In order to properly engage customers on social media platforms, companies/organizations are wise to deviate from conventional in-your face marketing techniques and opt instead to learn to participate in organic communication with their consumers, which in turn fosters loyal relationships among old and new customers alike. General Mills is a prime example of a company that uses social media to their advantage. Not only do they listen to customers and engage them in meaningful ways, but they also have fun doing it. General Mills is what some would refer to as a food processing super giant. The company maintains over 80 leading brands in the USA alone, not to mention various others across the globe.
With over 150 years of food processing under its belt, General Mills is a company that is used to adapting with the times and was quick to jump on the social media bandwagon. Yet, as General Mills senior social media strategist Fred Gorrochotegui explains, organizing a social media strategy for the company was hectic and quite frankly a disorganized mess when it came to coordinating three different social media accounts (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for close to 90 different company brands, especially since the social media team only comprised five staff members. However, in the face of these challenges, General Mills took on a unique approach to overcome these obstacles.
When developing a contemporary social media marketing strategy, General Mills turned to the social media marketing software company Spredfast, to organize communications with consumers and in turn, increase levels of customer engagement. Spredfast is essentially a “collaborative content machine” that helps companies to create, measure and optimize all social media programs in one place. As Gorrochotetgui explains, the implementation of Spredfast wielded outstanding results and provided the General Mills social media team with the appropriate tools to enable unified conversation to take place with each unique consumer while simultaneously personalizing these conversations. Spredfast also allowed the team to respond quickly to issues and gain crucial data from consumers’ conversations about the company via social media. Lastly, a big challenge Spredfast helped General Mills to overcome dealt with the complexity of aligning data from varying sources such as social media, email and telephone communication. With the collaboration of Spredfast and the company’s own social media center of excellence, all relevant data was arranged to showcase a coherent view of a typical General Mills consumer. Increased access to this important consumer information and analytics strengthened the effectiveness of the company as a whole.
“It’s paramount to engage with shoppers. And for my [social marketing] team, that’s the main goal.”
– Fred Gorrochotetgui, Senior Social Media Strategist, General Mills USA
Perhaps the most beneficial gain of integrating Spredfast into General Mills’ social media strategy was that it allowed the organization to gain insight from consumer conversations on social media. In other words, now that consumer conversations were easily accessible to General Mills, they could quickly and efficiently act on these dialogues. For example, after the company implemented Spredfast, any customer dissatisfaction was quickly detected, such as the disappointment and frustration many consumers experienced when the company decided to discontinue their ever-popular Betty Crocker icing flavour, rainbow chip. It was through using Spredfast to listen in on these conversations that General Mills made the decision to bring back the icing flavour not only for sales purposes, but also to increase levels of consumer brand loyalty.
Clearly, when companies actively engage with their consumers it cultivates the feeling that customers are valued by the organization and that their voices matter. When big organizations such as General Mills connect with consumers through social networks it helps to “humanize” the relationship between consumer and company, and likens the relationship to that of a friend, which in turn fosters an even greater sense of customer loyalty.
Other ways the company has used social media to engage its consumers in conversations include using unique social media strategies for different brands. For example, marketing of Larabar (pinned as the company’s most “social brand”) allows customers to participate in conversations about the product by using #larabar in their social media posts. In return, the company sends social media participants free samples of the snack bar. Another example includes the Canadian Cheeriors Cheer campaign where consumers are invited to engage with the General Mills cereal brand through writing an encouraging message to Canadian athletes and sharing it on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag BetheCheer. Both these examples showcase the unique ways General Mills engages consumers in a conversation that goes beyond the narrow framework of aggressive, one-way marketing communication.
Following a conversation with Christianna Boers, an associate marketing manager intern at General Mills Canada, it is clear how essential social media is to communication with customers and ensuring their loyalty.
“Each of our brands has their own respective Facebook page where customers can interact and share any branded content, as well as reach consumer success representatives with any inquiries or complaints. By engaging consumers through social media, we can better foster consumer loyalty as our audience feels heard, understood and appreciated.”
– Christianna Boers, Associate Marketing Manager Intern, General Mills Canada
Lessons for Others
There are many valuable lessons to be learned from the General Mills social media strategy for customer engagement. For one, this case study teaches fellow businesses that enterprise social media platforms such as Spredfast provide companies with the tools and techniques required to effectively join consumer conversations, which in turn allows the company to learn from their customers and not only tailor products to their demands, but also resolve problems. Overall, General Mills shows us that if organizations want to keep their customers happy and loyal to a brand, they must first enter the platforms where people converse socially with friends and family to develop a more personal relationship with their consumer.
Industry: Food Processing
Name of Organization Contact: Jeff Harmening, CEO
Authored by: Danielle Brubaker
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Doman, C. (2014). General Mills Brings Core Values to Social Care. Spredfast Smart Social Blog. https://www.spredfast.com/social-marketing-blog/general-mills-brings-core-values-social-care
Netinfluencechannel. (2010). Marketing 2 Conference – General Mills on Brands and Social Media. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82T3H6Gfm6w
Smith, N. (2015). General Mills Discovers Shoppers’ True Demands – From Social Media. DMN NEWS. http://www.dmnews.com/social-media/general-mills-discovers-shoppers-true-demands-from-social-media/article/425626/
Spredfast. (2018). Spredfast: Social Media Marketing & Management Software. https://www.spredfast.com