I first met Tara on Twitter when I answered a question she’d tweeted through @TillamookCheese Twitter account. Shortly after my response, she responded back to me and thanked me for my input. I was impressed by how quickly she responded and decided to check out the rest of Tillamook Cheese’s online presence. Being from Tillamook, OR myself, I was surprised at the scale of their online presence and the BIG things this small town (less than 25k people) company is doing. What I found was a highly engaged brand that manages over 10 different online communities efficiently and personably. Naturally, I wanted to find out their secrets! Tara was kind enough to do this interview and share her insights and several great tips brands who want to improve community management online.
Describe your job title, What’s a typical day like for an Internet Content Strategist?
Internally I’m known as the Tillamook “Social Media Maven” (mostly because the word “maven” is awesome and underused and my real job title is boring). There’s definitely never a dull moment in my job; it seems like our online marketing team moves a million miles per minute. I spend much of my day interacting with Tillamook fans on Facebook and Twitter. I also update our YouTube channel and Flickr page. I’m responsible for social media strategic planning, content development, and in-house copywriting for our website and emails. I also manage and write for our Loaf Life blog.
Your social media strategy is spread across multiple channels online and offline including: Facebook, email, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter, microsites and a blog. What are a few ways you’ve used those platforms to serve your audience?
During the past few years, Tillamook has been expanding our marketing efforts in the online world. By participating in social media, we’ve been able to strengthen our brand and connect with our customers, consumers, and key influencers.
Facebook is our main social media hub; it’s where we have real one-on-one conversations with the people who eat and love our products. We use it to build our online fan base and to connect fans to our products, brand, and to each other. Loafy – the Tillamook social media mascot – responds to every single fan that contacts us on Facebook (and in Twitter too). We also host coupons and contests on Facebook.
Like Facebook, we use Twitter to connect with and talk to our fans. We share recipes, event information, special offers, contest information, and other random cheese-related information. Twitter serves as a great customer service tool for us; we answer users’ questions about our Cheese Factory, where to locate our products in their area, etc.
Tillamook has three different Flickr channels: the Tillamook Cheese page, the Tillamook Cheese Fans group, and the Loaf Love Tour page. Through Flickr we share behind-the-scenes photos and all photos from our Loaf Love Tour stops. We hold photo contests, converse with other users, and comment on their photos. Flickr is also an important technical tool as it allows us to feed content to our other websites.
We use YouTube to host and share Tillamook commercials, event videos, promotional videos, and television interviews. We also spend time searching for user-generated videos that mention Tillamook. When appropriate, we reach out to these people, comment on their videos, add them to a playlist, and invite them to be part of our online community (we do this same sort of outreach in Flickr, too).
We launched our first company blog with a new Tillamook.com website in January of 2011. About 15 bloggers from different departments contribute to the blog. It covers a wide-array of Tillamook- and dairy-related topics, including recipes, contests, activities, and events.
We try to cross-pollinate all of our online channels. For example, we often share links to blog posts in Facebook, Twitter, and in email. We also hold engaging and fun contests in all of our social media platforms.
One thing I’ve been extremely impressed with is how well you integrate online and offline campaigns. Tell us about some of the things you’re doing to combine the two spaces and the success you’ve had with them.
This is a biggie! I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer this question, but I can tell you that we have a LOT of meetings. Both our online and offline marketing managers are always at the table for any big marketing decisions, so integration happens from the very beginning.
What are a few challenges you’ve faced in building a community online?
Our biggest challenge is keeping up with our fans! Throughout the past year, our online audiences have grown significantly, especially on Facebook. Fortunately, we have a dedicated online marketing team responding to all of these people. One thing I’m working on right now is researching social media monitoring and analytics tools to help us manage our growing online community.
Speaking of challenges, One of the biggest struggles for businesses is learning how to communicate their brand through social media. Do you have any advice for businesses going through that process?
Create a distinct online voice that reflects your brand. Social media gives companies the chance to build authentic relationships by representing themselves as real people, not just as a logo or brand name. When engaging in social media, speak in the first person and let your personality stand out; be seen as a person (or loaf of cheese for that matter!), and not as a marketing mouthpiece. That being said, remember you’re representing an organization, so act thoughtfully and tactfully.
You’ve developed such a strong community through each social platform, how did you start that? Did you roll them out one-by-one or all at once?
A PR company we were using a few years ago started all four social media channels. This was before the Tillamook Online team existed. In January of 2010, our first online hire was made. Our team grew quickly, and we made a strategic decision to house all social media management within the new Tillamook Online crew. This way, the people that were steeped in the brand day in and day out were the same ones talking to our biggest fans about Tillamook.
What advice or best practices do you have for new social media departments?
Don’t start something you can’t maintain! If you make a brand Facebook page, Twitter handle, blog etc., make sure you have designated staff who will engage with your followers on a regular basis. Be proactive in building your community.
Also, always be authentic and transparent. If you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong, and always be quick to make corrections and clarifications. Just like in the real world, transparency cultivates trust, which in turn helps build a fan base of loyal consumers.
Lastly, listen, respond, and be grateful to your fans. Social media is a two-way conversation. Don’t just listen to what others are saying about your brand; it’s important that you respond to their comments on a regular, consistent basis. Showing appreciation for fans’ compliments and feedback helps strengthen your reputation online. After all, where would we be without our fans? Tillamook is lucky to have an amazing, cheese-loving community online and it’s my sincere pleasure to talk to these people every day.
How do you stay sharp as a community manager? (What do you read, listen, watch, consume…?)
It’s hard to stay sharp (insert cheddar cheese joke) with so much going on! I do my best to read social media blogs, and attend webcasts, luncheons, and conferences. This past March, our online team took a trip to South by Southwest. It was extremely valuable and we left with tons of new ideas and inspiration.
Image by Tillamook Cheese
Great interview, Joel. It’s always interesting to see practical application like this.
I would love to hear more about their results. Clearly, the must have great ROI for their efforts, otherwise they wouldn’t have hired an entire online team. But, maybe a part two with what kind of results they achieved would be really cool! :)Reply