Need a Road Map for Your Social Media?
Whether you’re just starting out on your food or drink business journey or if yours is an established business, you’ll be aware that social media is becoming an increasingly important marketing tool.
But, there are a bewildering number of social media platforms out there, each of which continually evolves. You’ll surely have asked yourself many of the following questions:
- How to keep up to speed?
- Which platforms should I be on?
- What should I share?
- What should my tone of voice be?
- How can I be as efficient as possible on social media?
- How can I get my products out there without spamming, irritating or boring followers?
- How can I build a community?
- Heck, where should I even start?
Sounds like a road map for your social media marketing would be useful for you.
Top Social Media Tips from Avocado Social for Food and Drink Businesses
In this episode of the show you’ll hear a wealth of tips for running your social media channels from Alison Battisby, founder and MD of Avocado Social.
Avocado Social runs social media training courses and also offers social media management services. Alison has worked in social media marketing for over seven years and has particular expertise in food and drink.
Get Inspiration from Avocado Social’s Coaching of a (Fictitious) Goats’ Cheese Company
Alison generously agreed to do a social media coaching session in this episode. On the show, I take on the guise of an organic goats’ cheese producer who wants to get more out of social media but who is feeling overwhelmed and confused by the number of channels out there. (Check out some key facts about this fictitious organic goats’ cheese company underneath the player, below).
This episode provides you with actionable tips because Alison tailors her ideas so they are specific to your business activities, for example, to food and drink shows, farmers’ markets, product production, food and drink retail customers and online food and drink sales.
Click on the Player Below to Listen to the Show
Get the Show Transcript
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Ep #23: Avocado Social: A Social Media Road Map for Food and Drink Businesses.
You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
Key Facts about The Organic Goats’ Cheese Company
Remember, this company is fictitious; on the show, I am pretending to be this producer.
- I’ve been trading for about two years, and I have a herd of goats, which I farm organically on my own farm.
- I make four cheeses, a soft blue, a soft plain, and aged hard, and a fresh cheese in the shape of a log.
- I supply independents like farm shops and delis and also sell at large food festivals.
- I’ve just secured a substantial contract to supply Booths, a high end but small chain of supermarkets.
- I raised a lot of cash on Kickstarter because I need to extend my dairy and also my cheese storage facility.
- I’m in the process of having a new website built, and a key element of that will be a new e-commerce facility because I want to start selling online.
- I want to get my story out and talk about my points of difference, not least because I will soon be competing with some major players on the supermarket shelf. I am going for growth and therefore, getting more sales is critical.
- I ask Alison for help with my social media marketing.
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Key Elements of a Social Media Road Map
During this episode Alison describes the key elements of a solid social media market strategy, which you can see in the chart below.
Really Sound Bites from Avocado Social
Check out the chart below for direct quotes from Alison Battisby during the show.
Links Mentioned in the Show
- Avocado Social
- Harvest Digital
- Jimmy’s Iced Coffee
- Pip & Nut
- Poco Gelato
- The World Cheese Awards
- The Ludlow Food ad Drink Festival
- The Abergavenny Food Festival
- If This Then That
- Sprout Social
Thanks for Listening
Thanks for listening to the show. If you are a food or drink producer who would like to come on the show (it’s free) to talk about your products, or if you are an industry professional who would like to talk about your services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by using the Contact Form on this website or by tweeting me @FoodDrinkShow.
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Transcript of the Show
Catherine: Hello, and welcome to episode 23 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their brand story and share the secrets of their success. I’m your host, Catherine Moran.
Today’s show features Alison Battisby, founder and MD of Avocado Social, a social media consultancy that specialises in social media training courses and social media management services. Alison has a keen personal interest in food and drink and has worked with food and drink brands, big and small.
One of the courses Alison runs is “Start Up Coaching”, one-to-one coaching for early stage business owners who want to get their social media off to a flying start by developing a solid strategy that will grow their online community and increase their influence in the noisy online world.
And this brings me to the subject of my conversation today with Alison. Alison has generously agreed to do a coaching or, more correctly, social media training session with me. I have taken on the guise of a goats’ cheese producer who is feeling confused and overwhelmed by all the social media platforms out there.
So, in this episode, Alison takes me through key questions I should be asking myself about my social media marketing strategy.
She describes pitfalls I should watch out for, and gives a host of practical, actionable tips that will help me to make the most out of the various social media tools available and grow my online reach.
I think you’ll find this virtual training session useful for your own social media. Even if you are a seasoned pro, there are several great ideas here specifically for any person running an artisan food or drink business.
Let’s now listen to my conversation with Alison.
My guest on today’s show is Alison Battisby who is Founder and Managing Director of Avocado Social, a social media consultancy that offers training courses and social media management services to businesses of all sizes, from start ups to multinationals. Avocado Social has a particular expertise in the food and drink sectors.
Welcome to the Artisan Food and Drink Business Show, Alison. Thank you very much for coming on the show today.
Alison: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Catherine: It’s my pleasure as well. Today, we’re actually going to do something a little bit different, and perhaps, it’s fair to call it maybe a coaching session. I am saying that because what I am going to do is I am going to pretend that I am a goats’ cheese producer with a young and growing business, and I am feeling increasingly confused and overwhelmed by social media.
Alison, you have very kindly agreed to give me, as the fictional goats’ cheese producer, some pointers and some advice on the approaches that I could take for managing my social media accounts. It’s going to be very interesting.
Alison: It will. It will, yes.
Catherine: Before we dive into our virtual consultation, would you mind giving us little background about what you did before you set up Avocado Social?
