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Social Networking Called Major Opportunity

ORLANDO, Fla. — The food industry can grab opportunities in social media if it overcomes myths and better understands the landscape, said Cathy Green Burns, president, Food Lion, Harvey’s and Reid’s, at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference here.

Green Burns’ remarks coincided with the release of the first installment of a multi-part report on the current state of social networking from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America in partnership with The Integer Group.

“Food is a hot topic, it’s the No. 1 thing being talked about in social networks,” Green Burns said. “Businesses need to get involved.”

Green Burns pointed to misconceptions about the scope of the audience that engages in social networking.

“All generations are involved,” she said. “It’s not just the younger ones. The fastest growing group is seniors.”

Engagement in social media can lead to “sales building opportunities and relationships,” she said.
“A significant number of people go from social networking sites to commerce sites,” she emphasized. “There’s a real opportunity for us to get involved now to make it actionable.”

Jesse Spencer, social media manager, The Integer Group, said that by 2013 50% of all social media use will be by people over 35 years old.

“That’s important for brands and retailers because that represents big purchasing power.”

He pointed to innovative use of social media by a range of retailers, including Publix Super Markets, which has provided a platform on Facebook for customers attracted to the retailer’s subs, which Spencer dubbed “a platform for passion.”

The various segments in the research will be released in five parts in the period that runs between now through April. The research can be downloaded from the council’s website at

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