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How Consumers Use Social Networks to Connect with Food Retailers: Is Facebook a Good Fit?

Posted: July 2, 2012

If you are a food retailer, have you ever wondered if Facebook is a good fit for your business? In this installment, we will provide responses to survey questions designed to explore this question for several different types of food retailers.

The first groups of retailers that were examined were large, national businesses. As seen in Table 1, between 21-26% of respondents felt that Facebook was a good fit for supercenters (for example, Walmart), discounters (for example Aldi or Dollar General), and warehouse clubs (for example BJ’s or Sam’s Club). However, over a third felt Facebook was a good fit for internet/mail-order food businesses.

Table 1. Percent of participants who thought that Facebook was a good fit for the select types of retailers.
Type of retailer Percent response
Supercenters 25.5%
Discounters 21.7%
Warehouse clubs 24.2%
Internet/mail-order 33.1%

As might be expected, younger individuals were more likely to indicate that Facebook was a good fit for supercenters, warehouse clubs, and internet and mail-order food businesses. Table 2 shows how age affected responses.

Table 2. Percent of participants, based on age group, who thought that Facebook was a good fit for supercenters, warehouse clubs, and internet/mail-order food businesses.
Age group Supercenter Discounter Warehouse club Internet/mail-order food business
18 to 24 30.7% 26.1% 28.4% 33.0%
25 to 36 30.8% 25.9% 29.3% 35.7%
37 to 48 26.5% 22.2% 26.5% 37.9%
48 to 64 23.2% 19.1% 20.5% 30.6%
65 and older 15.4% 17.1% 17.1% 23.9%

Our next group of data focused on smaller-scale food retailers. As you can see in Table 3, nearly 35% of participants indicated that Facebook was a good fit for local groceries while around 30% of respondents felt that it was a good fit for grocery stores and supermarkets, such as Shop Rite, and specialty food stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Table 3. Percent of participants who thought that Facebook was a good fit for the following types of food retailers.
Type of food retailer Percent response
Local grocer 34.7%
Grocery store/supermarket 28.8%
Specialty food store 29.8%

When examining responses based on select demographics, we found a few significant differences related to Facebook being a good fit for specialty food stores. More males than females felt Facebook was a good fit for these stores (Table 4), while there was a negative relationship between a respondents’ ages group and Facebook “fit” (Table 5). Those 18-24 years old were twice as likely as those 65 and older to indicate that Facebook was a good fit for specialty food stores. Lastly, those with higher levels of education, specifically those with a bachelor’s degree, were more likely to believe that Facebook was a good fit for specialty food stores (Table 6).

Table 4. Percent of participants, based on gender, who thought Facebook was a good fit for specialty food stores.
Gender Percent response
Males 31.8%
Females 25.1%
Table 5. Percent of participants, based on age group, who thought Facebook was a good fit for specialty stores.
Age group Percent response
18 to 24 39.8%
25 to 36 35.7%
37 to 48 31.7%
49 to 64 25.3%
65 and older 19.7%
Table 6. Percent of participants, based on education level, who thought Facebook was a good fit for specialty food stores.
Education level Percent response
High school degree or less 25.0%
Some college or technical school 27.5%
Bachelor's degree 35.4%
Master's degree or higher 31.3%

Our data also revealed that about one-third of our participants indicated that Facebook was a good fit for direct marketers such as on-farm markets, farmers’ markets, U-Pick, and local wineries (Table 7).

Table 7. Percent of participants who felt Facebook was a good fit for the following types of retailers.
Type of retailer Percent response
On-farm and farmers' markets 33.1%
Pick-your-own 34.0%
Roadside fruit/vegetable stand 28.6%
Local winery 33.3%

Approximately one-third of participants felt that Facebook was a good fit for all types of food retailers investigated. Hence, as mentioned in previous articles, if you have not yet developed a social media presence, you may want to consider Facebook as a way to connect with your customers. Additionally, younger respondents were more likely to indicate that Facebook was a good fit for several different types of retailers. As we’ve indicated in other videos in the series, be sure to consider your audience when developing your strategy and choose tools that resonate with your clientele.

In the next article, we will present data that discusses other social media and web-based tools that might be good fits for food retailers. To view the entire YouTube series, please visit Penn State Extension Food and Farm Business YouTube Channel.

Contact Information

Jeffrey Hyde, Ph.D.
  • Associate Director of Programs
Phone: 814-865-5666
Kathy Kelley
  • Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management
Phone: 814-863-2196
Dana Ollendyke
  • Extension Associate
Phone: 814-863-5567