Engaging, essential social media from the UK’s supermarkets

To ‘gram or not to ‘gram may not be the most pertinent question at the moment, but it's certainly one we are getting asked a lot. There’s no rule book for a situation like this, though some crisis communications guidelines may help you. All businesses are finding their feet with what they should and shouldn’t be communicating at the moment. Everyone is trying to keep their heads above water, but what’s a brand to do when your 20% off partywear sale communication plan is necessary to you, but no longer relevant to customers at best, and potentially inappropriate, crass and brand damaging at worst?

The UK’s supermarkets and their staff are really coming through for the public at the moment. They are also nailing their social media output. We’ve taken a look at Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury's and ASDA to demonstrate how they’ve tailored their social media communication since the UK introduced formal social distancing measures.

Using this insight will help all retailers whether they are essential or not, pay attention to the kind of content that is working and the kind they might want to reshare.

The essential message

Across the board all the supermarkets ceased publishing any marketing content from mid March 2020. The occasional recipe idea for children to make at home may have appeared but the consistent focus has been on communicating:

  • Measures to combat bulk and panic buying
  • Revised opening times
  • Access for key workers and the vulnerable
  • Online delivery availability
  • Job openings
  • In-store social distancing measures
  • What they are doing to meet demand
  • Customer service responses


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A few changes we're making to help those in the NHS.

A post shared by Waitrose & Partners (@waitroseandpartners) on

The Maybe* What’s being said report for ASDA, Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsburys through mid to late March detailing the most common phrases appearing in social media content created by the supermarkets

Activity and enagagement 

All four of the Supermarkets have posted on average once per day to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Messages across all three platforms have been consistent. In addition to their own posts, all 4 supermarkets have continued to handle customer service enquiries which have been well into the 1000s every day.

The Maybe* See what works reportfor ASDA, Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsburys March 17 - March 2020 showing the number of social media posts and engagement with them for each supermarket.

Learning from this

Businesses could be using this time to support one another and collaborate rather than appear overly competitive. Maybe* helps you listen to other retailers so you can learn from their approach and engage with them. At the moment staying connected to customers is the right thing to do to stay afloat, but if a business is a non essential service prioritising communicating service messages over marketing is the smart thing to do short term.

Detail what you are doing to keep serving customers, or anything you are doing to support essential retailers and what measures you are taking to protect your workforce physically and financially.

Maybe* is providing free business resources and webinars to support you during this time. Check out our COVID-19  help centre for tips on staying connected via social media, and managing your business remotely. Sign up to Maybe* and stay connected to your customers on social media. 

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