This is a post from my company, SocialMedia.org’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.
We sat down with Whole Foods Market Director of Social Media Natanya Anderson for this member profile. We’re glad to have smart, generous members like Natanya, who has presented her best practices at both our Member Meeting in the Bay Area and our first ever Brands-Only Summit in Orlando.
At SocialMedia.org, we’ve noticed a pattern: A lot of our members have had diverse and interesting paths to their careers as social media executives at big brands. For example, Natanya Anderson, Whole Foods Market’s Director of Social Media, earned a college degree in Latin, taught middle school, and wrote about a dozen books on XML and HTML before she started managing social communities.
Natanya admits, “My path wasn’t particularly direct.”
With 10 years at Powered, a social business consultancy, Natanya earned some deep tech experience and eventually worked her way to the VP of Content.
She says, “At Powered, we were doing social media and communities long before it had a name. We were in the early stages of content marketing and trying to engage with customers around content that mattered to them. We looked at how you create communities around that long before Facebook ever existed.”
After all that time in the tech world, Natanya was ready for a change.
When she saw an opening at Whole Foods Market, Natanya knew she would fit right in.
“I was a food blogger. I’ve always had a passion for food,” she says, “I had worked agency side for a long time, and it was a good time for me to jump to the brand side.”
And as Natanya would find, making that transition came with a few surprises. Working with an agency gave her an opportunity to see a wide variety of what different companies were doing in social media. But as a part of a brand, it’s harder to get those different perspectives.
“It’s very easy to become immersed in your brand’s work. And that’s become one of my biggest challenges: making a commitment to pay attention to what others are doing,” Natanya explains.
She explains how Whole Foods integrated local social programs with brand-wide strategies.
With 604 social media accounts, both local and national, Natanya and her team have their hands full. She says a typical day as Whole Foods Market’s Director of Social Media is spent integrating what’s happening in their stores with nation-wide social campaigns.
She explains, “When I first came to Whole Foods, a lot of the stores felt like they were alone in social. Our team was pretty small and focused on our national channel. But now, we’re so focused on supporting our regions and local stores that we get multiple calls and questions from them daily, because they know we’re here for them.”
Natanya’s team is all about being there for the local stores.
She says they’re proud social has become a resource for their local stores, a goal they’ve been looking forward to reaching. Something else she’s excited about: becoming a resource for their customers, too.
“The thing that I love the most is how we get to connect with our customers online. We have a substantial online customer service function. Certainly, while we field complaints, we love helping folks. The connection that we have with our customers and how we really help them meet their personal goals is so satisfying. That’s not fluffy. That’s about how we can help.”
As a Director of Social Media at a huge company, like many social media executives, Natanya gets a lot of attention.
She says she’s inspired by a former colleague from Powered, Aaron Strout of WCG, who didn’t let that attention go to his head when he was in a similar position.
“He’s so authentic and real in a time when it’s easy to not be those things. Aaron created a template for me about how to have a personality in social and do it right,” she explains.
She says, “They taught me a lot about how to articulate social business strategies and how to think about it differently.”
Currently, someone else gives her social strategies inspiration — her teenage daughter.
Natanya says she’s learning a lot from observing how young social media users are using Instagram and visually focused communication.
“I think we all know that visual is very important. But I really believe that social communications are changing significantly such that visuals are the center and words are the support or decoration. I’m excited about that because I’m at a lifestyle brand. Photos are our friends.”
She says that looking forward, it will be interesting to see how communication styles have changed with this new focus on visuals and to figure out what it means to communicate emotion that you sometimes can’t articulate with words.
Say hi to Natanya on Twitter and ask about which new Austin restaurant or food truck she’s excited about now.