Alison: Of course. I moved to London back in 2008 hoping to become a journalist for a national newspaper. Unfortunately, it was the year the recession hit, and it was very, very difficult to get a job in journalism. I turned to Twitter and also Facebook to start marketing my freelance services as a journalist. From that, I just fell completely in love with Twitter as a platform and the accessibility to talk to anybody that you could talk to. I was talking to journalists, I was talking to other experts, and celebrities, and professionals in their fields through Twitter, and I just loved the accessibility.
From that, I noticed that an agency in Soho in London was advertising for a new social media executive position. I thought that sounds fantastic. I went and worked for this agency in Soho called Harvest Digital, and that big client was Tesco. This was 2009 time when lots of brands were starting to get interested in social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter being the main ones, and starting to question what is it that these platforms enable and also, should we be using the platforms? Over a year or so of talking to the board of Tesco, we ultimately convinced them that they should have a Facebook page. When I had launched it for them, they …
Catherine: It took a year for them to decide that?
Alison: Yeah. I can understand. They were feeling very nervous about it and also wondering whether or not it was appropriate for them to have a Facebook page which now, when you look at Tesco on Facebook and you look at all the other brands on Facebook, it’s quite hard to believe that a big company like that were so questioning of the platforms.
We launched it for them and luckily, it was a huge success and drove hundreds and thousands of fans overnight. If you look at that page now, you know they’ve got millions of people that like their Facebook page, and it’s just been a huge success for them. When you look at other brands and how they’re now using Facebook, and Twitter, and other platforms like Instagram as well, it’s just such a huge part of their marketing. It’s almost impossible to imagine them not being on Facebook and Twitter.
Catherine: It’s moved from being, “Should we go on to this?” to now “It’s absolutely fundamental to our marketing efforts.”
Alison: Exactly, exactly. I was working at Harvest Digital, working with clients like Tesco, and various other smaller charities. I went on to work or another agency where I was handling campaigns for Pringles. Also, I did some work for Nokia and Land Rover whilst I was there as well.
Around that time, I was starting to get asked by a lot of small businesses and also entrepreneurs that I just happened to know… asking me for advice, consultations, social media training sessions. I thought, “You know what? I could probably make a go of this by myself.” I decided to set up my own business.
Catherine: Wonderful, yeah. Be your own boss.
Alison: Exactly. That’s the early stages of Avocado Social but it took me another two years of freelancing before I had the guts to actually go and do it, and also the time.
Catherine: Yeah, a scary thing actually striking out on your own but it sounds like you had a great grounding in the services and the sorts of things that you’d be offering in your business?
Alison: Yeah, I felt confident that I had the contacts and also the knowledge that I needed to go out alone by that point when I did do it.
Catherine: Yeah, because you offer training services, don’t you?
Alison: I offer a blend of strategy and training. I also do training sessions, from public workshops where there might be ten people from different businesses in the room, all coming to learn about social media. Or it could be where I’m going into a company and giving them a bespoke session that’s really tailored to their needs, and also could include lots of examples from their own industry.
I do that kind of training and I also do quite a bit of one-to-one coaching as well because I feel like there’s still so many businesses or business owners that still aren’t very sure about some of the basics in social media because it’s not taught in schools. It’s not something that we all immediately can pick up. Sometimes, people do need a bit of a coaching session, a bit of an overview for platform before they can really get their heads around it.
Catherine: Yeah, and that’s what we’ll be doing in a couple of minutes or so. Before we do that, I am fascinated to know, as a social media expert, what two food or drink companies do you most admire for their approach to social media?
Alison: That’s a good question because there’s just so many using social media at the moment, and I love discovering new brands through Twitter and Instagram particularly, and looking at their stories through their photographs and through their tweets to really get my head around and really understand their personality as a business.
The two that I would probably pick — and I regularly cite the first one as a great example of a brand that’s really embraced social media. The company is Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, an iced coffee company based in Christchurch in Devon.
The story behind Jimmy’s is fantastic because Jimmy himself went traveling around Australia, got addicted to iced coffee, and when he came back to the UK realised that there wasn’t really anyone packaging it up and selling it in the supermarkets. That’s where the idea of the brand came from, and he’s really embraced Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram. He has an audience of over 50,000 people on social media now, and he credits the growth of his business to social media. I think they’re about four or five years old now.
Catherine: Still relatively young.
Alison: Still relatively young, exactly. I think they’ve just announced in the last few months that they’re now stocking at most of the UK supermarkets. You’ll probably be able to see them in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s. I know they’re in Booths and BP stations as well. They’re slowly infiltrating. One of the key things that they did from day one in social media is they really allowed their customers to drive the key marketing decisions through social media.
For example, when they were first coming out with that packaging, they asked their customers, “Do you prefer our blue packaging or our red packaging?” The customers on Facebook decided. They also did this recently. Before the beginning of the summer, I saw them tweeting, “Which UK festivals should we be sampling at this summer?” They’re really asking their community to make those decisions for them, which in turn empowers the community and almost makes you feel like you have a part of a say in the business. I know I’ve been following them for a couple of years now, and I definitely feel like one of their fan club or one of their tribe. That’s through some of the posts that they’re doing in social media.
Catherine: It’s a very clever approach because not only are they bringing the customers in but they are finding out the needs and the desires of the customers directly. There’s nothing like asking the customers, “What do you want?” or “What do you prefer?” It’s a nice double-edged sword, isn’t it?
Alison: Yeah, exactly. Definitely. To me, that’s the beauty of social media. That’s why it exists — to give you one-to-one conversation with somebody whether that’s a brand or another person.
Catherine: Right, yeah.
Alison: The second brand that I also think are doing a really nice job in social media is a relatively new company. They’re a peanut butter manufacturer called Pip & Nut. They are taking London by storm at the moment. Particularly over the summer, they just seemed to have been sampling everywhere, but they’re very targeted with where they do their sampling.
