Walgreens Case Study – Humanizing Social Business

humanizing social businessWhen was the last time a big national brand made you feel special via the social waves? Are we starting to lose the hope we once had in social media of humanizing brands? The hope of the brand coming out from behind the logo and showing they care and want to connect with real people? The possibility of them actually demonstrating their brand promise via social media versus just plaster the words on their Facebook page?

Are some brands falling prey to traditional mass marketing methods that are simply masked with a coat of new red paint and marked with a K+ and called social media? Are some fooling themselves into thinking they are engaging by leveraging only automated tweets, retweets, and direct messages?

Yes, I do believe some brands are falling pray to the shiny new coat of paint. However, there are few shiny gems that still stand out. You know the ones. The ones that a tweet from them makes you smile. They tweet, respond and engage like real human beings. You almost forget for a moment that you are talking and conversing with a logo.

The purpose of this post is to share a case study of a fun brand experience I had with Walgreens. They did many things right in my book and I can't help but let others learn from their success. I encourage you to check them out, follow them and learn from them. You can connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and their website which is filled with tips for health and even holiday photo sharing!

Walgreens Social Business Case Study:

The Scenario:
Timing: Day before Thanksgiving, 6:00 pm (ish)
Location: Walgreens store and Twitter
What happened? Walgreens engaged and inspired like a humanized brand.
Result: They made my day and won over a fan for life! It inspired me enough that I am now evangelizing on their behalf and sharing with you! Chances are a percentage of those who read this will also tell someone else.
How they did it: Social listening, integrated marketing, engagement and more.

The story…

A few weeks ago I paid an early evening visit to our local Walgreens store. Our family has spent more time there this early winter season than we would like to given it's flu season and a few other medical happenings.

My 11 year old son was with me. He had big plans of selling mom on a nice gift set from Axe. He had received a small bottle of hair gel as a Klout perk via his mom (me.) He had seen the gift set several times while visiting Walgreens the prior two weeks with his dad.

He had his sales tactics all worked out. Immediately after we dropped off the prescription he invited me to come check something out with him. He showed me the great deal on the Axe set and was prepared with a summary and breakdown of savings and the amount of extra ounces of each bottle in the set.

axe walgreens social media case studyHis tactics cracked me up. I was feeling a bit giddy after being sick, shacked up in the house and headed into a Holiday weekend. I took a photo of the Axe set, uploaded the pic and sent a tweet via TwitPic and copied both Walgreens and Axe informing them I was being sold to by my son. You can see the photo, tweet and TwitPic photo here: http://www.twitpic.com/7fzeq2

Before I left Walgreens I received a tweet from them. They giggled with me and asked a few questions. They were interested in what set it was and engaged with me like a real human being would. Over the course of the next few days Walgreens and I twitter twattered back and forth. Given I was not feeling well they really did make my day that afternoon at Walgreens. It was nice to know they were listening and took the time to respond to me and my son as human beings.

After a week or so they sent me a DM and asked for me to send them an email as they had something they wanted to ask me. We traded some DMs and email messages. They asked for my address and stated they wanted to send me something. I had no problem providing them my address as they had earned my trust, my friendship.

Within a week I received Fedex package in the mail from my new friends at Walgreens. I opened it up and what should appear? A nice envelope sized as a personal Holiday card. It was felt more personal than business. It felt like a friend sending me a card.

Within the envelope was the following:

walgreens photo gift card social business case study 1. Walgreens Gift card for $20 to be used at their Photo department.

2. Coupon code WAGCARDS which entitles me and and all of my followers (including you) to receive a 30% discount on 5×7 photo cards at Walgreens thru December 10th.

3. Even better is also the opportunity for me to pass the opportunity along to two of my Twitter friends. I can share the offer with two friends and they will get to pass it on to their friends as well.

4. The card was signed by “The Social Media Team at Walgreens :)”

5. Included was directions on what I should do next. They even included the exact text I should write in my tweet to invite two friends.

