The importance of online communities in a co-operative

Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day, a day for social media community managers across the world to share our experiences with our community of practice. Today seems like a good day to introduce ourselves and explain what community managers do at the Co-op. Here we are: Catherine Storey, Ian Ferguson, Jordan Mcdowell, Scott Bennett and Sophie Newton.

Head shots of our five community managers: Catherine Storey, Ian Ferguson, Jordan Mcdowell, Scott Bennett and Sophie Newton

Managing Co-op communities

Let’s start with the ‘community’ part. Community is at the heart of Co-op and we talk about it often. Co-op members choose a cause in their local community and we give that chosen cause 1% of whatever a member spends on our own-brand products. We often think of communities as groups of people doing a similar thing or sharing an interest around where we live, but many of us are part of online communities too. If you use Twitter, Instagram, write blog posts or join a Facebook group, you’re engaged in some way in an online community, formed around common interests.

The ‘manager’ part of the role title comes from how we work with online communities. Our communities are generally made up of 3 types of people: colleagues from across the business, members and customers. We’re responsible for finding, nurturing and listening to the online communities that are speaking about Co-op products, services and the ways we work. By asking the right questions, listening to and collating community feedback we inform business decisions.

Talk to us. We’re listening

Listening to online communities is an important thing for all businesses, but, as a co-operative it’s essential that we give our members a voice and they have a say in how we’re run.

Our hashtag #shapeourcoop has been a really useful way of talking and listening to members and customers before feeding back to decision makers. During the AGM in May we took questions from our Twitter community and Richard Pennycook our Chief Executive; Allan Leighton, Chair of the Group Board and Nick Crofts, President of the Members Council answered them in real time.

It’s noisy out there!

In 2016 over 280,500 tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and other social media posts were sent direct to our social channels. There were over 2 million mentions of our Food business on social media overall. So, there’s a lot of chatter to listen to and engage with.

We’ve created new conversations across social platforms. Our #TwitterTeaParty inspired online communities with ideas for mother’s day celebrations. We trended internationally for 12 hours, had 2010 mentions directed at our channels and made 56 million impressions. We also had a lot of tea and cake.

More recently at Christmas time we were involved in #ReverseAdvent, an existing trend on social media. We provided ‘packs’ (goody bags) to hundreds of people, helping them give back to their local communities. The hashtag was seen on social media over 77 million times during advent.

What we’re working on now

At the moment we’re working out ways we can have meaningful conversations with members and non-members about things that really matter to them. Once we find out, we can figure out if there’s a way that Co-op can help champion them. In the past this has included conversations about Co-op’s Ethical Framework, tackling loneliness and social isolation with British Red Cross and we have lots more coming up.

Don’t just watch this space – get involved!

You can join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and follow The Co-op blogs.

Sophie Newton
Social Media Community Manager

New Membership and social media

Just like our Membership contact centre, our social media community management team have been busier than usual with the launch of our new membership. We’ve been helping thousands of members and customers understand more about it since it launched on 21st September.

Our team are based in Manchester at 1 Angel Square and between us work 365 days a year (yes, Christmas day too) and have around 20,000 social conversations with members, customers, and colleagues each month. We’re not alone though, colleagues in our Food and Insurance customer service teams help us out too.

A picture of the social media team

Membership launch day saw our usual social inbox traffic increase by 80%, with members sharing which local cause they’d selected to receive their 1% with us. They were also asking us questions about how it all works.

The main topics of conversation we’ve been having with members, and the answers to their questions, are:

  • How do I nominate an alternate Co-op cause, to receive my 1%?

Our colleagues chose their community’s 3 Co-op causes for launch, but we’ll be asking members for their nominations on our next round of causes, very soon.

  • Where is my card and does my old card work in the interim?

All cards are being posted to members currently and will be with members by mid-October. Old cards work in the interim meaning the 5% and 1% is being earned already.

  • Does the 5% replace the dividend?

The 5% doesn’t replace the ‘divi’, membership points will still be accrued in the usual way on the total spend (not just Co-op branded products and services) and a ‘divi’ will be paid out again once our rebuild projects conclude in a couple of years.

  • How does the 5% and 1% work in independent co-operative society businesses?