Because they’re a peanut butter, they have a particular focus on the health industry¸ particularly people who are runners or like to do a lot of exercise who need quick burst of energy, and they have these wonderful sachets which you can just take on a run or you could perhaps have it after a gym workout or after a yoga session just to give you a boost of energy.
They’ve been tying up with other key brands such as Nike and some top gyms around London, and sampling at those events, but the reason I think they’re doing a great job in social media is because, again, they offer rewards for their customers but this time, it comes with discount cards and also competitions. They don’t do them all the time, which I think is the key thing to note. They’re more as and when. You don’t know when they’re going to come. They take you more by surprise.
Also, I just really like the language they use on social media. Because they’re a peanut butter company, they do a lot of playing on words. They talk to their customers and they refer to them as squirrels, and they talk about their head office as the nest, and they often encourage their squirrels to go out foraging for some lovely treats over the weekend such as peanut butter, and I just really like the tone of voice that they use, and it’s very consistent across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well.
Catherine: It’s a light-hearted, fun approach.
Alison: It is.
Catherine: They’re not taking it too seriously.
Alison: Exactly, exactly. I think it’s just a fun place to go in social media.
Catherine: Yeah. That approach reminds me a little bit of another company. They’re based on the south coast in Leigh-on-Sea, I think. They’re called Poco Gelato. I think that’s how you pronounce it, Poco Gelato. I follow them on Twitter, and I find them immensely witty, and not just funny but witty.
I think they do a great job of getting their brand or the key messages about their products across without just constantly saying, “Hey, come and buy our ice cream,” or “Here’s a specialty. Come and get it now. Buy this now. Buy that now,” but it’s much more … I don’t know. It’s much more of a thoughtful approach to getting your attention, and they do this by using humour and empathy. I think they have a wonderful Twitter account but it just reminded me of them because you’re talking about tone of voice, which is incredibly important, isn’t it, on social media?
Alison: Definitely. You’re right. You wouldn’t really want to go and just follow a brand that was just really about themselves all the time. There’s got to be some storytelling behind this and some reason for you to want to keep going back and seeing what they’re up to, whether that’s the humour or whether it is just a nice tone of voice that really appeals to you that you almost want to go and see just what they’re up to, to have a good read of the company, and what their ethos is, and what they’re about, through social media.
Catherine: Talking about ethos, what do you think your ethos or philosophy about social media is? In other words, what is your social media philosophy?
Alison: That’s a good question because it’s constantly evolving, and I think that’s very true for anything in the social media landscape. Although I’ve been working in the industry coming up to seven years now, it’s changing constantly. A couple of years ago, it was all about having good photographs and imagery. Now it’s increasingly becoming about video content. Stripping it back, I think really, and I’ve mentioned it already, but my philosophy is around telling a good story through social media.
I think you’ve got to remember that social media isn’t just another sales channel. It’s not somewhere where you can ram messages down your customer’s throat. It’s more about telling a good story that’s shareable that people will want to empathise with or engage with. They’ll talk about it with their friends as well. “Did you see that on Facebook yesterday?” or “I read this on Twitter. It was really interesting.”
That’s really what you’ve got to tap into, which can sometimes be the tricky part but I think with food and drink businesses, there’s so much scope for some really interesting and wonderful content that can really show off your brand personality as well. I think in a nutshell, storytelling that shows off your brand personality would be my philosophy with social media.
Catherine: That’s the storytelling of your brand?
Alison: Yeah. Telling your story, whether that’s what’s happening today or the story of how your brand was created. It’s all relevant in social media because people will want to engage with something that’s happening of interest within their favourite brands or brands that they identify with. Yeah, I think there’s definitely scope for coming up with different stories whether they’re relating to things you’re going to be doing in the future, the present, or things that you’ve done in the past, but it’s about telling a story really, really well through social media.
Catherine: Should we move on to our fictional goats’ cheese company? And I’ve just called this company The Organic Goats’ Cheese Company. Very unimaginative name but it does what it says on the tin.
Alison: It does what it says, exactly.
Catherine: Should we go for that? I’ll just give you a few pointers, facts, key facts about the business first, and then tell you my current situation, and where I feel I’m at.
I’ve been trading for about two years, and I have a herd of goats, which I farm organically on my own farm. I think my goats are very photogenic. I absolutely adore my goats.
I make four cheeses, a soft blue, a soft plain, and aged hard or a mature hard, and one of those fresh chevre-like cheeses in the shape of a log.
I’ve won numerous awards including Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards for my hard cheese. I’ve got two full-time employees and I plan to take on more staff, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.
I supply independents like farm shops and delis. I also sell at the large food festivals like, say, the Ludlow Food Festival, the Abergavenny Food Festival, and I supply my local farmers’ market because I like to keep in touch with the local people.
This is the really exciting bit. I’ve just secured substantial contract to supply a high end but small chain of supermarkets, for example like Booths in the north of England. I’m not averse to supplying supermarkets, far from it, and I’ve raised a fair bit of cash on Kickstarter because I need to extend my dairy and also my cheese storage facility.
Because of all of this that’s going on with my business and I’m in the process of having a new website built, and a key element of that will be a new e-commerce facility because I need to start selling online. I am going to have more capacity so I need to reach more people.
Another interesting thing that’s happening in my business is that I’m considering joining a regional food and drink collective that exports to the European Union. In other words, I am thinking of going into Europe. That’s potentially a very exciting for me.
Alison: Exciting times.
Catherine: Yeah, and an amazing company, don’t you think?
Alison: Yeah, it’s really amazing. You’ve done very well there!
Catherine: Yeah, thank you, and I’m a real go-getter. I dabble, and I use that word purposefully, because I suspect that I could be much more systematic in the way I approach social media. I do dabble. I have accounts with most of the major social media platforms because I understand as they come out, really, you need to go and grab your name there whether you intend to use it or not.
