How Small Coffee Shops can Succeed using Social Media

Current Mag - Mighty Good Coffee 4

Coffee Shops get Social

Everyone has a local coffee shop that they consider to be their favourite. That one place where they know they’ll be welcomed with open arms and the people behind the counter know their name (or at least their face). The place that even if their coffee costs almost double as much as Tim Hortons (Starbucks); that this is the place they’ll always recommend to their friends.

A few years ago, it was nearly impossible for a local coffee shop to compete with the deep pocket coffee shops. Today, even the smallest cafe with the a very little marketing budget can compete. All they need – is a story worth telling and of course, a coffee worth brewing. If they have those, the clients will keep coming back – the main concern is usually getting them there in the first place. Here are some ways that social media can be used to help local coffee shops compete with the big players.

Two Tweets and One Sugar

As I write this post, twitter has become one of the biggest buzzwords of the year. However, the buzz isn’t unwarranted.  Twitter is one of the largest social networking channels in North American consisting more than 15Million accounts. And while its still in its infancy; it provides businesses an unparalleled opportunity to communicate with consumers and current customers in real-time.

So what does this mean for coffee shops? It means that they can communicate more effectively than ever with consumers. If that means setting up a search that tracks their brand and sending a simple thank you or going as far as taking a pre-order, so be it. Twitter gives these brands a chance to  create a personal connection with their consumers and make their brand worth talking about.

By being active in the twitter community an opportunity exists for coffee shops to offer their space for events such as tweet ups. Hosting these live events at your venue not only gaurantee that you’ll be selling your products, but also guarantees some buzz (tweets) about your brand. On top of that, some of these new customers were probably never in your shop in their life; however, because you got involved in twitter and hosted this event you were able to attract new customers to experience your shop. What more can you ask for? I’m glad you asked.

How about 1 Blog Latte

While blogging can be an important part of a social media strategy, its not worth having if you don’t have a strategy behind it. If your main goal is to develop an online community; it might be in your best interest to blog about different beans or maybe do a Wine Library TV segment – Coffee Style. However, if your strategy is focused around getting more butts in your cafes seats, it might be in your best interest to discuss offers on the blog.

As great as a blog can be for an organization it can also be their downfall. A company that views their blog as being a great way to only talk about their brand and how great they are will never find readers. Well maybe they’ll have their spouse and employees; but customers won’t be interested. If you can provide your readers with something of value they will return. I often tell people looking to start a blog to try and offer the three E’s of Social Media.

Entertainment, Education or Engagement

An Extra Large Facebook

Facebook has become the grand-daddy of them all when it comes to social networks. It has recently gone from being a questionable place to have your brand, to a necessity for many companies in the food industry. With its most recent changes to the facebook pages; it has become obvious that brand experience on facebook is back. Brands are now able to create facebook pages with more customization than ever and truly deepen their relationship with their customers.

The frazzle-dazzle applications aren’t the only way for a local coffee shop to set itself a part from other stores. It can also use Facebook to promote other content that they have created. This means they can post links to their blog, videos, pictures and even coupons; reaching an audience that may not be present on the other social networking channels.

With that said, we can’t forget the meat and potatoes that Facebook was built upon. The ability to get your message out to a number of people is one of the key reasons why businesses have found such success on facebook. Those tweetups we discussed earlier can easily be cross-promoted using a Facebook event. The opportunities available on facebook are great – its up to you, to turn them into something remarkable.

Whose your Manager Mayor?!

Foursquare is the new kid on the block in the social media world. It will be the most talked about social networking platform for the rest of this year and will definitely be playing a big part in several social media plans.  James Hoffman explains on his blog why,

You have people competitively visiting you, talking about you.  More than that there is a pretty sensible business model in there too, meaning that foursquare could well be around in a few years.  Coffee shops seemed pretty quick to embrace twitter, and it will be interesting to see if that experience has soured social media for them, or if they’ll embrace foursquare too.

Something tells me that they’ll embrace foursquare like a seat-belt embraces impact.

Mayorship - TechCrunch

One of my favourite tactics that coffee shops can use in Foursquare is promoting the idea of becoming mayor.  The basics behind this tactic is that you tell the consumers that if they become the mayor of your shop they get their beverages for free. Seeing that there is an incentive now for going to the shop more and more – You’ve ultimately created a competition that will keep the people swarming your shop.

The whole idea of providing customers with rewards for loyalty has been going on for years. This race to be the mayor however, takes customer loyalty, flips it upside down and turns it into a competition.

Lets not get our Mochas in a Bunch

With all that said, you must always remember your companies core strategy and goals. These channels  discussed above may take a similar route as hi5 or geocities in a few years time. For that reason, it is important to not put all your eggs into one basket. Facebook is already talking about their new function that will be the “Foursquare Killer.” (Keep your eyes open)

Finally, remember that the value you provide your customer in the store will always out weight the value you can provide them with a social networking tool.  While its important to do things to get your customers in the door – its just as important to make sure they’ll want to come back.

Are there any local coffee shops in your town doing cool things with social media? Did I miss anything?

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: JSmith Photo

  • @Todd Lucier

    Hey Ross, great post. I'll be sharing this one around with all sorts of small tourism business folk. Lots of social media relevance here.

  • TheCoolestCool

    I hope they can find something in this that can really help their business. I'm always rooting for the underdogs! Thanks for the comment Todd!

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  • Melissa

    Great Post…

    I use all three of the social media venues you mentioned. While Twitter and Facebook are certainly the most vocal, I have my eye out on Foursquare to become huge.

  • TheCoolestCool

    Thanks for the comment Melissa – I am 100% sure that Foursquare (or whatever location based app facebook rolls out) will be huge. Its the ultimate reward program without all the expensive software and plastic behind it.

  • Coffee Clubs

    Small coffee shops succeed using social media by being active on their twitter and facebook account. They also aware and open from their customers suggestions and feedbacks that greatly help them to improve their services.

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  • Ben

    Excellent post! An awesome local example, as I’m sure you know, has been Two If By Sea which managed to drum incredible social media buzz even prior to their official opening. Their use of Facebook and Twitter to keep people in the loop of weekly specials is a great customer service tool, while their general interactions have built an impressive community-owned brand. I’ll be interested to see if they start to adopt Foursquare perks in time…

  • TheCoolestCool

    Thanks for the comment Ben! I just caught your comment last week and ended up using Two if By Sea as a local example during one of my recent presentations. They’ve without question provided a great local example of how to use social media to meet their business objectives. What I like about the Two if By Sea example is that their actual product/service is what makes heightens the awareness of their business outside of Social Media. It’s one thing to be able to grab a couple thousand fans on Facebook but to have those fans go out and discuss how delicious your croissants are is when you really know you’re on to something…

  • Ashley

    We just started using Four Square at the Westin. We offer a free Starbucks coffee or Tazo tea for check ins. We’re trying to attract a local crowd into the hotel and show off our awesome lounge, Eve.

    I personally enjoy Four Sqaure more than Facebook Places but some of the articles I’ve been reading suggest FB Places will be rolling out some great features in 2011.

    What’s your take on it?

  • Ross Simmonds

    Hi Ashley! Thanks for swinging by… I’m a big fan of Foursquare but agree with those articles in saying Facebook Places is going to dominate the geo-location market in the upcoming year. I didn’t know the Westin was offering Starbucks for Check-ins, that’s actually quite cool! Good for you guys..

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  • Sid

    There is a new push for social wifi now, this company Wavespot WiFi sells rotuer to small businesses where everyone that uses the wifi becomes a fan on facebook pages…fantastic way to aquire and retain customers on social networks

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