The 5% and 1% can’t be earned on transactions with independent co-operative society businesses, but membership points still accrue. If that independent co-operative society makes an annual profit and pays a divi, it’ll be paid to members by us, on the independent society’s behalf.

I’ve been really excited by the level of intrigue among our members on social, members who perhaps hadn’t considered the Co-op as a different way of doing business before.

Members, like our colleagues, recognise something different is happening at the Co-op, and we’re just getting started.

Jordan McDowell
Senior Social Media Community Manager

The art of conversation generation

The art of conversation is a difficult one to master, but as Community Managers at The Co-op, we’re responsible for predicting and evaluating the direction and volume of conversation across social media – in real time. In short, we help turn social conversation around our brand into an asset.

So when it came to Valentine’s Day this year, the objective was clear. Co-op Food were going after breakfast. After all, we are your local convenience store with all you need for the perfect breakfast in bed, from freshly baked croissants to award-winning Prosecco, or even just some (Fairtrade) tea bags for a morning brew! It made sense.

Food Marketing, PR and the commercial teams worked on their above-the-live proposition, looping in the support of Channel 4’s Fred Sirieix from #FirstDates, and we in the Social Media Community Management team set about generating the right conversation, at the right time!

We had two simple objectives: encourage users to share inspiration beforehand and then share in real-time on the big day. We choreographed a strategy in two phases. Firstly we hit key online influencers (who we already know and love) with a surprise through the post – Truly Irresistible croissants, coffee, Valentine’s chocolate and some Hazelnut spread for a truly indulgent breakfast in bed. All this, ahead of the big day, as a taster for them and their audiences. This acted as a catalyst with the influencer community sharing their breakfast ideas in the week running up to Valentine’s Day.

Then we targeted consumers with the next batch ensuring their #LoveAtFirstLight breakfast box arrived on Saturday 13th, just in time for their Sunday morning treat where they gladly shared photos of their breakfast from bed, the beach and with their whole family too!

Co-op's valentine's conversation on 14th February (green) versus the grocery market's campaigns
Co-op’s valentine’s conversation on 14th February (green) versus the grocery market’s campaigns

Together these simple gestures helped Co-op Food become the #1 most talked about Valentine’s campaign within the UK grocery sector on Valentine’s morning. 20% of the day’s conversation was made up of our audiences sharing their breakfast in bed with us too. Our volume peaked at 11am and we then handed over the Valentine’s baton to the likes of Aldi, but our work as your local Co-op was done. We’d served breakfast in bed to the nation and it was delicious.



Find me on Twitter @jordanjmcdowell

Or contact me by email

#doorstepchallenge, how we did it

You may have seen the #doorstepchallenge viral campaign that lit up our social feeds over Christmas, spreading a little seasonal warmth and love with the power of paying it forward.

Here at The Co-op, we jumped at the chance to demonstrate our purpose by getting involved in the social conversation whilst highlighting the affinity the challenge had with our Christmas TV advert for The Co-op Food too. Watch the advert here.

Here’s a short video about how we made #doorstepchallenge happen.

 


 

Find me on Twitter @jordanjmcdowell

Or contact me by email

Community Management and Content Collation

The Community Management team are responsible for engaging with content posted onto Group, Food, Insurance, Legal and Colleague social channels. Engaging directly with any responses, whether positive or negative, means we have a great insight into what our community is talking about.

sophie blog 1

This is why it’s vital we communicate with business units to have notice of what content is going out, giving us the opportunity to input suggestions based on current conversations with the community. Having this collected view of content being posted from all business units also helps us to ensure that we have the right amount of support to cover possible busy hours.

We’ve recently changed the process of content creation with certain BAUs, working with them in idea sessions and meeting regularly to go over upcoming content. These weekly meetings help us to also gain insight into what results the business units want to see. This could range from a post designed for the community to share or direct questions aimed to provoke conversation. Knowing this helps us to manage the conversation effectively and makes sure we have enough time to prepare responses and brief our team.

#NostalgiaFM

We were involved from an early stage during the production of #NostalgiaFM informed on all details that could affect our way of working, from how many posts were being promoted throughout the day, to the tone of voice the team were aiming for. Having this information helped us prepare brand responses that would engage the sophie blog 2community as well as plan possible surprises and delights to send out on the day. Overall this helped us to successfully engage in 700 positive conversations.

