing and resources – and Wegmans’ focus on responding quickly to its customers.

Ultimately, I think Wegmans made a small misstep by creating a page and then deciding to abandon it. But the company isn’t abandoning its customers, just being more strategic in the channels it uses to communicate with them. I think they’d be well served to keep the page active – even as an occasional update site (monthly news or a monthly video) – and see if they could build it back up as a true community in the future.

The difficult thing is taking a similar tack for all 81 stores in the family-owned chain. They’ve been around since 1916 and now boast stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. So aside from a little social media misstep, they’re doing something right.

What’s your take on how Wegmans should be social?