But, having said that, really it all comes down to Twitter and Facebook for me. They’re the two main ones that I use. I do feel like I could be getting a bit more out of social media, well, a lot more out of social media, but at the moment, I am just overwhelmed by the number of channels out there and frankly confused about the best ones to use and how to use them.
I want to get my story out and talk about my points of difference, not the least, because I am now certainly going to be competing with some major players on the supermarket shelf. I am going for growth and therefore, getting more sales is critical.
Here I am with you, Avocado Social, and I am asking you to help me develop and far more strategic approach to social media, and I am open to any other ideas you might have.
Alison: Brilliant. I would normally start with asking you what your main objectives for using social media are. I am guessing brand awareness is going to be a huge one for you. Also, the e-commerce shop. Really sending people directly to the shops so they can purchase the cheese there.
Catherine: Exactly, yes.
Alison: I think you’ve set up correctly there with Facebook and Twitter. They’re the biggest social media platforms in the UK. For the UK market, they’re huge. The other one that you probably heard a lot about it and maybe thinking, “Should I set up or not?” is Instagram. Instagram is just behind Twitter and Instagram and is fantastic for visual content. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of opportunities. You should be taking lots of photos of your cheese, and also your herd, and also pictures of you down at the markets, at the food festivals, and on your travels as well, meeting suppliers, going to your farm shops where you stock.
For me, I think, Instagram could be a really nice one. It works extremely well within the food industry as well because people just love to see beautiful pictures of food on Instagram but there are ways that you could tie up some of your channels so that you’re not actually having to maintain all three of them. In fact, I’d probably recommend that you duplicate what you did on Instagram and Facebook to begin with because that’s actually just a really quick way of building up some interest on both the platforms by doing just one of the content. I can talk to you a little bit more about the tools that you could use to do that later on.
Then, the second thing is really trying to understand who your audience is. Do you have an idea of your typical target audience or is it all kinds of ages, all kinds of people?
Catherine: I do have a pretty good idea. Clearly, it’s foodies and people who are very into the provenance of their foods or their ingredients. Also, people who are into animal welfare.
Alison: Okay, brilliant. Yeah, I think Facebook definitely seems to be the platform where you could be talking to these sorts of people because there’s 36 million people in the UK using Facebook. You’re going to be able to touch quite a lot of different ages and interest through the platform.
Also, the advertising opportunities on Facebook now will enable you to target animal lovers, animal welfare lovers, people who have an interest in food, and also particular brands through Facebook Advertising which is the way many, many businesses, both small and large, are now using Facebook. They are actually making sure their updates are being seen by the most relevant people.
Just to give you an idea of that, you could, for example, let a large customer base know that you have just started stocking in their local shop, in their local Booths, by targeting them based on where they live and you could target a certain radius area of where they live with an update saying we are now stocked in the shop name and the location of the shop with a beautiful picture of your cheeses, and you could target the age demographic of those people, and you can also put in to Facebook what you think they might be interested in, and that would be things like maybe animal charities, or perhaps other food brands, other artisan food brands you could put in there as well.
Catherine: Do your search on Facebook?
Alison: This would be on Facebook Advertising. There’s quite a lot you could potentially target using the advertising platform. If you’ve ever seen it on Facebook before, that would be boosting your posts or going to a specific section of Facebook called Facebook Advertising.
Without jumping ahead though, I feel like that’s really a strategy what you’d be thinking about, really boosting the audiences in the community that you have, but the very first stages, as part of your strategy, are to work out what you’ve currently got, and how to make the most of what you currently have.
We’ve discussed your objectives and I got a good idea of your audience. The next stage is really looking at the platforms that you currently own. You said you’ve got a Facebook page and you said you’ve got a Twitter account. I normally, at this stage, have a good look at those and really understand the different images that you’re using, the way that you’ve described the businesses, the links that you’re putting back to your website, and then really assess whether they’re doing their job correctly.
Catherine: This is like an audit, because you do social media audits, actually?
Alison: I do, yeah. What I’d be doing here is auditing your channels to ensure that they’re set up the best way possible, and they’re really showing off your products to somebody that has maybe never heard of you before.
The idea with social media is that somebody can land on your Facebook page or your Twitter account, and in seconds or milliseconds, understand who you are and what you do as a business. I come across quite a lot of food brands where they’re maybe not even pitching their products on their Facebook, or perhaps they haven’t quite got a logo correctly uploaded into their profile, which is really missing the opportunity of some branding and getting some awareness out there. That’s the first stage that I’d look at.
As part of the audits that I do offer, I then go and have a look at some of your competitors. Perhaps, look at some other cheese brands, to understand how they’re utilising their platforms, where they’re putting their focus in terms of content, how often they’re updating their platforms, and also looking at things like whether customers are getting in touch with them through the pages as well. That’s a really good step to go down as well.
Once we’ve had a good look at your channels that you’ve already got, the next thing that I take you through is really understanding what kind of content you’ve got available to you to talk about.
Catherine: I love that idea. The content that I have just naturally in my business, like, my day-to-day…
Alison: Exactly. You’ve got the herd, which is fantastic because that could be a really nice opportunity to get some beautiful photography done whether that’s your own photography that you’re taking on an iPhone, or you’ve got an SLR camera, or perhaps you hire a freelance photographer for a number of hours that could get some wonderful pictures of the herd out and about on the hills, and that could make some really nice content not only for social media but for perhaps other parts of your marketing as well.
Catherine: Yeah¸ I love that idea.
Alison: The other content that you mentioned is the fact that you are actually going to quite a lot of events. You’re a regular down at the markets and also at the huge food festivals that happen every year. To me, that’s a massive opportunity to gather some content. That would be photographs, maybe some video content of your stand, and what they look like, and how busy they are down at the shows.
