We’re back with another SMB social media interview! Last month we introduced you to Naked Pizza Co-Founder and Chief Brand Architect Robbie Vitrano who shared the story of how one pizza chain was using Twitter and Facebook to not only sell healthier pizzas, but to start a greater conversation about diet-related obesity. If you missed our social media interview with Naked Pizza, we had a great chat.
This week we have another SMB rockin’ social media to introduce you to. Her name is Annelies Zijderveld and she’s the Online Community Manager over at Attune Foods.
Annelies first our radar when we heard Attune Foods had appointed official Brand Ambassadors in their community to help them get the word out about their product. We thought that was pretty cool and decided to check out what they were doing on other social media channels. Turns out, they’re doing a lot!
1. For folks not familiar, can you tell people a little bit about Attune Foods and how you got involved in social media?
Attune Foods started in late 2006 with a clear mission to make foods for digestive health. This subject matter is one that many people don’t like to talk about, but when your digestive system is working, you feel better and that impacts your life. When we began our business, we wanted to find natural ways that are already a part of a person’s lifestyle and provide delicious and good-for-you alternatives to help people feel better from the inside out. This involved making chocolate probiotic bars and then later on included adding into the mix Uncle Sam high fiber cereals and Erewhon organic cereals- many of which are gluten free where what is not in them is what helps you feel better, especially for people with food allergies. Social media seemed a natural transition to connect with people interested in living healthier lives as interests people and communities gather around, get very specific online. I joined Attune Foods January 2010 when they had a small presence online which is something I have worked to continue building.
2. There are a lot of different social media styles, from helpful to friend to connector – how would you describe your social media style or voice? What is your purpose for creating a presence there? What are you looking to create?
We want to create a community dedicated to healthy living and cognizant that digestive health is a great place to start. Online, we want to be the helpful friend that is sharing articles pertinent to the community with which we connect. This also involves developing and deepening relationships with bloggers. Part of this comes from being authentic, as I’m doing outreach to food bloggers, I too, am a food blogger. Their passion is mine and I believe the foods Attune Foods makes taste good, are made of simple ingredients and are good for you. My approach is to be me on behalf of Attune Foods rather than a faceless company handle on twitter. There’s nothing wrong with that style or approach, it’s just not the one we are taking. I recognize that we could send a ton of bloggers product and get reviews, but then what? I’m more interested in cultivating a deeper conversation over time, of getting to know bloggers and letting them get to know our company through me as the catalyst and then also through our employees sharing their perspectives on different germane topics on video or through weekly blog posts.
Creating a community means knowing we have something to contribute to the conversation AND we have something to learn. The interactive sharing that happens online as well as the support system online are things that we are both proud and grateful to be a part of.
3. Can you tell me about your Brand Ambassadors? Who are these folks, how were they selected and how are they helping to grow awareness about Attune Foods?
Our company is 11-people strong. Being in a small company means being nimble and also wearing many hats. We started the brand ambassador program with the intention of helping us do greater outreach, understanding we can reach more people using a loudspeaker rather than just a single voice. Voices multiplied are stronger than one. Our brand ambassadors are these incredibly amazing people who are living open – authentic lives online and pursuing healthy living. I developed relationships with each of them and found their passion and desire to help spread the word for attune foods contagious. We started the program earlier this year and are pleased with their dedication for helping build buzz and awareness of our products. They have also been active participants in our monthly #attune tweet-chats on healthy living.
4. Are you using any tools to track the ROI you’re getting social media? What type of metrics are you looking at (for example – RTs, replies, brand mentions, engagement, etc)?
We use Google analytics. We have internal tracking tools to measure engagement. We have experimented with social media monitoring tools in the past as well. We want to engage our customers and friends online so page views are important to us, as well as replies. Balance of measuring depth of engagement and size of impact.
5. How have social media and the Web changed the way small business owners do local marketing? What are you doing now that you’ve never done, what “traditional” practices have you stopped, if any?
Social media is such a great resource and tool for small businesses. If you think about it, the start-up costs are minimal, if any, and it’s fantastic for getting yourself in front of your customers and potential new customers. Audiences are so much more specific online so you also have the ability to target exactly who you want without spending vast sums of money. You could say the playing field has been leveled. We have stopped hosting large scale events as well as doing broad marketing outreach and focused on smaller community-building efforts recognizing reaching the right people is ideal for us.
6. What insights has social media helped bring to your company? Have you learned anything about your customers? Are you doing anything different now based on feedback you’ve received?
Our customers are online and vocal! They are interested in learning about allergens and recipes. They love to share tips with each other about things that help them live healthier. Early on in 2010, we received a lot of questions about gluten free on Facebook which encouraged us to create a page on our website pertaining to gluten free chocolate. With our launch last month of our integrated websitewww.attunefoods.com, we went one step further and added an allergen section to each of the product pages and beefed up our FAQs section.
7. What advice would you give to small business owner just getting started in social media? What should they know?
You might have heard it said before, but start by listening. There is a conversation going on already and you have something to contribute to it. But start first with listening. Then, I would also encourage small businesses to see that building a community online takes baby steps. It’s actually a lot like healthy weight loss if you don’t mind me going there. It’s the diligence and dedication of developing healthy habits and seeing the pounds drop off a little at a time. In social media speak- you may be shooting for 15,000 followers, but what if you had 342 followers who are dedicated and diehard fans of your product? Numbers are important here but not the main point. The point is engagement and keeping that relationship between company and customer strong. Perhaps that involves 15,000 fans but that also comes over the long-term and is not a quick solution.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about what you’ve learned about social media and being a SMB?
I see my role as Online Community Manager important to help harness the desire for healthy living that we hear from our customers find a space for further development through our social media channels. Our customers buy our products for a range of reasons. They might have IBD (crohns or colitis), IBS and find probiotics help them feel better. They may have celiac disease or be gluten intolerant or dairy-free and find our Erewhon GF cereals are their breakfast staple. They might be maintaining or trying to lose weight the healthy way and avid fans of Uncle Sam. As we put together the team of brand ambassadors, we wanted to make sure our customers were represented in this group- that there was a seat for each of them at the table. We understand their needs are different and as we try to be thoughtful in approaching launching new products or product innovation, social media is a great sounding board from which we can hear from them.