Social relevance as more than a pet project

Today, when merchants consider social media, many think of a few key terms: Listen! Word of mouth! Viral marketing! But the most important consideration to social media isn’t whether to get involved; it is how to do so without causing damage.

Availing your brand to social media is, after all, a simple way to further expose it to the voices and opinions of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of followers – and, in turn, the eyes of millions of potential viewers.

But merely creating a fan page on Facebook does not guarantee fandom. The brand is required to use the social medium – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, you name it – as a platform to engage customers in a dialogue, both between the customer and your company and among the customers themselves. Fail to do so, and you risk losing customer interest at best and – at worse – a backlash.

A recent example of two brands doing the social bit well involves the leading supermarket chain Kroger and pet food giant Nestle Purina. In fact, this partnership also serves as a great example of how retailers and their CPG suppliers can work in partnership to enhance the consumer’s experience.

According to the story in Supermarket News, Kroger and Nestle Purina PetCare created a co-branded online community, called “Joyful Pet Moments,” where customers could engage with the brand by posting photos and stories about their pets.

The site also provides several other opportunities for consumers to interact with the brands, from playing an instant game to posting pet stories to earning coupons. The site also includes a link to the many non-profit organizations the brands support.

From a social media standpoint, the stories and photos in the site’s “Featured Moments” page may have the most potential to generate word of mouth. For instance, one recent post introduces us to the orange tabby Kelso, who has a serious addiction to repeatedly flushing his owner’s toilet, even in the middle of the night.

And, importantly, there is also an element of engagement – visitors can enter a sweepstakes to win a free Purina pet product – the coupon for which is uploaded to their loyalty card. If charitable, winners can opt for Purina to make a donation to an animal welfare organization in their area.

From dog parks to web sites, pets have long been a reliable force of socialization. This partnership has been trained to touch the pet-owner where he or she is most likely to care.

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