Behind The Scones: A Walk Down The Aisles Of Supermarket Twitter
2015 is a Brave New World where University degrees are about as valuable as a bag of chocolate coins and all the good jobs are taken before you’ve even stepped out of the shower. For many people stuck on the conveyor belt of low-paid retail and office work, each greyed-out week bleeds into the next, and the leaden second-hand of the clock only serves to mark the slow metamorphosis into a Dilbert cartoon strip.
But whilst you might’ve been dealt a bad hand, there are some people out there whose passion for their employers is bordering on the hallucinogenic, people whose commitment to their job cannot adequately be shown within the constraints of the working day. For these people, Twitter is more than just a social network, it’s a retail paradise, a thriving eco-system where like-minded workers gather to celebrate standards and drive footfall figures forward.
As is well documented by now, Twitter’s success is largely owed to its amorphous fluidity. As @PeerIndex points out, George Osborne and Rylan both have over 900,000 followers, but only six of them are mutual. In essence, Twitter is more than a single application, its a myriad of self-contained worlds that nestle alongside each-other like frogspawn on a lake. It’s a cultural labyrinth, and one that offers fascinating insights into the psyche of a nation and the networks of people who keep it ticking along.
About a year ago I started a parody account, @areamanagerguy, documenting the daily trials of fictional retail manager Steve Steveson. ‘The suit says respect the salary, the name badge says I’m here to help’ reads the bio.
He’s the guy whose arrival in the staff car-park sends a jolt of panic throughout the entire front-end, the guy in the sensible varifocals and Seiko watch who marches round the shop floor in a state of near-frenzy at the state of the canned fruit POS display.
The guy with head-office on speed-dial and a belt-clipped BlackBerry that’s ready to be whipped from its plastic pouch at the nearest opportunity. In short, he’s the antithesis of your standard-issue overqualified day-dreaming slacker and as such is plumped and prime for ridicule.
In the name of verisimilitude I followed a few Tesco stores to get the gist of the sorts of things they were putting out there. It was retweets of colleagues mostly, so I followed them, and then I followed the other colleagues they retweeted, then more colleagues and so on until I was knee-deep in supermarketese and had a pretty strong overview of Q4 trade figures from Region 32 and beyond.
What’s striking is the tireless positivity of employees and the absolute lack of cynicism that comes across in any of their output.
Instead, Twitter is used as a sort of motivational tool, where mantras to ‘push for standards’ conflate with obtuse retail-jargon to form an almost cult-like digital netherworld that you’d never know existed.
In Supermarket Twitter, the rules are as follows:
Lots of them. A well-maintained loading-bay, a cleared palette of back-stock, Clive from Bakery clutching a fresh loaf. Such images inspire confidence amongst colleagues and promote a sense of shared endeavour.
Disseminate praise nationwide
Supermarket Twitter is awash with praise for a job well done. ‘Superb synergy from the night-team, locked, loaded and ready for trade’, ‘Fantastic effort from the Cardigan team, keep going!’
Use aphorisms wherever possible
If sage advice rolls off the tongue its rolled-out without hesitation across the Twittersphere. ‘If you don’t control the stock, stock controls you’. ‘Cause marketing must become ‘because’ marketing’.
Use company-approved hashtags
With supermarkets now putting pressure on colleagues to become self-facilitating PR gurus, there’s a wave of hashtags designed to aid cohesion and springboard onto trend maps. #MakingMomentsMatter is a popular one, usually accompanying a humbling picture of a well-served customer. The one that really raced from the blocks was when Tesco ‘rolled-out’ their single-entendre slogan #LoveEveryMouthful. This went viral on Supermarket Twitter within minutes, with colleagues up and down the country chipping-in with snapshots of everything from iceberg lettuce to mini-flapjack slices.
From the staff-corridors of Wigan branch to the warehouse chillers in Padiham, Supermarket Twitter takes its audience behind the fabled double-doors and into the realms of the employee, where puzzling sights like this come as standard.
As Twitter’s galactic reach continues to expand, so do the number of microcosmic universes that lend it such depth and character. More than anything, Twitter helps to shed a light on every corner of society and leaves previously gate-kept communities open to nosey visitors. For the employees of Tesco, the good work continues well beyond the remit of those round-the-clock opening hours.