Maybe you decide to do a bit more of a vox pop type of content where you’re doing pieces to camera along your travels as a food entrepreneur. Maybe even interviewing people that you come across on your travels, or perhaps you’re doing pieces to camera, and that could be just on an iPhone explaining where you are and what you’re doing when you’re going to interesting events and places.
I’d have a good think about your calendar and what you’ve got coming up and working out if there’s some good content that you could grab that would look fantastic on your Facebook page.
Catherine: I would be very keen to get some video of myself and my employees actually making cheese. Of course, that would go down a treat, wouldn’t it?
Alison: That would go down a treat because that’s part of the business that people don’t often get to see and it would be really interesting to see what the process is behind it. Also, you can get some fantastic, very quick content on these days, 10-second or 20-second videos that could show little processes of the cheese making, whole process that could really just grab somebody’s attention in Facebook or Twitter.
Catherine: As far as I’m concerned, it would also show I have a genuine artisan product since it’s made using time-honoured techniques and it’s minimally processed.
Catherine: As far as I’m concerned, they’re really artisan.
Alison: It’s reinforcing your brand values as well. Other kinds of contents could be things like perhaps you’re going to be producing some recipes or something like that at some point. It could be longer content such as blog posts where maybe you’re offering a bit of advice, or telling a story through a blog, or it could be something along the lines of a slideshow or an infographic which is really maybe showing a bit more around the cheese making process or perhaps around how you came to be interested in cheese and how you set up the Organic Goats’ Cheese Company.
I think the easiest content to post on social media, though, is photographs and videos. Particularly with smartphones these days, anybody can create that content, and there’s some wonderful apps out there as well that allow you to take very professional types of content as well.
One that I’ve been using recently for video is a great app called Overvideo, which allows you to take very short videos on your phone, and pops in text on top of them, or perhaps a logo to make it a little bit more slick and branded. That’s just on an iPhone or an Android that you can download that as well.
Catherine: Actually, I recently got an iPhone. It’s taken me a while.
Catherine: I absolutely love it.
Alison: Good, good. Also, I feel like once you’ve got something like an iPhone, and you’re really starting to think about your social media channels, you can then start to grab content wherever you are. If you go to a big food show, and you see items that inspire you, or perhaps you’re just going about your day-to-day business running the empire, there might be photographs that you decide to take that you think it would be really nice to share with your community as well.
Catherine: Yeah, that’s a wonderful idea there.
Alison: Once you’ve really understood what content you already have, the question is what content don’t you have and what you need to gather. That’s where you might start to consult perhaps a freelancer or start to understand where perhaps some of your partner companies can provide content for you. It may be that you club together with some other food companies that you’ve come across down at the food shows that would really complement your products. Perhaps, it’s a cracker company, or some nice bread, artisan bread that you think would go really nicely with your products. Perhaps you could start to come up with some content together in partnership.
The benefit of making those partnerships in social media is because once that content is produced, both of you can then post that across your social media channels, and it’s an opportunity for another business to be mentioning you, and for you to be mentioning another business. In turn, that helps brand awareness because you’re suddenly getting out to a whole new community.
I’ve done a lot of that over the years. Even brands like Nokia, we used to do quite a lot of that with. I’ve been working with a salad company, a salad bar in London called Chop’d, and we do a lot of partnerships with complementary brands such as gyms and also other businesses that we think would be interested in talking about what we have to offer. It works really well if you can collaborate on a competition or perhaps a piece of content that you release together because it goes out to double the amount of people.
Catherine: That’s a good example. It’s a cross promotion.
Catherine: That’s what it’s known as?
Alison: Yes. Yeah, cross promotion. Exactly. I’d probably start to think about some of those other food businesses you come across or that you’ve worked with that really complement the goats’ cheese, and start to approach them, and say, “We’d like to do something with you in social media whether that’s a competition or perhaps we come up with a nice recipe together.” We’d really like the opportunity for you to post that on your page, and we’ll be posting it on ours, and mentioning your business as well. That can be a really nice strategy for growth.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. It’s a potential win-win situation, really.
Alison: Exactly. The other thing to think about is whether you are going to be running competitions. We mentioned earlier Pip & Nut doing the odd offer or the odd competition, which is a really nice way to reward your customers, and also give them reason to talk about you in social media. If you’re running a competition with a really nice prize, you might find that people then are starting to share that with their friends and family because they want more people to go and enter the competition or they want to perhaps boost their chances of winning.
It’s relatively straightforward to run a competition in social media. You just need to decide what you’re going to give away, and also work out how you’re going to do that. Whether you’re going to ask people to follow you on Twitter in order to enter, or perhaps like you on Facebook, or perhaps they have to share a message that you have written on Facebook or Twitter. I’d probably recommend a blend of both because you’re then getting more people to join your community, and they’re sharing your messages as well. “Retweet and follow” competitions on Twitter are still very popular.
If you’re wondering how to do one of those, you can just search “Retweet (RT) and Follow”, and you can see all the other businesses in the world running these competitions, so you can get some ideas. Essentially, you just need to decide on what it is that you’re going to give away, and I’d always recommend to giveaway something unique to your business, so your cheese.
Catherine: Yes, okay.
Alison: Maybe a nice hamper with your cheese, perhaps with some crackers from a complementary brand that you decided to work with, and taking a photo of what it is that the person could win is key as well.
Catherine: Don’t just assume they can picture it in their minds but actually let customers see what they might be winning?
Alison: Exactly, exactly. People would love to see what they could win.
Catherine: Yeah, of course. I can see the psychology of that.
Alison: If you’re running a competition, then I would probably make sure that there’s ways that all of your community know that you’re running that competition. Not only just relying on your social media community, but if you do have an email database or perhaps you’re talking to people on your stand at the local markets, “Did you know we’re actually running a competition to win some cheeses at the moment on Twitter?” Trying to get as many people entering it as possible is key.
