By Tara Shenson
Ever wonder how some social media pages manage to make success look so easy? It’s often the case that you find yourself on a coffee company‘s Facebook or Twitter page, where they have thousands of fans and “likes” and comments in upwards of 50–100 a day and you think to yourself “How do they manage to do that?”
Well, successful social media strategy is an art form that these SCAA members have perfected. Here, their social media experts share with us below how they have approached the process of using social media to engage their communities and connect with their customers.
Maintaining an Active Community: FairTrade USA (FTUSA)
Fair Trade USA is one of the most ‘liked’ SCAA member non-profits on Facebook. With over 52,000 fans, they have successfully grown their online community and continue to be equally successful in engaging and retaining those active users.
• Q&A with Katie Barrow, PR Manager FairTrade USA •
FTUSA’s Facebook page always has multiple likes and comments on each post; how do you maintain such a high level of engagement?
We are really proud of the daily interactions that take place on our Facebook page and the fact that more than half of our fans are “active users.” This means that they see our posts in their newsfeeds and comment and “like” the posts. We have fostered this engagement by posting fresh, relevant content, along with questions and contests. We have been doing weekly giveaways of Fair Trade Certified products that require users to comment on a post in order to be entered in the contest. This has been a great way to spur interaction and promote our partners’ products at the same time.
How has Facebook directly impacted your ability to promote and successfully establish Fair Trade relationships?
Now that we have developed a fairly robust community on Facebook and Twitter, we have a quick easy way to share updates and new product announcements with our most interested and loyal fans. Everything we post on our blog is then posted on Facebook and Twitter, instantly increasing our blog readership and interaction. We frequently use our audience to support our partners Fair Trade initiatives. They really value our network, as it is one of most effective ways to reach their target audience when promoting new products and programs. And by allowing us to tell the story on our pages, we are able to reinforce the companies’ commitments to the farmers we serve. Speaking of which, some of our most-liked posts are photos and quotes from Fair Trade farmers and workers. These real-time updates help connect our audience to the people they are supporting through Fair Trade. Now we are working on helping farmer organizations create Facebook pages, both as a way to interact with industry and consumers—these pages should start popping up this year!
What advice would you give to other companies or organizations looking to grow a thriving online community?
• I believe that the first step is to join/observe thriving online communities. Seek out well-respected companies and watch how they are using Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. Actually, do more than just watch them, interact with them! This will help you get a feel for how well these companies are monitoring and responding to customers. Many times, their strategies can be replicated and adapted to work for your organization. Ones to watch: Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Virgin America, JetBlue, Whole Foods Market and Fair Trade Certified (of course). Look for companies that have a lot of fans and followers—they must be doing something right!
• During the initial growth stages of your community, it is really important to partner with friendly organizations that already have a good-sized following. For example, we often ask our partners to refer their fans to our social media pages. They are often happy to do so—but make sure you return the favor and suggest their pages to your fans.
• Give your fans a reason to follow you. We did this by holding weekly product giveaways. Satisfied winners have become some of our most active fans!
Customizing Facebook Campaigns: Community Coffee Company
SCAA Member Community Coffee Company leverages Facebook campaigns regularly to reward, inspire and connect with their 97,000 fans. With ongoing campaigns that offer discounts, recipes and even a way to donate coffee to our troops overseas, they are continually finding ways to engage their fans and create page loyalty.
• Q&A with Blair Broussard E-Commerce Social Media Manager, Community Coffee Company •
What has been your most successful Facebook custom promotion?
We’ve succeeded with sweepstakes, contests, trivia, informal research, questions and our latest venture, coupons. Each of these custom promotions is, very simply, a two-way communication between Community Coffee Company and our customer; an ongoing, conversation between the brand and consumers.
Our Military Match Program is a great example of this ongoing conversation. The Military Match program is designed for sending our troops a taste of home; you order four bags of coffee and we match an additional four bags free! (CommunityCoffee.com/MilitaryMatch) We’ve incorporated this into Facebook through photos that the troops send back to us or post onto our page. It’s a great way for everyone to share a cup together and see their coffee being enjoyed overseas.
We’ve also recently posted a video to the page as well, as a local school donated approximately 90 bags of coffee to a troop over the holidays.
What is the benefit of creating a custom experience for your fans?
Creating a custom experience is more than just a sales builder, it’s a relationship builder. Posting simple questions to our wall raises awareness of the brand while deepening our relationship with new and existing customers. Our Facebook followers are very loyal and passionate customers. Most have been drinking our coffee for generations, passing down stories and traditions such as “coffee milk,” a drink made with lots of milk, sugar and a tiny bit of coffee that is given to children.
How have these promotions translated into sales?
The company’s Facebook Page has become a key traffic driver to CommunityCoffee.com’s e-commerce site. It’s become one of our top five new revenue generators
What advice would you give to other companies struggling to connect social activity to sales growth?
Although social media is unchartered territory, do not be intimidated! Social media is about two-way conversations between your business and your customer. There has to be a balance between the types of conversations you have with the consumer. For example, balance promotions with questions, polls, video, pictures and any relevant cultural events (popular sports events, holidays, etc). It’s a fun way to gauge consumers’ attitudes on a variety of topics!
