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Retailers Urged to Make Social Media Plans

LAS VEGAS — Social media is "the new world order of how we communicate," so independents have to make plans for how they'll participate, Dennis Host, director of marketing, Coborn's, said during an NGA Show panel here.

"You have to be there because your customers are there," he said. "Your employees are there."

This session tied into the release of two new updates in a social media report from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC )that provide details on internal and external strategies, and how independents can define goals and assess progress, among other topics.

Host said Coborn's social media activity was driven by top leadership and developed with banner-specific activities. The company, for example, has separate Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter activity by store banner.

"Social media is a critical listening device and reputation management tool for us," he said.

Coborn's uses social media as an augmentation to its marketing program, and it finds social media to be a relatively low-cost investment, he said.

The retailer has a social media policy in its employee handbook, but Host indicated that the company is constantly evolving its practices on how to engage with customers and employees.

He urged other retailers to experiment without biting off more than they can chew.

"You don't have to jump in with both feet," he said. "Start slow. Find a champion in your company. And monitor it."

Read more: Independents Facing Unprecedented Data Challenge

Michael Sansolo, research director, CCRRC, and president, Sansolo Solutions, said social media communication is a different form of interaction than many retailers are accustomed to.

"The business world has taught us to speak to an audience, but this is a different world," he said. "In social media you begin by listening. What are your shoppers talking about? What are your associates talking about?

"Engagement isn't an option, the key is to engage in a positive, proactive way."

Sansolo said retailers need to "engage in the language of the web, as a friend and a peer, and to be authentic and transparent."

The CCRRC study, "Untangling the Social Web," can be dowloaded at

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