By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
As social media continues to grow as a way to engage with retail shoppers as well as promote retail RD programs and services, the industry has taken varying approaches to how health professionals can uses social media on behalf of their company. Retail dietitians are navigating this space on a routine basis, with many helping their companies to define the RDNs role in dispensing advice and guidance in 140 characters or less. I checked in across the country to determine how social media use by RDs is handled by their retail companies.
Retail RDN Use of Social Media
In the retail space, dietitians may or may not be involved in social media, and it may be a proactive or reactive approach. Jane Andrews, MS, RD at Wegmans indicates “the marketing group leads our social media presence in partnership with the consumer services/media relations groups. The nutrition team regularly gets involved when a blog is needed or a response to comment on Twitter involving issues around food and health.” According to Molly Bray, RD at Jewel Osco, “Each month we create content for three to four articles for our banner’s blog. Those links are then shared on Twitter and Facebook in order to engage our social media followers and direct them back to our website. We also provide live pictures of our in-store and community events that are shared on Twitter.” Leah McGrath, RD is actively engaged on Facebook and Twitter as the Corporate Dietitian for Ingles Markets. She manages social media platforms for Ingles and for herself and recently started working with brands on Facebook advertising campaigns.
Corporate vs. Individual Accounts
At Jewel Osco, all digital media including social and website content is managed by the marketing team who manages the corporate Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Bray suggests, “This system has worked out well for our RD team as we have built relationships with our marketing team. Our marketing department has been helpful in strengthening our messaging, and they have been able to guide us on what followers are interested in seeing across the different types of media.” At Wegmans, the information filters through marketing, consumer relations or the media group depending on whether it’s a proactive piece (marketing) or a response to consumers. Leah McGrath, Corporate RD at Ingles Market, is well known for her social media presence and devises and posts completely on her own.
Andrews indicates, “The company has overall policies regarding social media. This becomes very important when you also serve as a spokesperson for the company as our RDNs routinely do. People have resigned because of inappropriate comments on social media made during business hours. So, it can be a career buster for RDN communicators working in retail.” At Ingles, legal doesn’t review social media content prior to posting, but McGrath frequently consults with their President and CFO. At Jewel Osco, content is not reviewed by legal, but is filtered by marketing. It’s important to note that several retail RDs approached about participating in this article were not able to provide information on their corporate policies around social media.
Challenges for Retail RDs in Using Social Media
At Jewel Osco, they feel like the majority of their social followers are not interested in seeing health and wellness information on their feeds. “At first we received very poor responses from our RD recipes and better-for-you product information,” comments Bray. “It has definitely been a challenge but our marketing team has done a great job with guiding us on trending topics, knowing when to post certain content, and which type of media is best depending on the audience.” According to Andrews, social media is “certainly an opportunity to get the word out. However, blogs don’t always get the readership levels we’d like. And it takes lots of staff time just to keep up with the comments directed our way on Twitter and other platforms. There are so many ways that customers now can reach us that we need extra investments in time and technology to manage the flow.” McGrath defines the challenge in “how much time is allotted for this and how this fits in with other duties/responsibilities.”
The role of the retail RDN is in social media for their companies is definitely evolving. If you have questions about this topics or would like to share approaches from your company, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.