You don't have to be a big company to be big in social media. Sure, large companies like Ford and GM have directors of social media on staff, but smaller companies who commit to it can make a big impact, too.
In fact, they just may be able to do it better. Such is the case with Biggby Coffee, a coffee chain of around 150 shops based out of East Lansing, Michigan.
Their whole vibe is an anti-Starbucks, fun and friendly vibe. And they're big into creating engagement with both their customers and their employees.
I'd seen Biggby Coffee shops going up around town here and decided to check them out online. Right away, they engage you when you land on the homepage. You can customize it with your own name and your choice of 5 backgrounds. There's also a trivia game you can play. But, the real engagement occurs when you enter the B Happy Lounge.
Near the top of the page, their logo keeps opening and shutting with CEO Biggby Bob popping his head out and inviting you into the lounge. Once there, you have a number of things to do and links to all their social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Biggby Bob's Blog, a YouTube channel, Flickr and LinkedIn.
The first place I went was an area in the lounge that invites customers to upload a picture to enter into Biggby's "Let's Travel The World Together" photo contest. All you have to do is take a picture of anything anywhere as long as it has a Biggby cup in the shot.
There are monthly and yearly winners, It's perfect to engage the rabid fan who's going to enter, but also to engage the casual fan who just enjoys viewing the photos - each a consumer generated subtle ad for Biggby.
The CEO, Biggby Bob writes the ongoing commentary for the Twitter account and uses it very effectively. It's the right mix of personal, business and fun tweets. He keeps up a pretty steady stream and was pretty quick to reply when I sent him a tweet - something you'd never get from a big company CEO. Plus, they do a good job of combining customer engagement with promotion.
On different days, they do a Spot Bob promotion, where Biggby Bob sends out tweets that he will be at a certain store during a set time frame. If you spot him and come up and talk to him, he'll buy your drink. I think that's a brilliant use of social media. It drives customers to your store for a free trial and a chance to chat with a CEO. But it's done in a non-selling way, one that is acceptable in a social media setting. Plus, the company gets ongoing, instant feedback from its customers during these chats.
Their YouTube channel is a way to connect with both the customer base and the employees. Much of the videos there are interviews Biggby Bob did with his hand held camera in different stores with the winners of their barista competition.
Fans can nominate their favorite barista for the honor on Biggby's Facebook fan pageand see their winning barista talk on the YouTube channel. And when you become a fan on Facebook, a day or so later you get a friend invitation from Biggby Bob, generating yet another connection to me, the customer. Bob often records random videos of stuff on his travels from store to store and posts them on the Facebook sites.
With all this and many other things they're doing, Biggby shows that by being committed to it, you can create a strong, multi-channel social media campaign that connects and engages your fans in so many ways, no matter what your size. And they carry that vibe into the store experience, too. My visits so far have found the same commitment to engaging their customers on the employee level, in person, as they do on a corporate level online. They brew a pretty darn good cup of coffee, too.
To find the Biggby in your backyard, click here.