I think further down the line, running competitions is a nice quick way of getting new followers, but you want to make sure that the people are going to stay part of your community. That’s why I like to offer a blend of competitions and offers, whether that’s a 10% off code for a weekend or you perhaps doing particular offers where you also get a free bag or whatever it is, as well. Also not doing them all the time. They do need to take your community by a bit of surprise.
Catherine: I could, of course, mix the… For example, the 10% off or discount code, I could connect that up with my new website, couldn’t I?
Alison: You could.
Catherine: It’s going to be coming soon.
Alison: Exactly, exactly. That would work really well. Also, with things like Christmas coming up as well, that could really help give a boost on some of your Christmas sales. Another part of growth is what I mentioned earlier around Facebook Advertising. Facebook Advertising is a very popular method to getting your social media posts out into the newsfeeds of an audience that you have pre-selected. You can now select audiences based on their age, location and interest.
You can pay Facebook for your post to reach these audiences. The great thing about this is you really don’t have to pay very much with Facebook. You’re looking at between 10p and 50p per click at the moment. You only pay if somebody clicks on your adverts. The beauty of it is you pay what you want. You can say to Facebook, “I’ve got £10 or I’ve got £500 that I’m willing to spend between this date and this date,” and then you can just let those adverts run until your budget has run out or you can pause them at any time as well.
I’ve done this quite a lot with customers and clients over the years, but increasingly this year because many people have found that it’s actually very hard to grow a Facebook page organically; so, without paying any money. Particularly if it’s a new business as well because at the end of the day, nobody has heard of you. It’s very competitive to be seen in Facebook by people that haven’t heard of you before.
The way that Facebook works is that the algorithm is built on… it always favours friends and family content. When you and I log into Facebook, we’re bound to mostly see friends and family content. If we suddenly didn’t, we’d probably stop using Facebook so much.
Facebook itself is quite nervous about flipping the switch too much between branded content and friends and family content. They’re only letting a very small percentage of business posts to be seen in the news feed, which is why it’s so competitive to be seen. That’s where many of my clients have decided to spend budgets, monthly budgets, or perhaps every couple of weeks, they will spend a set amount with Facebook.
They’re quite straightforward to run. I think the best way of having a go with them is by boosting your post on your Facebook page. That’s the easiest type of advert you can buy on Facebook. You select the age, location, and interest of your target audience. You could say something like cheese or you could perhaps say the interests that you think your target audience would have. Foodies or food brands that you think they’d really engage with.
Perhaps even the food festivals, Abergavenny and Ludlow. You could also choose areas of the UK where you know they’ll be interested in buying the cheese. I would probably recommend spending initially a budget of something like £20.
Catherine: Wow, that little?
Alison: That little.
Catherine: Little money.
Alison: Just to see what happens, because it’s good just to test out a budget and see how well it goes before you commit to spending any more. Just to see if your content does fly and to make sure that the post that you decide to boost is one that properly explains who you are as a business because the mistake that I find many companies do make is that the boosted post often talks about the business and assumes that the customer has heard of them; whereas, if you’re paying for your post to be seen by someone who has never heard of you before, you’ve almost got to tell the story from the beginning, “We are the Organic Goats Cheese Company and this is what we do,” rather than assuming that with the audience.
Catherine: That makes sense. I could see how you’d skip that step. A big mistake skipping that.
Alison: Yeah, definitely. I’d probably recommend that for the Organic Goats’ Cheese Company, we tried maybe running a competition, perhaps boosting that post, or perhaps we boost some general post about the new website going live, or an offer that you’ve got on for Christmas, or perhaps some of your beautiful Christmas hampers that you’ve got.
Maybe we have a go at running competitions as well, and try to have a look at which one drives us the most new likes on the Facebook page, and then we can really understand what the strategy should be, going forward.
Catherine: It’s quite scientific in a way, isn’t it?
Alison: It is. There’s actually a lot of testing and experimenting that goes on with social media. I think you should never really fall into a pattern too often because it’s changing so much that you’ve regularly got to keep testing, or “would this work?”, or “should I try this audience for Facebook?”, “or shall I boost this post?”. It’s constantly experimenting and trying out different methods as well without falling too much into a set routine that can quickly get quite stale.
Catherine: Stale, and you’re toast, yeah.
Alison: I know that you said that you’re quite hard on time, obviously, being a busy cheese maker that you are. Some of the next questions that you need to consider as a part of your strategy is, who’s going to be running the social media? Is it going to be you, or is it going to be one of your members of staff, or will it be a blend?
Catherine: I would be very happy to have my employees help me.
Alison: I think if you are running as a team effort, then it definitely needs to be said that you need some agreed boundaries as to what’s appropriate and what’s not. I’d definitely make sure that your staff is on board with the right tone of voice for the company and the way that you’d like the company to be portrayed online.
Too often, people are given their logins and passwords for Facebook and Twitter, and haven’t quite been briefed properly or don’t quite understand what the correct tone of voice is to be used in Facebook and Twitter. You can quickly tell when a business has different people running it.
I would definitely make sure that your staff are properly briefed on what’s appropriate and what’s not in social media, they understand the correct tone of voice, and also they understand how they should be responding to your customers as well in social media.
I think you can quickly tell when a business has different people running social media which is fine, but if everybody is consistent with the correct tone for the business, it just looks so much professional, and it looks much more like a proper business running it as opposed to something like a hobby or people that are maybe running it who haven’t properly been briefed.
I would also have to think about who’s going to be doing what. If you are breaking up the social media, sometimes the easiest way of doing it is to give each person a particular channel to manage.
Catherine: I like that idea.
