Coffee Bean brews great Facebook engagement without a venti budget

Dennis Yu is the CEO of BlitzMetrics and will speak at the Inside Social Marketing conference in New York City, Dec. 3-4. Yu will moderate an expert panel, “Social Media Metrics: What Does it All Mean?” Register for the conference by clicking here.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has been stirring up Facebook engagement. Local fans have grown by 136 percent and they drove a 560 percent return on investment. How did they do it?

Recognizing that every customer is a local customer, Coffee Bean has been tuning in to the fact that customers are having experiences tied to their actual stores and that these moments manifest themselves in customer photos and other engagement that are natural starting points for brand-consumer dialogs.

They managed social down to the store level, engaging directly with fans, sharing local customer-generated content (like Instagram photos) across their Facebook Places, and more.

Patrice Anderson, Director of eCommerce & Online Marketing, sits down with Dennis Yu to explain.

Dennis: There’s an article in ClickZ about The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf going hyperlocal with its 180+ company-owned locations in the United States.

How do you manage and prioritize all of these locations across Facebook, especially franchises and owned/operated?

Patrice: My team is responsible for company the brand overall and owned stores in the United States. We also manage the company website,, and digital marketing efforts.

We share our learnings with our franchisees as well as the other company owned areas, both positive and negative.

We share our overall calendar and periodically partner on various promotions. Depending upon the location, they are on a slightly different calendar and offer products that are specific to their region.

Dennis: How do you adapt to regional product differences?

Patrice: In some of our non-U.S. locations we have a food offering and beverages that are not available in the United States. The Coffee Bean as you know it, is still there, but there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of localizing the menu for their particular audiences.

Our franchisees will leverage a lot of the visual pieces developed, under our Sr. Creative Director, Ross Patrick. Their teams will add where appropriate and localize the content.

Dennis: How does a franchisee know what to do? We’ve seen this with other guys that we’ve interviewed. They have a central corporate team, but individual franchisees struggle with community management and posting content.

What strategies and rules are in place to help them?

Patrice: We developed social media guidelines for the tools that we’re leveraging across the board to try to give them the best practices. We’ll also share our content calendar.

There may be events that are key in the states that aren’t happening internationally, so they’ll modify accordingly.

Dennis: What other metrics are used to measure success at the corporate and local levels?

Patrice: Our engagement rate. We’re always looking at when we do chats, and the photography flowing from Instagram. Is our volume increasing proportionally and are people engaging with us, more so in terms of posts? Are we seeing a higher number of comments or likes and things of that nature?

Dennis: How do you tie engagement to business results? Obviously cat photos and fun photos may attract more engagement, but they may be left mid-funnel or drive less direct sales as opposed to when you post something that’s promotional, right?

Patrice: We definitely do see that. Through MomentFeed we see all the user-generated photos on Instagram – including the photos that have been tagged to one of our locations even if it is not hashtagged – and when we share those photos to our Facebook pages through MomentFeed, that content actually receives more engagement than something that we may try to promote.

That’s why we try to integrate a lot of customer content. When having a conversation, they become more engaged than just shouting out information constantly. It’s very much a one-to-one conversation. You don’t want someone that’s always just telling you information and not really listening.

We think in that manner; personal conversations, but it just happens to be a lot of people in the room.  We try to keep that in mind and every once in a while talk about a promotion that directly has an impact to driving revenue. The key is authenticity and local relevance.

Dennis: What did you discover is the right strategy for the right amount of content? You can use MomentFeed to manage the content in the community. Do you ever worry about over publishing or over sharing?

Patrice: There are a lot of things we need to promote as a business and bring to the forefront. If we were on the other end of that newsfeed, what is of interest?

We try to integrate promotional, entertainment & educational content. We put our customer hat on and think about what’s important to the customer. What should we talk about? What do our customers want to hear?

Dennis: In the last few weeks, Facebook’s made some changes where they have penalized what they call low quality content—photos and posts that directly say, “Please like” and other ways to try to drive engagement.

Has that affected your strategy?

Patrice: It hasn’t been detrimental to us yet. From a Facebook standpoint, we don’t usually ask people to like us. We’ll ask them questions with the photo that’s posted.

We haven’t said “Please like us” because it’s kind of like asking someone “Will you like me?”

Dennis: What have you noticed about the interaction between Facebook and other channels? Do you see conversation spillover from, say, Foursquare into Facebook? Or maybe Twitter into Facebook or the other way? How do these channels work together as opposed to, let’s blast every channel?

Patrice: Similar comments do come up in multiple channels. People tend to be more detailed in Facebook since there is no character limitation. Individuals that are very passionate about things seem to show up in Facebook.

Because of Twitter’s limits, there seems to be more dialog on Facebook than in the other channels.

