The Small Business Social Media Profiles is a series where BlogWorld talks with small businesses about how they’ve incorporated social media into their website, marketing, and promotion. We ask for their input and hopefully encourage you to further your social media reach!
This week I talked with Amy Jones, PR/Social Media for Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham, WA. They are very prominent in social media with over 4k followers on their Twitter account and over 13k fans on Facebook. They also blog about local events, beer, and more on their Blog.
When did you start integrating Twitter and Facebook into your business marketing and outreach?
In October of 2008, we joined Twitter because we had beers being judged at the GABF and we had heard that on this website people would be posting live results of the awards. We, honestly, at the time, didn’t even know what Twitter was or what it meant to follow someone. But, we jumped on board and there was already a community of craft beer lovers quite active on Twitter who were there to welcome us. We joined Facebook not long after.
How did you begin promoting your account and encourage fans to follow you?
We found that on both Facebook and Twitter the craft beer community was already there to receive us. We’re such a small little brewery way up here in Bellingham, WA and social media was a way for our fans to connect with us in a manner they hadn’t been able to previously…unless they were here in person in Bellingham. We are also one of those businesses that is viewed as iconically Bellingham so people who had visited or once lived here or gone to college here wanted to connect with Boundary as a way of still being connected to this unique town. So, we had lots of eager fans ready and waiting.
From there, we used in-house marketing to let our customers know that they could connect with us online too, but haven’t done much marketing beyond that except to “like” on Facebook other local businesses as well as our accounts that have our beer on tap. The community has really grown organically – rather than through our design. And I think our community continues to grow because we focus on providing all kinds of information to our social media community: Bellingham news and events, information from our accounts and/or other local businesses, home brewing news, craft beer connections and news from our own brewery about events, what’s on tap, the daily specials, etc.
Do you run any contests, or specials, or have other interesting activities in place for social media?
We’ve dabbled in a few contests and fun events through Social Media, but we’ve always pursued them in a spirit of fun and adventure…rather than to drive numbers or sales. We’ve asked our fans to write Haikus about particular beers of ours, to recommend their favorite BBAY beer and menu pairings and even to participate in a contest around Father’s Day where people wrote about which BBAY beer their Dad was the most like in hopes of winning a membership to WABL (WA Assoc. of Beer Lovers). We’ve invited some of our Twitter fans to join us in our beer garden for a tasting menu of our new summer desserts and to help us pair each dessert with a beer…but only if they’d post tweets about it while attending the event! We’ve even attempted a Virtual Brewers Night. We sent our beer and BBAY merchandise as prizes down to one of our accounts in Everett who has our beer on tap and invited our fans to show up with their smart phones in hand. They tweeted through the night with a pre-planned hashtag, answered trivia questions via Twitter to win beers and prizes at the bar and interacted with each other both in-person and virtually.
Do you have a social media plan and/or policy in place?
From the very beginning, we’ve viewed Social Media as a means of connecting with people and building both community and relationships. We see it as a place to listen and respond to the questions, suggestions and complaints of our customers. A place to engage them, draw them out, ask them questions and get them talking. Our only plan is to truly connect with our customers, our local community and with the craft beer community as a whole…not just push our own message. Our policy is to be as real, as open, as honest and as consistent as possible. We want our online voice and personality to match the feeling of our brewpub. We want to be authentic…always.
Do you have a dedicated employee for social media or do you all interact?
I am the only social media person here at Boundary Bay Brewery. Occasionally, my coworkers and/or my Manager fill in for me, but it’s mostly just me. Which really helps in providing a consistent, authentic voice. I have the freedom to take our Social Media wherever I believe it should grow and that openness is apparent in my interactions with our fans. I don’t have to wait for approval from my boss before I post something or check in with the owner before I answer a fan’s question. I can be real and be myself and that comes across.
How important do you think social media is for a company, especially restaurants?
I really think that social media is vital for every business…especially restaurants. It is a place where your fans can feel like they have a personal connection with your business, a place where you answer questions, a place to assert a real, tangible personality for your business and make clear your principles, goals, etc. It is a place to make, sustain and build community/relationships.
How do you deal with questions/concerns/complaints via social media? Do you ever fear being too accessible?
It has been our policy from the beginning to deal with questions/concerns/complaints in the public forum. Deleting negative posts or comments from our page has just always felt dishonest to me. We try to address whatever concerns have been raised publicly so that our whole fan base can see that interaction, gain that knowledge, and know that we care about what they’re saying and how we can make it right. Occasionally, we have asked someone who is complaining to email or call us with more information so we can follow up with our staff. But we only do that if it is something like describing which waitress they are complaining about, as those specific details don’t necessarily need to be online. But even if we’ve asked them to email us, we still leave their complaint up as well as our response addressing it. We believe it builds trust and authenticity and accountability. I don’t think we’ve ever really feared being too accessible. Putting it all out there via social media only means that we have to be truly, honestly accountable for our actions…even our mistakes. And of course that can be scary, but I believe it’s the right thing to do.
If you’d like to have your small business profiled, please shoot me an email with your name and website!
Great interview! I follow Boundary Bay on Facebook and Twitter and check in regularly to see what’s new. Amy does a fantastic job and I love that she’s able to guide their social media strategy in a very natural way. It definitely comes across in the content. Kudos to Amy and BBAY for their efforts and keeping true to their fans.
Community Engagement, Radian6
Zoe, thank you for your continued support of Boundary Bay Brewery and for your words of encouragement. Cheers!
Boundary Bay Brewery Social Media and PR
Nikki, thank you for sharing the transcript of your interview with Ms. Jones. As I found this post, it excites me a lot in reading the whole interview scripts. This is very helpful to me as a blogger and it inspires me to go on with my chosen career in the world of Internet. Thanks a lot.