Reasons to love Waitrose, part 2.0

Brands, remember this: often, it doesn’t take too much effort – you have us at hello. I for one can be easily pleased, and I’m not unusual.

Yesterday, the team behind the Waitrose twitter feed, , decided to have a cull of their followees. Fair enough. It looks as though they went from 7,000 odd followees to about 125, and I didn’t make the first cut. Perhaps they felt that with only one Waitrose-related tweet out of 500-odd, my feed is not Waitrose-centric enough to trouble with.

As I said, fair enough. It’s a snub, but it’s a democratic snub. In itself it doesn’t define the brand. It isn’t as though I’m going to stroll into my local Waitrose and, if I forget where the Marmite is, they aren’t going to pull together a crack team of Marmite finders who then show me every new Marmite variant until I am entirely satisfied. But I felt a little stung none the less. And Waitrose was suddenly a little more harsh and a little less human. Which made made me think of the Big Society…

So I tweeted in protest: #unf by @waitroseuk – more proof that bigsociety will be brutal in practice. Already winners and losers

About two hours later I received a magic email: Waitrose (@WaitroseUK) is now following your tweets (@r_m_fernandez) on Twitter. And I now feel the Waitrose love once more.

But how easy was that for the Waitrose twitter team? They haven’t even had to send me a standard tweet (unlike Domino’s Pizza, who have been in touch after my last post). All they’ve had to do is press follow on their Twitter browser.

Yet for some brands, that would be too much. It’s the rules, you see. We can’t change our mind about who we follow and who we don’t. By pressing follow, the Waitrose team have, in an admittedly utterly minor way, shown what their brand is all about. They’ve done something to delight a customer. It didn’t cost them a penny. Is your brand this responsive in web 2.0?


  1. Lol, Rich – can’t help but feel that this is like being dumped but being told “we’ll still be friends”. I think you should get drunk, cry on your mates and have some regrettable dirty rebound shopping with Asda.

  2. It didn’t cost Waitrose a penny in capital, but it did in staff. What interests me about this kind of response is how resource-intensive it is. Following you on Twitter may have only required a click, but it also requires constant monitoring of brand mentions, @ replies and messages across all their online channels.

    Lots of companies currently use social media as a customer service tool, but I think this is a symptom of the fact that something like Twitter is only a tiny niche of the internet – and has a disproportionately high influence in the media. It’s definitely still the case that a mention of the site can bump a story up a few notches in the newsworthiness stakes, in the same way that Facebook could a couple of years ago. An embarrassment on Twitter is likely to be picked up.

    Social media PR is still massively underresourced, often allocated as a side project in many organisations, and rarely integrated in an elegant way into a wider comms strategy. When/if Twitter or its futuristic equivalent stops being dominated by a niche of intensive users who produce most of its content, and achieves a genuinely national reach, organisations will have to seriously consider whether they still intend to respond to customer enquiries in the often over-earnest, personal, diligent way they are at the moment.

    Unless brands can give their online presence the internal resource and clout they give their other customer service channels, Waitrose might be too busy to follow you back in future. Enjoy it while you can.

    • Isn’t the crux of it that some brands *are* treating online as part of the brand experience – and, for an upmarket brand like Waitrose, this kind of customer support is no more resource-intensive than providing the excellent service that you get in store. This week I’ve had what Dave below calls a “we’ll still be friends” from Waitrose but also several tweets from Domino’s in response to my other post. Waitrose’s (non)response felt on-brand, while Domino’s response, while welcome, felt less like the brand (though, in fairness, that’s because Domino’s customer experience usually requires very little human contact – other than have their tweets turn up on a little scooter there isn’t any way round that.)

      As social media matures, we can probably expect it to be integrated properly and consistent with the brand experience, and less the domain of the comms team.

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