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“We love coffee, but we love community and people more.”
This Foster Coffee Company credo isn’t just a brand statement.
It’s at the heart of their social media strategy too.
We spoke to co-founder Nicholas Pidek and marketing associate, Justin Ozanich, about how social media has helped them grow their community and business.
“Two and a half years ago we were just brewing coffee at the farmers’ market, and we learned early on that social media was a huge part of our strategy to grow our business. You know, we were serving coffee one day a week. Saturday mornings we would get up at 5 a.m. and serve people from 7 till 1… but we were able to use social media every day of the week to touch people.” – Nicholas
What began as two friends experimenting with craft coffee at a farmers’ market has become a local business success story.
Foster Coffee Company now has two thriving locations in Michigan, where people gather to drink great coffee, work, converse, celebrate the local community and build relationships. Along the way, that initial partnership has blossomed into a team of coffee and community enthusiasts, whose faces feature regularly on their social media platforms.
“Part of our strategy with growing was just producing really good content.
We’ve got some really great resources at our disposal of people who work for pretty much next to nothing because they believe in the brand – to take photos for us and come out and shoot our product and photograph people, to really tell people our story.
Our philosophy is products are great and there are so many great companies out there that have the most beautiful photographs of their cappuccinos, and their lattes, and that’s something that we do speckle in there, but primarily people are attracted to people. So we want people to see other people interacting with each other and with our products at the same time.
People drive our community, not products.” – Nicholas
Discovering Buffer through a personal touch
With a people-first philosophy and content strategy, Nicholas started exploring ways to better plan out social media campaigns and expand Foster’s reach on social. His exploration into social media management platforms even involved a serendipitous personal connection, the exact kind of thing their coffee shops aim to cultivate.
“Early on, I started using Buffer and just kind of did the gamut of looking at what platforms were out there. I was just really thrilled with the platform.
Adam, who works for Buffer, started coming into Foster, and when I found out that he was working for Buffer, that was kind of a cool connection there – that someone from this company is actually working in our coffee shop.” – Nicholas
Buffer is the ideal publishing platform for Foster because it enables them to plan, schedule and deliver their content in a consistent, yet flexible way.
“I start off with photographs, so really our Buffer scheduling starts at the photoshoot. We capture new content on a weekly basis and decide the direction of that content anywhere from two weeks to a month in advance – where we want our publishing schedule to go. Two weeks seems to be a sweet spot for us. It is far enough out that we can stay ahead of the schedule without scrambling to find content, and at the same time it’s not that difficult to add something or make last minute changes – we can just click and drag stuff around.
I use the calendar feature in Buffer all the time. I schedule pretty much exclusively from that perspective.
For example, if something awesome is happening in the shop or if we have something unique that pops up, it’s really easy to insert that into the schedule. We don’t have to be married to a plan, which is a great feature.” – Justin
“One of the things that I think has really helped us, as far as social media engagement and growing our following goes, is early on Nick understood the power of really great content, instead of just settling for mediocre.
He took the initiative to make sure that we have really good photographers working with us regularly to produce great content that represents our vision. I really like that because it shows our audience that we have a certain level of care for every aspect of our business and want to bring our customers the best in every avenue.
We want them to know that we really care about our product, and that we really care about them and their experience, and I feel that is transferable through those photos. And then when they generate their own content about Foster, they also understand that we care about their experience and are willing to share their images on social.” – Justin
Harnessing user-generated content is something the team at Foster are being more deliberate about. It’s an opportunity to generate word-of-mouth, build loyalty and create advocates for their brand.
“We are reaching a certain level of popularity, where people from all walks of life with varying degrees of photography skills are drawn to capture their version of community attached to our brand. So now we’re sprinkling these into our feeds to feature other people’s viewpoints of the Foster vision.” – Nicholas
Making decisions with data
Social media analytics are also playing an increasingly important role in helping to guide content decisions.
“One of the things that I really like about Buffer is how I can build out as far as I want into the foreseeable future, but really start to tailor campaigns if we see certain trends within the industry. We can get ahead of that and it’s really easy to customize the publishing schedule afterwards.
We want to know our top performing posts for the year, we want to know what content was in those posts, so that way we can build a better model moving forward of content that generates more engagement.
Because as we know, the more engagement we can get online, the more that’s going to translate to a possible sale, or somebody walking through our doors, or checking out our website and maybe making a purchase that way” – Justin
A peek inside Foster Coffee Company’s social media analytics
(Advanced Analytics and Reports are available on Buffer for Business plans)
They’re also exploring how social media tools can help with their market positioning and benchmarking their growth.
“Being a small business, one of the best ways that we’ve found to determine our market position is with social media.
We aren’t directly competing with large publicly traded companies and franchises, but in a way we are. From a purely economic and capitalistic viewpoint, we’re all competing for coffee consumers. We intentionally add an altruistic community-centric mission to our vision, but through our social engagement measurement systems, we can at least get a rough estimate of the market position of the purely profit-driven companies around us in comparison to ours. We can measure how we’re both making an impact based on our reasons to exist.” – Nicholas
Say hello to amazing coffee
If you’re ever in town and in need of a fresh brew, do pop by Foster Coffee Company in either Owosso or Flint and say hello. Aside from excelling on social media, they’re great people who make amazing coffee!
Foster Coffee Company: Key Stats
2013: year founded by Jonathan Moore and Nicholas Pidek
2: the number of coffee shop locations
15k+: combined social media audience
30%: year-on-year social media follower growth
Instagram | Facebook