Woolworths embraces social media

Supermarket chain allows Facebook to attract young workers

Getting on the social networking bandwagon was a long time coming for Woolworths Group (ASX:WOW), admits information security manager, Peter Cooper.

The retail giant didn't have a Twitter account until October this year and only recently started a Facebook fan page.

Speaking at the CeBIT IT security conference in Sydney, Cooper said the company's change in tack was prompted by concern over reaching Gen Y and Gen X.

“About six weeks ago we launched an internal social media guideline for staff," he said. "We've been using it informally for business for a long time but we're now considering it more broadly.

"We were concerned about the Gen Y and Gen X perception of Woolworths as an employer if they were not able to access the tools they use to keep in touch with their friends."

Cooper said the balance for Woolworths was making sure employees don’t spend all their time on Facebook.

“It’s a bit of a challenge but we are open to it,” he said.

Along with attracting future employees, the company is also using social media to inform consumers about store openings and weekly specials.

Though with the upsides, social media has its downsides, particularly around data breaches, Cooper says.

To address the risks, Woolworths has moved to make IT policies part of its induction process.

“We spread the message far and wide through different forms of media such as video messages that are delivered to stores," he said. "Every month Woolworths puts a new message up around IT security at our head office in New South Wales.

"I'm a great believer in delivering the message in person so I'm regularly tasked with talking about personal responsibility.”

Cooper said his team are all tasked with delivering the awareness message to different people.

“We're in front of people in our organisation once a month. We have some particular messages that we repeat but we also try to use case studies to reinforce things such as VirginBlue and NAB.”

According to Cooper, he picks out stories in the press that people relate to.

“It reinforces the security message and might be a call to action for some staff,” he said.

The move to social media follows an announcement in August that the company was embarking on an IT transformation.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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