At the end of 2015 we improved our content scheduling by using Trello and Outlook Calendar in a more efficient way. Each week we check in on what all BAUs have planned and input this information into a Trello board. Having this integrated with Outlook ensures the team all have the ability to check the weeks’ activity from the diary on their phone. This agile way of working is simple but effective and helps us access the information we need on the go.


Sophie Newton, Social Media Community Manager – @thatssonewt

Going Viral for Christmas: #DoorStepChallenge and The Co-op Food TV Ad

#doorstepchallenge

This Christmas we launched our TV advert campaign for Co-op Food to critical acclaim from customers, colleagues and journalists who warmed to the heartfelt message of the simple adto look out for those in need in your community.

As well as ensuring our TV advert was broadcast across the main video social channels – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – social media had a specific part to play in making the content of the TV advert resonate online. Customers across the nation were inspired by the sentiment of our ad and took to their local streets to partake in the so-called #doorstepchallenge, bringing our TV advert’s treatment to life, and to social, in a way we could have only dreamed of! From this, we spied an opportunity to help kickstart the #doorstepchallenge and to help to demonstrate our Group purpose of “championing a better way of doing business, for you and your communities.”

We agreed to fund a set-amount for each of our 850 Community Pioneers, (store colleagues with hours set-aside in their working week to benefit the local community in which their store is based) in Co-op Food products for them to donate to a customer in-need in their store’s local community. In keeping with the spirit of the #doorstepchallenge, Pioneers were asked to deliver the shopping bag (in a Co-op Bag For Life, of course!) to the customers’ doors and take a snap to share on social media, helping inspire others to do the same!

And inspire they did, many Pioneers taking it upon themselves to donate more than was funded, by raising funds in their local stores and by partnering with other community organisations like British Red Cross, British Legion and local community charities.

Doorstep challenge
A simple idea, paired with the incredible enthusiasm and effort of our store colleagues, made for a wonderful contribution to social media conversation this Christmas, and the best way to bridge the gap between our TV ad and social media communities. What’s more, national conversation about #doorstepchallenge was dominated by Co-op above any other grocer, helping us solidify our place as the community focussed retailer among the pack!

#doorstepchallenge
Top mentioned tweeters and hashtags for Dec 2015

Find me on Twitter @jordanjmcdowell

Or contact me by email

 

Surprising and Delighting Colleagues with #TasteAndTell Christmas Advent

Over the past four months we have been encouraging conversations among our social communities and in particular, with our Food store and depot colleagues through the #TasteAndTell campaign. Since launch, many of our colleagues have embraced social media and have advocated our products publicly, with pride.

As ’tis the season to be jolly, we decided to send an additional surprise Taste And Tell box to colleagues who had really embraced the Taste And Tell campaign over the past four months. We kicked off our Advent Taste and Tell on the 1st December and over the 25 days of advent, sent out 10 festive boxes to 10 different stores each day, that’s 250 Christmas surprises sent out to Food stores!

Advent Boxes

We packed the festive red boxes, each with a gold number on the front for the 25 days of advent, with Loved By Us Chocolate Santas, Loved By Us Chocolate Coins, Loved By Us Fruit Jellies and our Truly Irresistible Chocolate Truffles, (which are definitely my favourite!) To accompany our festive red boxes, we also hand wrote Christmas cards with a little thank you for chatting to us this year on social media, asking colleagues to let us know what they think of their surprise, and to share it amongst the team.

We notified our colleagues on Facebook that 250 surprise Advent boxes would be on their way to 250 lucky stores – which helped spark some excitement and helped contribute to 58% of the overall #tasteandtell campaign conversation for the month of December.

Over advent we’ve saw some fantastic snaps from our colleagues, who definitely got into the festive spirit in-store. It’s important to us to get our store colleagues chatting about the products we sell, as this helps improve our customers’ shopping experience. Our colleagues are able to genuinely recommend products that they’ve tasted, and speak about products with more confidence.

Christmas Advent 1


Scott Bennett – Social Media Community Manager – @Scott_Bennett1