At Dorothy Lane Market, social media equals ‘word of mouth’ with connections to customers

DLM home pageIt’s funny to read what the president & CEO wrote, if only because if you’ve ever shopped for bread, wine or seafood at Dorothy Lane Market, you get the message real fast that the grocery’s employees want to talk with you. They ask if you want that loaf of asiago cheese bread sliced, if you’ve considered the new summer rosé from one of their favorite French organic wineries, or if you’d like them to prepare a dinner of Crispy Dijon Tilapia for you.

So it’s funny, at least to me, that DLM boss Norman Mayne is surprised by how much his customers use social media, including Twitter and Facebook to talk with one another and with Dorothy Lane Market’s employees.

“Who knew that a short 140-character message could be so meaningful to so many people” Mayne wrote in his company’s August newsletter.

His customers knew, of course, and quickly responded as DLM stepped up its efforts to connect with them with a Facebook Fan Page, on Twitter and with a new blog. DLM is making a large commitment to social media, says Nick Nawroth, who coordinates the online communication. All department heads are encouraged to contribute information and updates. Nawroth edits and posts all of the Twitter updates but the department heads — and even the CEO — post blog updates.

Mayne notes that DLM has yet to officially announce the launch of its Facebook Fan Page, but already has more than 1,500 fans. Customers want to connect with a company that has attracted national business media attention for its innovative products, retail methods and customer service. Locally, Dorothy Lane Market already benefitted from word-of-mouth praise from customers who feel so good about how they’re treated that they take DLM grocery bags on their travels around the world, photograph themselves with the bags at their destinations, and send the photos back to DLM. Store managers make a big deal of these customers’ travel photos, posting them at the entrance to each store. They’re the first thing you see — not produce or signs for what’s on sale — when you walk in the door.

Posting customers’  travel photos on the bulletin board is social networking the old-fashioned way. Customers love it, and DLM is remembering that as the company expands its social networking in new, online ways. So I asked Nawroth how they’re using social media to connect the business with customers and he graciously provided the following insights into what Dorothy Lane Market is doing and what they’ve learned:

When and how did DLM decide to use social media? What did/do you want to accomplish?

It started last year with our website redesign when we added a blog in the hopes of making our website a bit more interactive/interesting for our customers. Then earlier this year (2009) when Facebook and Twitter started to grow in momentum and popularity, we started looking at them a bit more closely. We saw that both allowed us interact more quickly and actively with our customers. So we decided to take the plunge!

DLM blog

Why did you choose Facebook and Twitter?

They are the two most popular social media sites on the web right now.

You also have a blog that’s a part of the DLM web site. What other social media tools do you use?

Facebook, Twitter, and our weekly e-mail newsletter, Fresh News.

A number of employees contribute to your Twitter and blog updates. Who participates and how were they selected?

There really isn’t any “selection” process for us. All of our department heads are encouraged to participate in our social media outlets. All of our departments have the ability to post directly to our blog. As for Twitter, our social media person posts for our department heads (who call/e-mail with suggestions), posts a link to our latest blog entries, and looks for relevant content to post.

How do you decide what will be tweeted and how is it reviewed?

Our social media person consults with our marketing folks to see what new products we plan to promote as well as what events we have coming up at our stores. A lot of our “regular” content is proofed and distributed via other media (our e-mail or print newsletter)so we just add it to our scheduled tweets for the week. Also, any department head can call/e-mail and suggest a Facebook post/tweet (for instance if a new product has just arrived or an event has sold out).

What topics elicit the most customer response on social media? What do customers ask you about on social media?

New products, our Killer Brownie®, and of course, requests for new DLM locations are our top topics.

Do you moderate comments from fans, followers and readers? How do you respond to customer comments and concerns shared on the social media sites?

We do moderate, but it’s just to make sure that no objectionable material is posted (profanity, SPAM, porn, etc). We try to respond to customer comments and concerns as quickly as we can.

What have you learned about your customers on social media and how have you changed or responded online or in the stores as a result?

Everyone wants a DLM right next to their house! 😛 Seriously, I don’t think it’s changed the way we respond to customers. We always strive to reply to our customers with quick, accurate information, that part hasn’t changed, just how we communicate the answer.

You’ve attracted 601 Twitter followers and 1,585 Facebook fans in a short period but I imagine these are small numbers compared to the total number of Dorothy Lane Market customers. How much time do you devote to social networking and how to do you measure and assess its value compared to other networking and marketing efforts?

Right now, we have one person who maintains both the Twitter and Facebook accounts. We spend about 4-6 hours a week on updates, replies, etc. We’re not quite sure how to measure the impact, but we’ve received a warm welcome on both sites and people do seem to be responding to our posts. DLM has built its customer base on word-of-mouth over the past 60+ years. And we still do, it’s just now the “word-of-mouth” gets around a bit differently.

How does the number of interactions with customers through social media compare with the number of other contacts with customers through more traditional methods — phone calls, email and letters they send to you?

We don’t track these statistics.

How do you let customers know where to find DLM on social media sites?

We mentioned it in our monthly newsletter, the Market Report, that mails to our top customers. We also have links in our weekly e-newsletter (Fresh News), and on our website.

From what you’ve learned about social media so far, what suggestions do you have for other businesses?

First, determine if social media is appropriate for your business. See what other folks are doing, and that will help give you ideas on how you can use social media for your business. If you find it might be right for your business, then do step into it slowly. Start by posting a few times a day (3 or so), and then increase it as you go forward. Post content that is important/relevant to your customers/audience. Be sure you are committed to timely updates and prompt replies. Have fun with it! Social media is a bit less formal than traditional communication, use that to your advantage.

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3 Responses to At Dorothy Lane Market, social media equals ‘word of mouth’ with connections to customers

  1. amateri says:

    The articles you have on your website are always so enjoyable to read. Good work and I will be returning often.

  2. Luigi Fulk says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing and I’ve boomarked this page.

  3. Again, this is a textbook example of risking the time, energy and resources to try something new. I was listening to a local non-profit and they admit, its all new, it’s all experimental… and, it’s working. Jim Sutter – Cincinnati

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