Founded in 1983, San Diego-based Circle Foods, LLC makes and markets TortillaLand, a fresh tortilla that cooks in 60 seconds, along with other ethnic foods. Three years ago, Circle Foods doubled its plant and manufacturing capabilities as the result of growing consumer acceptance and retail distribution.
Available throughout the West Coast, Southwest and Southeast in major grocery chains like Ralph’s and Vons, Winn Dixie as well as Costco and Walmart, many consumers love TortillaLand’s taste and naturalness once they’ve tried them. But the brand has low awareness compared to category mainstays, whose products are pre-cooked and processed.
In addition, because TortillaLand requires refrigeration at retail, consumers can’t expect to find it in the same place in every store. Seeking to leverage its success with a core group of loyal brand users and expand that success to new customers, Circle Foods turned to social media marketing, starting with food bloggers who were already talking enthusiastically among themselves about the TortillaLand brand.
In a recent interview, Circle Foods’ Charlene M. Richardson, Director of Marketing, explained how this social media recipe has fared.
BARNRAISERS: How did Circle Foods’ involvement in social media begin?
CHARLENE: Needless to say, we love our fans. So we’re always listening to them. With a little digging in the blogosphere, we discovered that major cooking bloggers were writing about us…even taking pictures of the cooking process on their smartphones and posting them for all to see. Fans were talking about us. Someone who lives in Omaha wrote on our Facebook page, “We drove over 90 miles to purchase them. SO WORTH IT!” The point being, we looked for and found TortillaLand brand advocates. Once we found them, we built relationships and then rewarded them for their support
BARNRAISERS: How does this reward system work?
CHARLENE: From our social media activities, we have a database of close to 20,000 people. We’ve segmented them by state. From time to time, we mail—yes, snail mail—coupons, offers and premiums to express our thanks. We also have a blogger relations effort. We examine the traffic to cooking bloggers who write about us, the size of their social media following and geography. Because cooking bloggers are publishing new recipes almost every day, many have large and loyal followings. Our efforts work so well that our advocates have mobilized to help us when, for example, we need to spread the word on a line extension (say, corn tortilla) or attend a sampling event at Walmart or other retail outlets.
BARNRAISERS: Which social media platforms are you using now?
CHARLENE: We have a very strong social media presence. We publish a blog on TorillaLand.com every week. We have an active Facebook community of 11,000+ fans with whom we communicate every day. Right now, we are engaging with fans through a social sweepstakes: Win 3 iPads (1 for you; 2 for friends), plus sample packs of TortillaLand flour and corn tortillas and tortilla cookware. So we engage in social sharing and fun. We also have a YouTube channel, a Twitter community, Pinterest page and a few other outposts as well.
BARNRAISERS: What have been the results?
CHARLENE: Sales say it all. Business is up 35% versus year ago. Trade success has been critical, but it is undeniable that social media is a strong contributor. Our sales increases track directly to increases in Facebook Fans, then to YouTube video views and website visits where consumers can use a Store Locator to find the nearest store or download a Product Request Form to take to a retailer, which our fans do.
BARNRAISERS: What social media resources do you have to do the work?
CHARLENE: We have a team of four people from the outside, either from an agency or consultant, and interns from time to time. We meet every couple of weeks to review activity, metrics and decide actions. What makes it work is the consistency of everyone’s involvement, the generation of new ideas and the action orientation.
BARNRAISERS: What advice do you have for a company that is considering or is involved in social media?
CHARLENE: Ask fundamental business questions. What are the desired results? Who do you want to attract? Where do you find them? What are the measurements that matter? If you take the time to ask and answer these questions, the right path for your business using social media starts to reveal itself.
We’re proud that this success story for TortillaLand is also one of our own and that we’ve been with Circle Foods since the beginning of this journey.
Do you think your business could benefit from the principle’s Charlene and her team are practicing? Are you interested in seeing a +35% increase in sales for your business?