Emily Schildt, Chobani’s digital communications manager, continues to be in awe of how many surprisingly rhapsodic tweets and Facebook comments she’s read from devotees of the Greek yogurt brand.
"We call it ‘flavor Turettes’ in-house," she quips. "We get about a tweet per minute, and I would say 50% are about our newest flavor, apple cinnamon." But regular declarations of love for the dairy treat didn’t end there. Schildt started noticing that fans were "pinning" images of the yogurt and recipes on the most of-the-moment social sharing network, Pinterest.
Schildt admits that Chobani isn’t out to make a land grab on every new social media platform. "There’s a new thing every minute and it’s not to our benefit to spend time on every one," she says—who can argue wtih that? However, the fact that photo sharing is natural extension of food conversations on the web is not lost on Schildt. "Instagram is big for us, and there is a lot of recipe sharing on our blog. When we saw how many were being shared on Pinterest, we decided to host that conversation ourselves."
Chobani’s now got 17 "boards" on Pinterest and 582 followers, positioning the largest yogurt manufacturer in the state of New York well ahead of global juggernauts such as Dannon or Yoplait, neither of which have a Pinterest presence yet. (UPDATE: Yoplait is now on Pinterest)
Schildt sat down with Fast Company to talk about the brand’s strategy for curating boards, repinning relevant content, and building customer loyalty. What emerged were best practices for any business to continue the conversation with its customers in an enterprising new format.
"People are on Pinterest to learn and discover," says Schildt. "While Pinterest is a good search tool—for instance, if you are looking for 'oven mitt,' you will immediately find a myriad of mitts in a search— brands are learning to be more human. Sharing content that is relevant and valuable and not overly promotional so people are able to discover new things is part of that. Facebook is not a place that allows for that kind of discovery, and the kind of conversation you have on Twitter and the feedback you receive is very different."
Show Off Your Core Values—All of Them
"Pinterest allows your brand to show different facets of its personality because there isn’t just one. Pinterest gives a more visual look into Chobani’s personality and the core values behind our brand. For example, we compile inspirational quotes on our "Nothing but Good" board and motivational quotes on "Chobani Fit" board. On Twitter, those same quotes would get retweeted, but on Pinterest the visual impact makes content very shareable and shows a lot of different sides of our brand."
Micro-Target Your Customer
"Pinterest gives people the option to choose what information they are getting. Unlike a general Twitter feed with all of our tweets, Pinterest users can choose to follow certain boards and select the kind of conversation. So our travel board has photos of destinations and our Chobani Champions has tips for moms. Neither may be relevant to our larger audience, but curating boards allows a brand to target to different groups and engage them in a very direct way."
Don’t Go Over-Board
"You are at a disadvantage with one board because it doesn’t allow your brand to show its different facets. That said, I don’t think you should go board crazy. The pin boards need to make sense for your brand and you need to have enough content on them to be worth following. If you have a bunch you may spread yourself too thin. Chobani has 17 boards and we set it up naturally, where each pin has a place. If ever we were to pin things that didn’t have a board, we’d create one."
"We are confident in our product and how we do business, so it’s not a risk or an endorsement to link to other brands. We are not directly sharing other competing brands' links, but we are sharing generic yogurt recipes. People are going to buy yogurt based on taste and price so there is no harm in sharing recipes with yogurt as an ingredient. We want to encourage consumption of yogurt in general."
Our team is pretty small and we do all our social media in-house. While we are incredibly responsive on Twitter and Facebook, we don’t comment that often on Pinterest. We do "like" and repin, though. Pinterest is refreshing in that way because it requires a bit less involvement, but get out of it what you want, which is content sharing."
Pin Hopes, Dreams, and Goals
"We see all of our social media platforms as away to deepen our relationship with our customers. Pinterest has given us a lot of insights. With repinned recipes, one that we find may be something that enters into our test kitchen. If we see a location get repinned, we may eventually offer a promotional trip there. We always used most shared content as a way we can improve how we speak to our customers, our products and our promotions."
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