Dennis: What about the spillover between the corporate pages and the different local pages?

Patrice: At least from a Twitter perspective, if there’s a comment about Texas, we’ll tag the Texas Twitter handle, @CoffeeBeanTexas in our reply so that they can expand upon whatever information that an individual inquiring or talking about.

Within Facebook it’s a little bit more challenging because the conversations lean more towards “Please open a store in a certain location.” It’s more of the local content that we see.

If we do a post and it could be about a beverage, more than likely we’ll see a comment “Can you open in my city?”

Dennis: What have you noticed in terms of paid versus organic impact?

Patrice: We definitely try to lean more towards organic. There are a couple of times a year where we really want to push a certain event or product where we’ll leverage paid placement to do that.

We noticed that there’s more interaction when we let the posts go organic versus we’ll definitely see an increase of impressions and likes when it’s a paid post.

There’s more of a conversation and it feels like it’s more our customers or friends of our customers that are making those comments, engaging with us when we try to let the post be more of an organic versus trying to push it promotionally.

Dennis: What would be the “aha!” moments that you had or advice you’d give?

Patrice: I think it’s really leveraging your company’s personality. Some of our biggest moments have been when we’ve done chats. We just received so much response from customers engaging with them, asking questions about the product; more of an educational level versus our promotional product. It’s leveraging your internal assets and bringing those to the forefront.

Another is through our engagement on Instagram; people are paying attention when you respond.  We will make comments and like photos and we actually see conversation generated where people are talking about “I can’t believe Coffee Bean liked your photo” where the friends are talking to each other.

People are paying attention to whether or not you’re responding to them.

Dennis: How do you justify to management support for other tools for creating the content for driving engagement?

There’s a chicken and the egg challenge where the folks who are in corporate or in central marketing at retailers will say “Look, I can’t prove the ROI, therefore, we don’t want to include it in the budget” which then means you don’t have the opportunity to test.

How do you break that cycle? How do you justify the investment in tools like MomentFeed and producing content and community management?

Patrice: We try to demonstrate it from an impression standpoint. Sharing the amount of impressions, the amount of photography, and engagement that we have with consumers. We’ve been able to demonstrate it from there.

The other pieces have been anecdotal where we’ve had events and it just so happened that customers mention to our executives that they heard about the event through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Dennis: What other brands do you look to as examples of Facebook success in local/social?

Patrice: We look outside of our industry. We’re looking at what airlines as well as retailers and clothing brands are doing.

We’re looking across multiple channels and trying to figure out ways to think outside of the box in terms of how we can apply and how we can leverage the tools internally.

Dennis: How do you determine good benchmarks for success?

On the central page, you have almost 400,000 fans, and you have 183,000 check-ins, which is fantastic.

How do you know what is good or bad or as you’re posting content, and what performed well or not?

Patrice: We look at historical posts, what our check-ins were, and our Klout score year over year. We’re looking at total number of check-ins, both on Facebook as well as Foursquare.

From an Instagram standpoint, we’re looking at the number of photos that we’re driving or that are being generated with our hashtags.

Dennis: Do you have any stats on how having improved location efficiency has increased the number of check-ins or amount of engagement?

Patrice: We wanted to be able to manage those pages.  We didn’t really have visibility to manage 180+ pages. It would have been impossible for our team to do that on an individual basis.

We centralized it with MomentFeed. We’re also seeing that our customers are really engaging with content on those local pages so getting them cleaned up and getting duplicates removed has helped us communicate more efficiently with these local-market customers.

We’ve seen local fans increase by 136% over the past 12 months and we continue to see our local engagement, impressions and reach increase every month.

Dennis: Awesome. I appreciate your time Patrice!

About Patrice Anderson – Director of eCommerce & Online Marketing at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Patrice Anderson manages the B2B and B2C eCommerce channels as well as social media and digital marketing for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Prior to The Coffee Bean, Patrice was Director of eCommerce at Lucky Brand Jeans (a subsidiary of Firth & Pacific, Inc.). Her tenures also include The Walt Disney Company, American Airlines AAdvantage program and Sabre.

Patrice holds a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and MBA from Clark Atlanta University.

About Joergen Aaboe – Director of Marketing at MomentFeed

Joergen Aaboe is responsible for all marketing at MomentFeed, including public relations, social media, client communications, product marketing, event marketing, lead generation and sales support.

Prior to MomentFeed, Joergen served as Sr. Director of Marketing at Zumbox where he oversaw all marketing communications and product marketing activities for the company.

Joergen also brings significant online marketing experience from ValueClick Media where he was responsible for several marketing communications program. There he also developed Media Lounge, a thought leadership program and event series, through which he organized high-level educational events for marketers and agencies as well as co-authored research papers on various online marketing topics.

Joergen holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a MBA from California Lutheran University.