Alison: I would say probably as the business owner, it’s best if you should maybe be running the page that has the bigger community on it, the most likes. I’d probably assume that you keep the reins of Facebook. Then, perhaps it would be worth giving Twitter and maybe Instagram to one of your staff members or both of your staff members to run. I think particularly Instagram, that would be quite a nice project for somebody because it could be almost that “a day in the life of somebody that works for the Organic Goats Cheese Company” behind the scene shots, shots of the cheese being made, shots of the cheese that are being packed up, or taken to markets, those sorts of thing could be a really nice insight into the business.
I mentioned earlier that there are some tools and apps out there that can allow the management of your social media to flow more easily, and also for you to start scheduling content as well. One of my favourites is an app called Hootsuite.
Catherine: Yes. I have heard of it, yes.
Alison: This is hootsuite.com. You can set up a free account on Hootsuite, and it allows you to write out your tweets in advance, and decide on the time and days that they’re going to be posted. Now, this is great for scheduling a few tweets to go out every day perhaps, a couple of tweets a day, but what you do lose is that immediacy of social media.
I definitely recommend that if you are scheduling using Hootsuite to also just jump into Twitter on your phone perhaps five minutes a day just to catch up on what’s actually happening in real time. Perhaps, there would be some particular trends happening that day. Maybe it’s National Cheese Day. I think yesterday was National Wrapping Day, which is something to do with wrapping Christmas presents.
It’s good to have a look and see what’s trending on Twitter to see if there’s any big events or any notable trends that you should have a say in. Hootsuite is great for scheduling Twitter. Facebook, there is a scheduling tool that allows you to prewrite and schedule your post to go out on days in full and at particular times as well.
Catherine: Before you tell us a bit about that, how would you compare or what’s your opinion of TweetDeck versus Hootsuite?
Alison: They’re very similar. Very similar. Twitter actually owns TweetDeck. Often I think you’ll find that there may be a couple of other features and functions in there that the other platforms don’t have. However, I personally have been using Hootsuite for almost six years now. I feel more comfortable with the platform. The other benefit of Hootsuite is you can also schedule content for other platforms within it. You can schedule Facebook LinkedIn, and also Google Plus content through Hootsuite as well. I tend just to use it for Twitter. I don’t think it will be long before Twitter has its own scheduling tool within the app as well. That’s something we’d just have to keep our eyes out for. Hootsuite, for me, is a one of the best social media tools out there.
I mentioned that Facebook has an in-built scheduler as well. I’d probably be looking to schedule or post three or four times a week in Facebook. I think that’s a decent amount to aim for. You can really do a blend of your content or perhaps you’re sharing interesting news articles on magazine articles that are of interest to your target audience. It could be around the cheese market or perhaps the benefits of eating goats’ cheese for your health.
There are plenty of different hooks you could start to use for your content so that it isn’t all just about you on the Facebook page, and it’s more a hub of information for your target audience to come and consume, have that pleasure as well.
The other tool that I wanted to mention is a wonderful tool that I’ve recently come across. It’s got a bit of a complicated name. It’s called ifthisthenthat.com or IFTTT.com. This tool actually allows you to cross-schedule content between different platforms. A question I get asked a lot in my industry is, “Can I just post one thing somewhere, and that automatically gets posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the others?”
I probably wouldn’t recommend that method so much because often you’ll find that the language between the platforms get mixed up. Hashtags on Facebook don’t look great. People are using retweets and things like that on Facebook as well, and you can easily tell they’ve just cross promoted it from Twitter over to Facebook, but this tool, If This Then That, is actually really useful if you do want to post something to Instagram and want it to go out on Twitter or Facebook quite nicely.
Many businesses, small businesses that I come across, are starting to maybe combine their Facebook and Twitter. Sorry, not their Facebook and Twitter, their Facebook and Instagram. If you posted something to Instagram, that would then show up on your Facebook page as a beautiful image with a caption in it as well or perhaps you use this tool and say that if you posted something on Instagram that would also go out as a tweet with a beautiful image in it.
I think where small businesses are concerned, it’s more acceptable for you to use a tool like If That Then This because it does make managing your social media easier and it also ensures that your post is still very visual, they’re not just links to images.
Catherine: I know the visual side of things is incredibly important.
Alison: It is. Yeah, it is. There is one more tool that I thought would be nice to mention as well. If you are interested in really delving into the analytical side of your social media, say perhaps you want to really measure how many people are seeing your messages online, how many people are engaging in your messages, clicking on your post, or clicking like, or retweet, or favourite. There’s a tool called Sprout Social. It’s about £30 a month.
It allows you to schedule content within the platform so you can schedule Facebook and Twitter posts to go out, but it also gives you really nice demographic and engagement reports as to who is actually looking at your social media and who is actually interested in what you have to say. You can download those reports or have them emailed to you monthly from Sprout Social itself as well.
Catherine: I know that’s something I really need to get my act together on as well, the analytics, the whole effect… the return on investments is very important, as you can imagine.
Alison: It’s always a tough one with social media. It makes it a lot easier once you’ve got an e-commerce shop online because using platforms like Google Analytics, you can see how much traffic has come through to your site from social media, and you can also work out how much of that traffic has then gone on to buy something.
However, sometimes people will maybe see a Facebook post, mull it over, four days later, Google you, come across your website, and then buy something, and that’s where it starts to get very tricky because you can’t measure that that person came from social media initially because all you can tell is they Googled you and then bought something.
Catherine: It all falls down a little bit.
Alison: Exactly. I found with many of my small clients, over time, they will start to have people say to them face-to-face, “Yes, we saw that on Facebook,” or “We saw that on Twitter,” and also you can gauge who’s starting to follow you. You can look on Twitter to see what businesses and what people are starting to follow. You know whether you had a really good day at this market because suddenly 30 people from this area started following you on Twitter.