It read: Not only are we giving you a gift card and a promo card, but we also want to treat your friends. Tweet to TWO friends of your choice with the following message: 

“I want to give a @Walgreens gift cart to @______ (insert their Twitter uername in the blank)”. 
Wow, I was blown away. What great simple but effective marketing!

walgreens social media case studyWhat they did right:

1. They were doing social listening and proactively responded to my tweet.

2. They engaged and communicated like human beings.

3. They were agile. They are obviously working to be a social business. They were able to respond quickly with an integrated campaign and offer.

4. It was part of an integrated campaign leveraging in store offers and products, online social media and customer service or marketing team engaging with real people.

5. They offered me something of value. They helped me meet a personal goal and even put some good pressure on me to get my holiday cards out this weekend!

6. They told me exactly what to do, what to say in the tweet and what the benefit would be if I did such.

It just so happens that the day prior my husband and I were discussing the need for us to print off some of our digital holiday photos and send to out of state family and friends. Walgreens made that a bit easier and is now helping me achieve a personal goal in providing my friends and family with photos in time for the Holiday!

 Why is this good?

I mentioned above that I had received a Klout perk a few months back from Axe. However, Axe did nothing to engage with me or help me engage with them. Although I assumed their Twitter handle was @Axe, a card from the Klout perks program or Axe confirming such would have helped me consider tweeting or sharing my experience.

I was never inspired by the sample bottle of Axe in the mail to take a picture, to send a tweet. Why you ask? Because I felt like a number. I knew they had simply sent me the perk as they identified me as influencer via my Klout score. There was nothing really human about it. It was the red paint scenario.

Walgreens on the other hand took the time to engage with me like a real person. Yes, they may have similar objectives as Axe. They may want me to tweet, write this blog post and share my joy with you.

The big difference is with Walgreens I was inspired to do such! They inspired me to tweet about it, record a video of the story and write this post all in less than 24 hours of receiving the package in the mail.

What are you doing to inspire your audiences to connect with you? My belief is we must inspire our audiences to connect with us with a goal of helping them achieve life and/or business objectives. By helping our clients, partners and community satisfy their goals and objectives, as a default we achieve ours. Inspire – Connect – Achieve.

Thank you Walgreens for making my day. Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge I am more than a number, more than an address. Thanks for taking a path with more ruts and tredging the way to be a humanized social business and as a result  inspiring other businesses to do the same.

Looks like Walgreens is going to join us soon as a guest on the #GetRealChat I host every Tuesday night 9pm et. They will share more of their social business strategies we can all learn from.

Don't do social, be social!

Video: Walgreens Case Study – Humanizing Social Business 

Your Turn

What are your thoughts? What brands do you know that are making real efforts and seeing success at becoming a social business. Is becoming a social business a goal for you in 2012? How do you plan to do such?


 35 Social Media Truths

This post is part of a series on social business I am working on “35 Social Media Truths” inspired by keynote presentation I gave at Rochester Institute of  Technology. If you want to hear more, sign up for the 35 Social Media Truths Newsletter and you will receive all 35 of them over a period of time. Included will be different mediums such as video, blog posts and more.

Related Articles: 

Slow Down to Speed Up  

People Don't Buy Things, They Join Things

 Be Your Own Social Duck by Implementing with Results

 46 Tips to Show Up at the Right Field in the Social Business Game

 CEO Wants Klout: Days of Our Social Business (includes video)

41 Signs You are Not a Social Business  

 Are You Ready to be a Social Business? 10 Tips for a Zoom Start

Social Trust Factor: 10 Tips to Establish Credibility 



About the Author:

CEO / Founder Marketing Nutz, full service social media, digital marketing, experiential brand, conversion optimization agency. Ranked by Forbes as Top 10 Social Media Women and 10 Social Media Power Influencer. Keynote speaker, author, strategist, consultant, coach, & trainer. Helps businesses of all sizes integrate social media into the DNA of their business, connect with target audiences to nurture authentic customer relationships. 15+ years experience working with Fortune 500, Franchised corporations with 4000+ local franchises to entrepreneurs and startups.


