A Case Study on Small Business Social Media Marketing: The Roosevelt Coffeehouse
With a background in youth ministry, and now a successful entrepreneur, Kenny Sipes epitomizes the success stories behind social media marketing for small businesses. He has employed a combination of organic and paid social media strategies to raise awareness for his business.
In 2013, Sipes founded a nonprofit coffee shop, The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, located in Columbus, Ohio. The organization partners with local, national, and international aid organizations to focus on three social justice causes: unclean water, hunger, and human trafficking, all while operating a thriving coffeehouse.Although it was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2013, the brick-and-mortar location did not actually open until April 2015. For the two years in between, Sipes focused on building awareness for the new business, utilizing social media.
Originally, he started with Facebook. From his earlier work with youth, Sipes knew that Facebook had the capability to communicate with teens, their parents, and other adults. “I had more of a following there. More of my friends were on Facebook, as well as other people I knew who would share the story, spread the word, and get some loyalty for the idea before we gained brand identity.”Sipes started began selling logo items on Facebook for the new business, like coffee mugs and T-shirts for charitable fundraisers. He used the Facebook Boosting program, with paid ads, when there was a time crunch; for example, with limited-edition fundraiser T-shirts. Thus, even before The Roosevelt had opened, he had established a following and brand awareness.
“We had a compelling story. Social enterprise is part of our model,” said Sipes. Citing statistics that say that almost 70 percent of Millennials have bought a product with a social or environmental benefit in the past 12 months as compared to a 55 percent average, Sipes explained that most startups have a similar ability to make social enterprise part of their business model, especially through social media.
“Compared with 10 years ago, where you would have to spend so much money, social media has created a way for us to do that at a minimal cost,” said Sipes. “This is above and beyond the bottom line. And we have received a return of brand awareness, not just money.”
Initially, Instagram was not as big a factor in The Roosevelt’s social media marketing, but that has changed. “Now, it is Instagram more than anything else, because it is more visual, and more interactive. More people share; it is more personal,” said Sipes.
Sipes observed that on Instagram, customers are sharing what they want to share, and not what you tell them to share. “Ten to 15 people each day share something or post something about The Roosevelt. It expands the reach of who sees information about it.”
Sipes added that the business also does their own posts on Instagram, as well as automatically uploads their Instagram posts to Facebook. Now, they have over 10,000 followers on Instagram, and 6,000 followers on Facebook.
“Consumers are more likely to buy something from someone who is doing good,” Sipes said. The business does not just promote its mission online, however. It also creates awareness on current projects with information posted in The Roosevelt, and offers the building for rent to support its causes. Sipes explains that even a portion of the tip jar goes to the social justice organizations, so people end up giving larger tips.
Now it is over two years since the Roosevelt Coffeehouse began actual operations in its downtown Columbus building, and they have met all of their financial needs thanks to social media telling the story.
“I am proud to say that we have paid all of our bills and still been able to give over $60,000 to charity over the past two years,” declared Sipes. The Roosevelt’s location in downtown Columbus is also a plus, since “the city is hopping, and all the movers and shakers come here. The NGOs, the nonprofits, and other social enterprise organizations are all meeting here because they want to be at the hub – a hub of creativity and activity. There is a financial return for The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, and an impact return for the city.”