Community Coffee Co., based in Baton Rouge, La., also has a long established ecommerce initiative and has found SM helpful. “Social media is a powerful thing,” said Blair Broussard, the company’s social media and public relations manager.
The company’s Facebook page includes information about coffee, about customers and about employees. The page demonstrates the fact that people like to talk about coffee.
Broussard spends about half of her work day posting on the Facebook page, monitoring activity and researching new ways to speak to customers through this outlet. The company holds sweepstakes, has interactive “ecards” and posts events on the page.
Community Coffee Co. has a more commercial Facebook page than most companies. The company advertises special offers on its Facebook page. Customers are directed to the company’s main Website to make an online purchase.
Foodservice finds a niche
Large contract foodservice operators have also been more active with SM than vending operators. Many of the large foodservice operators have the resources to dedicate to new marketing initiatives. In addition, the application is fairly easy to visualize for onsite foodservice since they usually offer a changing menu to a largely captive audience. These service providers typically use SM to update customers on menus and special offers and solicit feedback.
Foodservice companies not only advertise specials; they post pictures of items they haven’t yet decided to offer as a way to pique interest, inform customers about sustainability efforts, and educate customers about nutritional and sustainability programs.
Compass Group in 2009 launched its “Flexitarian” campaign offering healthier and vegetarian meal options, partnering with manufacturers to support meatless meals in foodservice accounts. The site has drawn thousands of visitors.
The Flexitarian Facebook page has attracted pages of recipes and photos from customers.
Compass Group also maintains a blog called “Compass 360” which offers information about diet, food, and personal perspectives from corporate nutritionists. There’s also a Compass Twitter page, which announces company events and news and invites user to comment.
An aggressive vending effort
CNC Vending in Houston, Texas, founded in 2008 by Chuck Olson, has launched one of the most aggressive SM vending campaigns. Last year, Olson placed stickers on his machines inviting customers to visit them on Facebook, Twitter and the company blog. He estimates 10 percent of his customers have become social media “friends.” “Just using that word has been changing our relationship with our customer,” he said.
The company placed signs on all machines offering a free token to win prizes. Winners were announced on Facebook and Twitter. A separate campaign offers even more prize money for CNC Markets, the company’s branded self checkout markets.
In 2011, Olson made use of the National Automatic Merchandising Association’s Vend.Love.Win campaign and invited customers to take pictures of vending machines and products, write humorous captions and submit them for monthly awards through the Vend.Love.Win campaign.
The contests and interactive tools have been popular at colleges, but also at hospitals, airports and corporate campuses, Olson said.
Olson said SM allows his company to develop more intimate relationships with customers. “Usually, we only get phone calls when it’s negative,” he said. “With a social network, we’re finding people respond to us in a very positive way.”
Olson recognizes the caution that many of his vending operator colleagues raise about social media; it can invite complaints.
He noted he spends about half an hour in the morning and another half hour in the evening attending to social media postings. “You must be prepared to answer your constituency when they write on your ‘wall,’” he noted.
Atlas Food Services Inc., a vending, foodservice and coffee service operation based in Greenville, S.C., recently launched Facebook and Twitter pages. Elizabeth Warren, customer service coordinator, said she tries to post something weekly to keep people visiting the sites. Many of the postings include news about vending technology.