  1. loiscreamer December 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    What a great post! I’m now more of a fan than ever of Walgreens! This story was a cautionary tale of two brands, Walgreens and Axe. It’s not hard to figure out who made the best impression! Thanks for sharing Pam!

  2. MZazeela December 8, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Pam, this is a really cool story. Walgreens was able to stand out from the clutter of all of the other digital stuff that we are bombarded with. It seems that we are losing our humanity and that is not a real and comfortable feeling. Walgreens recognize that and capitalized.

    There is a huge difference between constant broadcasting and really interacting. Regardless the tech advances, we are still humans will be for at least a little while longer. We still crave interaction and we are still tactile.

    Did it take more effort on their part? Sure. Was it more costly? Definitely. Was it worth their while? It would seem so!

    I am a huge proponent of human interaction in business. Thanks for making me feel that I am still relevant.


  3. lpinner December 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    These stories are so cool. I just wrote a post about my experience with @yastdotcom. (http://www.internetpresencemarketing.com/why-yast-com-gets-social-media/) There’s a lot of social media misuse out there, so I’m excited to see others highlighting and directly rewarding people who get it right. I will be writing another one about Sears soon. Thanks for sharing your good experience! I’m new to your blog – look forward to sharing more!

  4. geekbabe December 11, 2011 at 11:16 am

    I love Walgreen’s & your experience with them on Twitter just solidifies that good feeling I have for them. What brand do I feel has really stepped to the plate to improve their interactions with consumers? Samsung hands down! They’ve stopped broadcasting & started actively engaging on all of their twitter accounts, I can ask a question and get a speedy, pleasant answer in no time.

    Thanks for this great post, bloggers roast brands when they get it wrong, it’s important to praise brands who get it right!

  5. Brittany at Sprout Social December 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Great example of a brand taking advantage of the opportunity to connect with a customer! Walgreens did a wonderful job listening, reaching out, and acting upon an online mention. It’s great to see a brand ‘get’ social media!

  6. SirousKavehercy December 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    A great example! Many thanks for sharing this.

    To be a social business you don’t need a complex social media strategy, but common sense. You simply need to respond and act as if you were personally communicating with the customer and that is exactly what Walgreens did in your case.

  7. LHInsights January 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I don’ understand why brands can’t understand small human sentiments. even brands are run by humans and they fail to think alike. Here is a case that is provided by you that how small things can help and turn customers into brand ambassadors. a small card, a small pleasant thank you can also help. no body is always looking for discount coupons. I hope more brands try to get these simple things right. thanks for your thoughts Pam 🙂

  8. COWait January 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    My only question is, did they do a seach on you before replying. Knowing that you’re all about social media engagement, was this an exception? I’d like to know how many “non-markerters” have benefitted in this same way.

    It’s a lovely story, I’m sorry to be the sceptic….but very interested and hopeful to hear positive stories from others!!

  9. Josh Moore January 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Stoked! This will be a great conversation….

  10. Pam Moore January 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Yup, the rocked it! What an inspiring story of the power of a small yet agile, passionate and focused team!

  11. armentisteve January 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Great story, I’ve had similar experiences but what I really think set yours apart is the extended engagement on Twitter, and then going as far to send you a gift card! Way cool on Walgreen’s part, kudos to them.

  12. […] care. Walgreens Social Care is just another example of how we’re helping customers by humanizing social media. With more of our customers choosing social media as the first place to turn for connecting with a […]

  13. prem_k October 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

    While it is good to note that brands are making a sincere effort to humanize themselves and Walgreens has joined the ranks of so many other companies that send goodies to people with some social media clout (sic), also called influencers, and have added on the coupons to the mix, this use case if not implemented right can blow in the face and lead to further discrimination of the customers. And then there is the aspect of scaling this whole stuff about humanizing brands.

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