I am more of a Paul Bunyan or John Henry fan myself, but we cannot deny that we live in the age of digital communication and Social Media is the new ‘word of mouth’. You can keep swinging that heavy axe of handing out flyers, dropping coupons in people’s shopping bags, and sending direct mailers, or you can admit to the decade we’re in, belly up, and start competing at the same level as everyone else.
Social Media is a necessary aspect of every business, especially start-ups focusing on locally driven retail. It is one of the most inexpensive marketing plans possible with undeniable results. The only problem is, you have to actually do it! Like hitting the gym or taking a vitamin, you have to actively update at least one of your social channels each day to have any effect.
I know this sounds daunting, especially to the anti-social misanthropes that would much rather take comfort in the solitude of their drum roaster or basement kitchen. The truth is, Facebook and Twitter are your customers’ guilty pleasures, little indulgent snacks to keep them going through their workday. And if they are not indulging in your pages and updates, they will be indulging in your competitors’.
The idea is to give a behind the scenes, “insider” look into your business, with each social media outlet allowing for varying levels of formality. For instance, Facebook and Twitter would be your most casual and candid outlets, great for fun off-topic posts that shed light on the personality behind your business. Where as your blog (if you choose to have one) should be more content heavy and appropriate to your company’s message, giving customers more insight into your business than what might be available on your website. Direct marketing emails are a must and should be the most focused and professional of all your customer communication. See them as an opportunity to actually promote your business the old fashioned way, through sales, new product announcements and the like– remembering to always have a call to action.
In the end, if you still are not having fun with it, then you should hire or assign someone that will because consistency is the key to social media success!
First, start your accounts. Begin with a Facebook page, it is easy and will connect you to the largest audience. Then, when you are feeling more enthusiastic, turn to twitter. It is quick and easy, but requires constant activity for success. Read up on it so you get the most from your tweets and are less likely to abandon it. When you are ready to get creative, look into establishing an email marketing campaign that will drive traffic to your website or blog. Set achievable goals so you do not get overwhelmed. It is like gardening— start with tomatoes and herbs, because they are easy and gratifying.
Now that your profiles are set up, hopefully your narcissistic instincts will take over and you will not be able to take your eyes off your beautiful home or profile page. With great narcissism comes great sharing! If you are still having trouble starting, sit down once a week to outline a few Facebook posts in advance, as well as a blog topic or two. This exercise should help you get over writers block and make posting every few days easy. Once you have your planned posts, you will start getting more comfortable with the task and find that you actually have lots to share with your customers, even on a daily basis!
I was resistant to the idea of instant connectivity when I started as well, but then it got fun! I was sharing favorites spots around town, reposting articles that I enjoyed and interacting with people I never would have been in contact with otherwise. What’s more, I started offering the service to my F+B Therapy client base, including Grace Hightower & The Coffees of Rwanda. I jumped at the chance to develop their social media presence, because Coffee of Grace has a great story to tell, which makes it all the more interesting to share.
With this in mind, consider your company’s story and what it is that you would like to communicate to your customers. Not just promos and daily activities, but what your company stands for and why you do what you do.
At F+B Therapy, I have always had a diverse offering. From my 12 years experience in coffee to my 9 years of filmmaking and writing, social media has been a great way to integrate all my passions and talents into a focused effort for my own business and for my clients. I try to share my love of food, beverage, and the service industry. I also want business owners to know they are not alone, so I offer free tips on improving their businesses. These are all brand-building activities that come from an honest place.
So, be honest about your own passions, get out there, and start writing your own story! The first step is, Just. To. Start!
Jake Leonti is a writer and food + beverage advisor working in New York City. He has worked in the food + beverage industry for over 12 years. His true focus is coffee, having worked in every capacity from barista to sales to roaster to origin. Jake has built retail coffee programs for restaurants, hotels, cafes and bakeries, as well as wholesale programs for roasters and catering companies.