Frontier Natural Products Co-op, which includes Simply Organic and Aura Cacia among its brands, creatively uses Facebook to engage its friends in scheduled chat sessions.
Here, the co-op’s social media specialist, Katie Shatzer, shares her insights on producing the chats and offers additional social media tips.
Natural Foods Merchandiser: Why choose Facebook as a “chat” platform?
Katie Shatzer: For all three brands in the Frontier Natural Products Co-op family (Frontier, Aura Cacia and Simply Organic), Facebook is our best tool for communicating directly with large groups of consumers. Facebook is familiar to consumers and low cost for us. It’s easy for fans to participate whether they want to ask a question or simply read what others are asking. Also, when the chat is over, the information remains available.
NFM: How did it work for you?
KS: I work with the subject matter expert to determine a topic, based on marketing communication goals for the brand and their areas of expertise. Before the chat, he or she drafts a list of FAQs, recipes, tips and other anecdotes that fit within the focus area.
To kick off the chat, I post a photo related to the conversation and, in the caption, instruct fans to ask their questions in the comments of that photo. The expert answers the questions by commenting on the post from their personal Facebook account. Throughout the event, I monitor the comment thread and jump in as the brand only if needed to keep the discussion on course.
NFM: What chats have you done?
KS: For Frontier (natural and organic spices, herbs and teas), our recent Spices and Herbs for the Holidays chat was our first. For Aura Cacia (pure essential oils and aromatherapy products), we have done General Aromatherapy (February 2012), Travel and Essential Oils (August 2012), Essential Oils for Harmony in the Home (September 2012) and Natural Skin and Hair Care Tips (November 2012).
NFM: What topics and guests do you plan to promote in the future?
KS: We plan to continue to feature Tim Blakley, our spice, herb and essential oils expert, on both Frontier and Aura Cacia’s pages, and Charlynn Avery, our essential oils, yoga and massage expert, on Aura Cacia. Future Frontier chats will focus on using specific spices and herbs, enjoying a range of teas, and tips for buying from the bulk section. On the Aura Cacia side, potential topics include essential oils for yoga and natural skin/hair care during the summer months.
NFM: How important is social media to your overall marketing plan?
KS: Social media is a tool for building emotional connections with consumers, listening to them and integrating our brands into their lifestyles. In the past year, we’ve increased our focus on and investment in social media for each of our brands. While our social media strategy complements our overall marketing campaign messaging, we approach social media with a balance of communicating our own messaging and participating in the broader community that our brand fits within.
NFM: What other platforms do you use?
KS: Pinterest and Twitter.
NFM: How do they compare to Facebook?
KS: Currently, Facebook is our largest and most dynamic community. In the past three months, we’ve placed increased effort on Pinterest. We are working to grow our following there by developing eye-catching and relevant content that (we hope) people will repin. Twitter is useful for quick engagement with consumers—answering questions, sharing quick tips and useful links, and, especially, for receiving feedback.
NFM: How has Facebook’s recent changes affected engagement?
KS: We have noticed decreased reach on posts, but our engagement rates have remained steady.
NFM: How are you overcoming that?
KS: We are using Facebook’s advertising and promoted post tools to help compensate for decreased reach. More importantly, we are thinking creatively and strategically about producing relevant content that our fans will find entertaining, informative and worth sharing with their friends.
NFM: What advice would you offer retailers about using social media?
KS: Consumers do not spend time on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. to be marketed at— they want to connect with people, be entertained, express themselves and learn. Create content that consumers want to share because it says something about who they are, what they believe in and the lifestyle they’ve chosen. This helps create a personal, emotional connection to your brand.
NFM: Anything else you’d like to add?
KS: Eye-catching visuals (photos, infographics, etc.) are important for both Facebook and Pinterest, but be sure that the image is relevant and adds value to the information. Also, be social with like-minded brands—like and share their content, or organize co-sponsored giveaways or sweepstakes.