Twitter & Customer Service: Dillanos Coffee Roasters, Inc.
SCAA member Dillanos Coffee Roasters, Inc. enjoys a Twitter following that would make even a few celebrities jealous. Not only are they in the six-digit range of total followers, they also take a very progressive approach to customer service via the social networking site.
• Q&A with David Morris, CEO, Dillanos Coffee Roasters, Inc. •
Describe your company philosophy with regards to connecting with customers through social media, specifically Twitter and how you were able to connect with over 24,000 customers through your company Twitter page:
The Dillanos’ Twitter plans have been going on for a few years; we were definitely early adopters of social media for our business. I think that even more powerful than just our company Twitter has been mine (@coffeemaverick) with more than 120,000 followers and Keith Hayward’s (@dillanos_vp) with nearly 100,000 followers. We also have several employees active on Twitter, with the top five having a combined network of more than 60,000. The way we have amassed good following is by being interesting, helpful and vulnerable. We believe that information in social media coming from an individual with a real personality and not just the company line is a more effective means of generating interest and communication. Social media is about person-to-person contact rather than company-to-person contact
Dillanos has a very progressive approach to customer service using Twitter, in that your entire staff has a company Twitter handle. What prompted you to develop this system, and how has this improved your relationships with customers?
We did this to provide a means of communication between our customers and our customer’s customers. We use our website, our blogs, our Twitter and Facebook, all interchangeable, to direct people from one source of information to the other with the intentional end result being our customer’s awareness of the multi-facets of our company, our customers and people.
Creating your Social Media Identity: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Creating a social media identity that is aligned with your corporate values and drives engagement is a difficult maneuver. However, SCAA Member The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf has arguably mastered this art by creating the kind of conversations on their page that would organically happen between two friends in a coffee shop and thus creating an emotional bond between fan and business.
• Q&A with Cassie Piper, Social Media Coordinator, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf •
Discuss your corporate philosophy with regards to your online persona:
As the Social Media Coordinator for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a very important part of my job is to actively engage with our fans and followers through social media outlets. It is so exciting for me to communicate on behalf of the brand because we are such a fun and friendly company, people actually want to engage with us. It’s been easy to translate the same conversations I would have in-store as a barista and bring them to life online, engaging and building relationships with The Coffee Bean lovers.
Pulling that unique coffee house environment into our Facebook page and on Twitter has helped to maintain the relationships we have with our customers as well as keep in touch with those who have moved out of the area but still want to tweet about our Ice Blendeds or any other topic on their mind. In-store or online, our customers and fans have become our friends and family and our corporate philosophy has always been to treat them this way.
How does your interaction style create engagement with your fans?
Our interaction style has been to create relevant and newsworthy content that we know our fans will care about. We know that our fans love simplicity, the use of imagery, status updates with a bit of spunk that exemplifies a real, down-to-earth barista they could converse with in our stores. We like to have some fun on our page and finding out what engages our fans and what fun is for them has been a daily adventure.
Your page is very successful with over 100k fans; how does that translate into sales?
Our Facebook fans and Twitter following are growing by the hundreds daily. Since the average Facebook user has around 300 friends, their interaction through photos, comments and contests have helped to promote and expand our fan base tremendously proving that each and every fan is an asset for any company.
While the relationship is what matters most to us, having a large amount of fans means a bigger audience to share our message with. From our Open House nights, offering samples of our new Spring Peach tea drinks, or a holiday inspired gift item, we have seen an increase in sales directly correlated to leveraging our social networks to promote the events and products.
What advice would you give to other companies struggling to find their social identity?
Get to know your fans! These are the people that have chosen to accept your messaging and in the most basic sense, they truly are your friends.
This is a social network, so get social! Most of your fans will have already seen the in-store promotions and posters, so think about how to message these materials in a fresh and relevant way that you would want to share with your closest friends.
Build your relationships by keeping the conversation going. When a fan takes time to comment about how great the barista made their drink, you need to take the time to thank them and say it like you mean it. Don’t make this an opportunity to add on a sale, they’re not in the store; they’re at home excited to tell you, their friend, about the great experience.
In order to find inspiration for success online, you often need not look further than the pages that are accomplishing the goals that you are aspiring towards. Social identity, engagement, customized experiences and innovative customer service offerings are all ways to build your online brand and develop emotional connections with your fan base. There are many great examples within our own specialty coffee industry of companies that are successfully leveraging these new tools; take the time to research their pages, understand their unique engagement strategies and look for ways to begin to outline and define what approaches will work best for your business.
Tara Shenson is a marketing and communications professional focused on the digital industry specifically on social media. Prior to joining the SCAA in 2009, she worked as a consultant / designer for numerous online websites and digital start ups within the handmade community as well as at a large Southern California construction company focusing on marketing and executive coordination. Known to her colleagues at the SCAA as the Techie, Tara’s passion for the ever-evolving landscape of online communications and message proliferation is closely followed by her fascination with image development and branding concepts.