This isn't the year retailers began experimenting with social media. Nevertheless, it's the year they really began to diversify how they used it, in terms of both tools and purposes.
Gone are the days when you could accuse retailers of dragging their feet; they are now moving more briskly.
A story in this week's SN  outlines how companies are employing these tools to promote fresh food products, and points out that social media is one of the topics being showcased at this week's FMI Future Connect 2011 in Dallas.
The industry is showing more imagination in how it uses these tools, as in these recent developments reported by SN:
Fresh & Easy : Location-based mobile apps are still new to food retailing, so it's interesting to see that Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is using Foursquare and related apps  to disseminate word of its new store launches. Shoppers who “check in” at certain new stores get a coupon for a free snack food or other item. They are required to show their mobile device to a store associate to confirm check in. One lesson already learned is that many shoppers enjoy the act of checking in so much that they don't even need a reward to do so.
ShopRite : If the perfect blog doesn't exist, then create it. That's what Wakefern decided when it tapped 12 foodie bloggers to write for its newly formed blog called “Pot Luck.”  It features posts about ShopRite's private-label items. Every month Shop Rite sends each blogger a box of products and asks them to create recipes using the items. So far both retailer and bloggers find the experience rewarding.
Giant Eagle : There's nothing like a gift card to spread good cheer. Apparently these cards can also help spread the word about products. Last month Giant Eagle held a sweepstakes  that awarded $150 gift cards to Twitter followers who tweeted about their favorite Giant Eagle private brands. Among those being trumpeted were Creamery Classics ice cream and chunky pasta sauce.
Acme Fresh Market: Sometimes social media is just that — social. This retailer recently introduced a Facebook page to engage beer and wine shoppers  in conversation about products. Not to miss an opportunity, however, Acme is also relaying news of special pricing and limited-time deals.
Social media is also about more than promotional initiatives. It's increasingly becoming part of the retail infrastructure itself. Companies are hiring employees with social media titles. Wal-Mart recently struck an agreement  to acquire a social media company, the platform developer Kosmix, which will help support its new @WalmartLabs business devoted to social and mobile commerce.
The year is still relatively young and there will certainly be lots of other developments to report on. The key takeaway for now is that more retailers are diving into the water, or at least getting their toes wet.