Interview with August First Bakery, Burlington, VT

Here in Burlington, Vermont, we are blessed with a nice variety of really REALLY good restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and bars. There’s something for everyone in the greater downtown area and beyond. Earlier this summer, local social media users heard rumblings of a new café opening on the outskirts of Church Street’s main drag. In the months before they even opened their doors, they acquired a healthy following on Twitter and Facebook, and the interest just keeps growing.

Jodi Whalen, co-proprietor, talks about August First’s experience with social media tools during the planning stages and how they, and their community, continue to benefit from them:

LD: You started using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook before August First even opened for business. Why? What attracted you to it?

JW: I knew that we had to come out of the gates fairly strong, and that because our location is a little off the main path, I had to let people know about us way before we opened. Social media was the perfect connection for us. We started out sharing info about the bakery with close friends on Facebook, and they helped to spread the word. Newspaper and radio are expensive, and just aren’t appropriate for a business that isn’t open yet. Social media also helped us stay sane as a couple during our planning and building stages. We were quite isolated and overworked, and it was a great motivator for us to see the excitement building in the community!


LD: Can you tell us about your Twitter and Facebook Fan page workflow? What tools and apps do you use for the café. Do you tweet and post on a defined schedule or just when an idea strikes?

JW: I tend to tweet and update on Facebook spontaneously. That’s the advantage to this media. My husband Phil, who is the baker, also benefits from the spontanaity. He can bake something on a whim, I can tweet it when it comes out of the oven, and the next thing we know, we have people coming in the door asking for it. As for tools and apps, I keep it quite simple. I go directly to Facebook to update, and use Tweetdeck to keep an eye on tweets that mention @augustfirst. I like to use TwitPic and to simplify my Twitter posts.


LD: Any tips that you could share with other restaurants active or new on Facebook and Twitter? How to engage your audience, and attract followers and fans?

JW: I think it’s critical to remember that this is Social Media – it’s not a one-way communication, like print or radio. Business owners have a unique advantage in this new way of marketing to show their customers who they really are, and that takes time and effort. Follow people who follow you, and read what they have to say. Respond to posts, even if it’s just a quick “Thanks!”. Keep your posts lively and positive – never complain! People want to have fun, learn something new, and feel that they’re part of a group. Keep your posts mixed – a combo of RTs and “Thanks”, and updates on what’s new or special at yoru restaurant, and also something personal, so that you are seen as a human, not a marketing machine!


LD: Do you have specific goals set for growing your audience? How do you measure success (ROI) with these social mediums?

JW: I don’t have any specific goals for growing our online audience. It’s very organic to us, and we’re just letting it grow naturally. I occassionally peek at Google Analytics, but I don’t use any online measuring tools at all. I could see how many people clicked on the picture of Olive bread vs. Cinnamon Rolls, but for us, we know its working if people are coming in the door, are coming back, and are telling their friends. For us, it’s about connecting with people, not counting how many clicks we get. My office is tiny and in the back corner of the bakery. If I have extra time on my hands, I’d rather be out in the dining room saying hi to our customers instead of managing online data!


LD: Have any good/funny Facebook or Twitter-related stories experienced with a follower/fan?

JW: Well, months ago we put out a call for ideas for names for the bakery to our Facebook friends (this was before August First even had a FB page), and we thought that we had a very creative circle of friends (there are many artists, musicians, etc…) and could cull something brilliant from them. It turned into this hilarious battle of people trying to outwit each other, and the names that came out of it were just silly… “Bread Pitt”, “Angelina Jelly”, and “Bread Flintstone”. The list kept going and going…


LD: How has Twitter and Facebook expanded your reach to the Burlington community? If these social media tools disappeared tomorrow, would your outreach be as effective without them? Would your marketing plan or bottom line suffer?

JW: I can’t imagine life without Twitter and Facebook. We’ve made so many new friends, and have strengthened our connections with all of our old friends. Our outreach would be changed tremendously without these tools. I don’t know if our bottom line would suffer, because we’d all be in the same boat! We’d just have to come up with other creative ways of getting in touch with people.


LD: You were video-interviewed by a local Social Media guy, Joe Mescher, when you began the hiring process. Do you feel that helped cast a wider net for recruiting the best staff possible? Can you see August First delving into its own YouTube channel to drum up interest with budding bakers, classes, brief how-to’s?

JW: The video was a great tool for putting faces behind the business. We had a number of applicants who saw it and mentioned it in their cover letters, saying that they could tell that they wanted to work with us, Phil and Jodi. I think YouTube could definitely be a lot of fun in the future for us, as we start to expand into other avenues of business.


LD: Finally, how do you anticipate your Twitter, Facebook, or other social medium activity growing your business’ community relations and marketing efforts in the future?

JW: I see social media as a critical way for us to stay connected with our existing customers and to reach out to new friends, now and in the future. We can immediately respond to comments or questions, and can instantaneously let people know about new products and special events. All of these things culminate in a great way, and help us continue to reach our goal, of being a successful community-minded business. I think the key for us is to always make sure that our posts are used to bring people together – to ‘friend’ each other because they always respond to the same types of posts on Facebook, to meet in person for a TweetUp, or to gather up some friends and come down to the bakery to see us.

That’s our goal – to have a community space that makes people feel nurtured and happy, so in the future we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing – making friends and sharing the joy of baking with them all!


Thanks Jodi!

You have truly embraced Social Media for community relations, brand awareness, and marketing. August First’s use of social mediums for business is an excellent example of how other restaurants and small businesses can engage and interact with their patrons and community. Burlington looks forward to more great tweets about what’s fresh out of the oven!

Find August First online:

@AugustFirst on Twitter >>
August First on Facebook >>
Website >>

Live and in person

149 S. Champlain St
Burlington, VT 05401
(802) 540-0060

Want to know more about how to get your restaurant up and running on Twitter? Check out my FREE “Twitter for Restaurants” Guide >>

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