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How Whole Foods Keeps Its Audience Engaged on Instagram and Beyond

In the last few weeks, we have been looking at some of the world’s top brands across various industries, how they are using social media, and what tactics we can learn from them. In this post we look at Whole Foods, one of the most reputable retailers in the world.  

Measuring Your Digital Brand Impact

Whole Foods is hyperlocal, not just via product offerings and in-store experiences, but also in their social marketing strategy. Whole Foods has over 850 social media profiles, but for this report we will focus on the brand’s global social profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Let’s find out how Whole Foods is performing across these channels and which tactics are working for them.

Between September 2-11, 2016, across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, Whole Foods’ audience grew by 0.4% to 8.5 million, with Instagram contributing to most of that growth with over 30K followers added. Facebook’s contribution was the second-highest contributor to overall audience growth.

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 2.44.56 PMOn average, each Instagram post for Whole Foods received over 10K in engagement, making it the most engaging channel for the retailer.Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 2.45.01 PM

Whole Foods’ Winning Tactics  

Using “Link in Bio” on Instagram Creatively to Drive Web Traffic

Testing product vs. generic links in the Instagram bio is a great strategy to understand what drives more traffic to your website. Whole Foods experiments with different links on their main Instagram page vs. their local pages. While their local Instagram accounts link to local store events, their main Instagram profile has a link. A Like2Buy link in the Instagram bio section leads users to a page of the brand’s featured products. From there, they can select any of the photos that appear on the company’s Instagram feed, and within two clicks, arrive at a landing page for a specific product.Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 2.11.30 PMWhole Foods educates their customers so that they can make informed choices to meet their personal health goals. Their Like2buy link routes users to a curated board of wholesome produce, recipes, ingredients, and sales coupons to shop at Whole Foods.

This strategy–apprising their consumers of new products and their uses–generates a lot of engagement for Whole Foods, not just on Instagram but also on Facebook.

This educational post about a new drink was their most engaging post on Facebook in the data period.

Focusing on Lifestyle

As we have seen in our previous studies, posts on social networking sites, especially Instagram, do not really have to directly sell. Subtle positioning of your products and how they fit into your followers’ lifestyle resonate more with the audience.

This was the most engaging post from Whole Foods between Sept 2-11, 2016. It got over 15K in engagement, driving the peak for engagement on Sept 8th.

This was a re-grammed post from another Instagram user who had tagged Whole Foods and used their #foods4thought hashtag. Whole Foods asked for permission to use the photo on their Instagram account. While this might seem simple, re-gramming user content is an effective way to engage with your followers: showing appreciation, asking for permission, and giving credit to the original poster imparts an image of honesty and openness, which goes a long way towards building brand equity.

Creating Varied Experiences to Keep Audiences Interested

Whole Foods creates a wide range of relevant content to keep things fresh for their followers. Apart from posting photos, which are the most engaging content type on Instagram, the brand also experiments with videos, and is not afraid of testing newer features like Instagram Stories.IMG_0697

They are also using Facebook Live to their advantage, especially on the local pages as they understand that:

“…People comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.”

— Facebook Newsroom, April 2016

Talking to the Audience

Social media has democratized the way people interact with brands. Whole Foods harnesses this power of two-way communication to talk directly to customers.

They reply to their followers on Twitter:

They connect with them over Instagram:Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 11.05.22 AM

They also engage with them on Facebook:Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 11.00.52 AMSocial channels can also be platforms for criticizing brands. Whole Foods acknowledges such mentions and makes all efforts to mitigate the negative feedback and help direct the customers towards a solution. This focus on making their audience feel heard helps increase customer loyalty and retention, and goes a long way towards building trust.

Going Hyper-Local

Though we did not track Whole Foods’ local social media pages for this report, their strategy of creating unique content for each of their local stores’ social channels is worth mentioning here.

Cross-posting the same content on different channels, or on different profiles within the same channel, works in some scenarios, but Whole Foods understands that customizing what they post on each local social networking page is more valuable. There is a very strong focus on the individuality of the local stores, and tailoring content to align with the unique character of the store only makes the customer’s experience better.

A general update on the brand’s main Instagram page:


A localized update on Whole Foods NYC’s Instagram a few days before the New York Giants played the Dallas Cowboys at the NFL:

They follow this strategy of differentiating their posts on the local channels, not just on Instagram, but also on Twitter and Facebook:

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 4.02.38 PM

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being hyper-local with your social media strategy?

Leave us a comment below or connect with us on Twitter.

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Tripti Shrivastava

I'm a Social Media Analyst at Simply Measured. I love food, music, movies, and long walks. Let's talk about social media data!

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