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Stop & Shop Facebook

Not all that long ago, the idea of interacting and chatting with your favorite grocery store online seemed improbable, if not pointless. With the advent of Facebook, though, it’s become the norm. And any store that’s not a part of the social network is seen as something of an online outcast. Now, one longtime Facebook holdout has jumped on the bandwagon, while a select few are standing by their decision to shun social media.

Years after many of its competitors established a presence on Facebook, Boston-based Stop & Shop finally signed on earlier this month (nearly two years after establishing a placeholder page). “We’re so excited to start connecting with everyone online,” its welcome message read. Less than a month later, the grocery chain has already earned more than 12,000 “likes”. With so many fans lying in wait, ready to “like” their store, what took Stop & Shop so long to get on board?

Establishing a Facebook presence “was something we had wanted to do for some time,” Stop & Shop spokesperson Suzi Robinson told Coupons in the News. “We have our social media strategy in place and the resources lined up, so Spring 2013 ended up being the right time to launch.” So far, Stop & Shop has been offering recipes, deals and exclusive printable coupons on its Facebook page. It’s also running a “Coupon to End All Coupons” sweepstakes, in which Facebook fans can enter to win $5,200 in Stop & Shop gift cards.

Stop & Shop also has been responding to nearly every customer comment or complaint. “To have another way to have that conversation with our shoppers is always a positive thing,” Robinson said. “We always want to know what’s important to them, and they want to hear from us in another way as well.”

And talking with customers about what matters to them is key, say others with experience in running grocery store Facebook pages. “If you are not prepared to have conversations about those topics and add value to that conversation, without the conversation being all about you, then you are irrelevant in social media,” Publix executive Mark Irby told a Food Marketing Institute gathering yesterday. “That is a huge challenge.” Florida-based Publix has had a Facebook page for nearly two years, and with more than 1.5 million “likes” right now, it ranks as the most “liked” grocery chain in the country (read a recent ranking of the most- and least-“liked” grocery chains here).

Engaging with Facebook fans is one thing. Knowing what you’re talking about is another. Have you ever posed a question on a grocery store’s Facebook page, hoping to get the “official word”, only to find out whoever is posting on the store’s behalf doesn’t have a clue? It happens. Behind that corporate Facebook profile is a regular person(s), after all, not the company president. Employees tasked with maintaining a store’s Facebook page “can’t be expected to know everything at all times,” Publix’s Irby said. So those in management “have to be able to inform them somehow, so they can craft timely and credible responses.”

That’s one of the reasons Wegmans doesn’t do Facebook. While the New York-based grocery chain is on Twitter, only individual Wegmans locations have signed up for Facebook. And even that hasn’t always gone so well. A Wegmans in Northborough, Massachusetts abruptly shut down its Facebook page last December, about a year after the store opened. The page “was easy to manage before the store opened,” company spokesperson Jo Natale told the Northborough Patch. “But they quickly discovered, once the store opened and got very, very busy, that it wasn’t so easy to stay on top of comments or to find the time to post.”

Similarly, Milwaukee-based Roundy’s leaves it to individual stores in its Pick ‘n Save, Copps and Rainbow Foods chains to decide whether to set up shop on Facebook. A lone Pick ‘n Save location runs its own Facebook page, but that’s about the extent of the company’s social media presence.

Then there’s Trader Joe’s, the largest grocery chain to give social media the cold shoulder. Why? It’s not saying. “Like many things about Trader Joe’s, the company’s social media marketing strategy is a mystery,” remarks Mashable in a recent article. Trader Joe’s doesn’t do much advertising, and doesn’t even have a weekly circular – yet it has a loyal and cultish following anyway.

It’s nice to have fans on Facebook. But as Trader Joe’s evidently figures, it’s even better to have them shopping in your stores.

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