Catherine: Sure. Yeah, absolutely.
Alison: There are ways of understanding if it’s making a difference that but it is quite difficult to measure, that direct sale from social media.
Catherine: That’s absolutely wonderful.
Alison: Sorry if I’ve talked longer.
Catherine: I’ve taken up nearly an hour of your time.
Alison: That’s fine. I just could talk about social media forever, really.
Catherine: I don’t want to take advantage of your good nature!
Alison: No. Don’t worry. It’s fine. I’m enjoying it.
Catherine: Yeah. We’ve got some good answers, hopefully people will get some good out of it. Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Alison: I would probably say often, I find, like you, many people who feel overwhelmed with social media. I talk to many small businesses and business owners who are doing everything themselves, they are the business. I often think one of the nice ways of reassuring them is that you don’t have to be using absolutely every platform out there. I almost think to stripping it back to one or two, and doing them really well is a really good method in social media.
Catherine: You don’t think my approach, which was, really as I said, using Twitter and Facebook, you wouldn’t come down on me too hard?
Alison: Not at all. Not at all because at the end of the day, if somebody just had an Instagram or just had a Twitter but were doing it really, really well, then that’s not to say that they’re doing it badly. They’re just using their time more effectively because rather than spreading themselves too thinly, they’ve decided on the one platform they’re going to commit to. I’ve come across very successful businesses that have just been using an Instagram or just have a Facebook page before they decided to maybe build out into other ones.
I think start small, and then see how that goes, and over time, it might become more apparent that you need to be on the other platforms, but I’d say to begin with, it’s more about making sure that your name is getting out there in some capacity in social media, and you’re starting to tell your story, and people are really starting to take interest in that.
Catherine: It sounds like an excellent advice and very doable. I’m feeling so much better about the whole thing now that I have spoken to you.
Alison: Good, I’m glad.
Catherine: Thank you. Wonderful, Allison. One last question I wanted to ask you. I probably should have put it in elsewhere but I am wondering what the top three mistakes you see businesses make, whether they’re a food or a drink businesses, with their social media or top two mistakes…
Alison: I can think of three off the top of my head. I’ve mentioned some of these throughout our discussion but I think the first one is not really understanding how important the appearance of your social media channels is.
When you land on somebody’s social media pages, you really do make an opinion of that business, even if you don’t mean to, very quickly. I’ve come across businesses before that maybe haven’t got a logo that they’ve updated or perhaps they’ve got really badly cropped, badly formatted pixelated images. It makes the business not look professional or credible, and frankly, increasingly, customers are deciding whether to buy from companies based on their social media.
So, you really do need to make sure your “presences” look slick and professional, and that the images you’re using are just mouth-watering, and happy customers is what we want to see.
Mistake number two would probably be that they’ve maybe been talking about themselves too much I think this is particularly apparent on Twitter. If you scroll down somebody’s Twitter profile, and every single tweet is a link to one of their products to buy, and they’ve maybe used very uninspiring language, buy this, on sale now, without really thinking about the target on social media audience and why they might come and follow them on Twitter.
I think that’s just something to be aware of, being too inward with your social media, not asking any questions of your community, not caring about what the community wants. That makes me think of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and just how well they do it because it’s not really all about them. It’s more about their customers in their social media.
The third mistake would be where I come across a business and I can see that they did once have a social media presence, and it was being updated on a regular basis, but at some point it was just abandoned.
Catherine: Right, it faded.
Alison: It faded.
Catherine: It really faded.
Alison: Exactly. I think, for a start, what’s happened is the business is out of business, doesn’t exist anymore, and the other thing is maybe that person just suddenly quit, and left the business, and they’re not forward-thinking enough to think, “Gosh, we need to really get our social media back on track.” If that does happen, maybe I’d just expect a message at the top saying, “We’re no longer using Twitter. If you want to get in touch, please come back to our website” which is absolutely fair enough but I think you do need to explain why you have just suddenly abandoned your social media platforms.
Catherine: I completely see that point and I see the benefit of explaining. That’s wonderful. Would you mind telling our listeners where we can find you online?
Alison: Of course. If you are interested in my services, I’d recommend that you come have a look at my website which is avocadosocial.com or if you have a look at my Facebook page or Twitter account, I’m regularly talking about events and webinars that I’ve got coming up. I’m looking to run a more regular free webinar, which would be starting on a bimonthly basis pretty soon.
Catherine: I didn’t know you did webinars.
Alison: Just about to start.
Catherine: Literally videos on the web?
Catherine: Training sessions?
Alison: Yeah, yeah. I’ll be doing a bimonthly 45-minute free webinar based on what’s happening or social media or my top tips.
Catherine: Brilliant, excellent. I shall be tuning in.
Catherine: Yeah, that’s great. I will put all of those links in the notes for this podcast episode. Alison, that’s wonderful. Thank you so much. I think that’s pretty much it. I’ll wrap up the interview, and say thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I feel now that I can go out and take on the world with my Organic Goats’ Cheese Company.
Alison: Definitely. I’m looking forward to seeing your tweets.
Catherine: Wonderful. Thank you very much again, Alison.
Alison: Thanks for having me.
Catherine: It’s a pleasure.
Thank you again Alison for taking the time to come on the show and give such comprehensive social media advice.
You can visit the Avocado Social website at avocadosocial.com and Alison is on Twitter as @AvocadoSocial.
All links mentioned in the show are available at the show’s website which is myartisanbusiness.com. You can also download a free transcript of the show there. To get updates on when I publish new episodes of the show, subscribe to my email list at myartisanbusiness.com and I’ll let you know when new episodes are live.
You can find me on Twitter as @FoodDrinkShow so please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions. Until next time, I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting and thank you for listening.