The Vitamin Shoppe is launching 800 Instagram accounts, one for each of its U.S. stores, to localize more of its marketing. Since starting the effort in January, the chain is up to 400 active accounts, with the rest expected to be activated in the next couple of months, said Lisa Chudnofsky, head of content and customer engagement at The Vitamin Shoppe.
The idea is for the stores’ employees to use the accounts to promote store events and their expertise on products while showing off their personalities. The Vitamin Shoppe has been promoting its employees as influencers, with weekly Facebook Live videos featuring employees hosting workout sessions, health classes and taste tests in an effort to position the company as an authority on health and wellness.
“We felt like there was a real hole in our Instagram strategy,” said Chudnofsky. “Our employees are really knowledgeable. We consider them our secret weapon in the stores, but they didn’t have much of a virtual or digital presence.”
The Vitamin Shoppe lets store managers post what they want; occasionally, the company will provide photos and videos for them to post to support company campaigns. Unlike its official Instagram account @vitaminshoppe, with 195,000 followers, the others will not be verified. Chudnofsky pointed to the @vitaminshoppe_eastrutherford account, with about 430 followers, as an example of what the company wants these accounts to look like. The account is filled with photos and videos of employees calling out their favorite products and promoting upcoming events.
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Beyond that, The Vitamin Shoppe has one community manager overseeing all the accounts as part of her job to look out for the company’s presence on social media, including its Facebook groups.
Other retailers have multiple, store-specific Instagram accounts, but The Vitamin Shoppe has taken this approach to the next level. Josh Kelly, managing partner and chief strategist at design agency Fine, has seen this approach at Whole Foods, which has more than 100 accounts; and Kimpton Hotels, with around 70 accounts. While having multiple local accounts can support a local focus, he said, “Once you get past a handful of accounts, the challenge of scale seems to become the same. You’ll be reliant on a core team to empower a larger network and find a way to create the right balance of consistency and uniqueness across accounts.”
Christopher Motta, vp of digital at communications and marketing firm HL Group, questioned the need for so many accounts at a company like The Vitamin Shoppe. Motta pointed to Starbucks and McDonald’s as companies that started with store-specific Instagram accounts, but have since moved to a singular account representing their global brand.
“It can be a good idea if the local environment is inspiring the content, but not for a major brand or store that is selling the same thing across all stores,” he said. “That’s why brands aren’t doing this.”