Fans, Brands, & Social Media: H-E-B Part II

In Part I, we established that @HEB's Spurs-related tweets seem to garner more attention (i.e. favorites and retweets) than their non-Spurs tweets. This fact suggests that at least some of H-E-B's followers and customers are engaged by social conversations about the Spurs.

But what should excite H-E-B’s marketing team is the earned media they get with their Spurs posts. When H-E-B buys signage in the AT&T Center they can be pretty confident that the patrons attending the game will see it. If the TV cameras pan across those signs, the reach of their signage is extended to the television audience. When H-E-B tweets about the Spurs, they're amplifying their sponsorship visibility outside of their own social-media arena— the audience they’ve built as a following. Spurs tweets, in effect, expand the boundaries of the social-media equivalent of H-E-B's FanZone.

So is H-E-B just a supermarket for sports fans?

The Spurs content seems to work well for H-E-B as social currency. Maybe H-E-B's 166,000+ Twitter followers are just crazy hoops fans? To see if this was the case, we looked at a sample of ~7,300 profile descriptions of Twitter users who follow H-E-B. This analysis shows H-E-B’s immediate social network isn't dominated by self-described Spurs fans1
HEB follower-description wordcloud The word cloud of HEB-follower descriptions is, in part, similar to one you might see from a sample of the English-speaking Twitter population as a whole (people seem to “love” a lot of things these days). However, Texas stands out — unsurprising, given H-E-B is indigenous, and (in the U.S.) endemic to the Lone Star State.2 Texas was also mentioned in two of H-E-B's top five most-engaging tweets. So we decided to take a look at the two in a side-by-side comparison.

While Texas held its own, it's hard to compete with the loyalty of a fan-nation. The mean engagement for Texas-related tweets was just 10 favorites/retweets above that of the H-E-B messages that didn't mention texas or the spurs. Based on our sample, Spurs-related tweets had almost 5 times the engagement of those with shout-outs to the country’s second most-populous state.

There are mitigating factors — H-E-B's Spurs Commercials are notoriously hilarious, and variables, such as time, can certainly make a difference. But the NBA Playoffs offer sponsors like H-E-B a special opportunity to reach basketball fans across social media. After all, there are fewer teams playing. And, based on recent tweets, it looks like H-E-B isn't gonna let this chance pass them by.


  1. The Twitter API currently limits number of followers you can pull to around 8,000. Also note that, of the 7,388 followers pulled, only 3,751 had profiles that included descriptions.

  2. See H-E-B — Our History; since 1997 has also had stores in Mexico.