I had blogged about my experiences on social media with sweetgreen, and within a day their social media lead, Erin Kim, reached out to personally thank me:
it means so much to me that you not only noticed what we do, but appreciated it and talked about it with others. you’re so right in that sweetgreen is all about fostering meaningful and real relationships, and it means so much that you felt like we successfully made that happen with you
I was impressed their team had found the IS6621 site, and I guess I should not have been surprised that Erin took the extra step to acknowledge my blog –it goes back to this brands remarkable ability to recognize and “delight” customers in the moment. She was more than happy to speak with me, and share her sweetgreen insights for a “behind the counter” follow up post. We spoke about her current responsibilities and goals as leading all of social media, and the challenges she faces as the brand rapidly grows. She was animated and clearly very passionate during our chat – an ideal sweetgreen employee.
Do you mind telling me a little more about your background?
I am currently the social media lead at sweetgreen. Prior to sweetgreen, I worked at Refinery29 as their weekend social media editor and at J.Crew and Madewell on their digital development team doing social media. These roles helped transition me from more editorial work to brand marketing. I graduated from NYU where I created my own major, “storytelling.” I looked at different mediums and how we communicate – I studied cinema, literature, art, and communication theory and the different ways they resonate with people to form stories.
Wow, a storytelling major seems so fitting for the stories the sweetgreen brand creates. As Social Media lead, what are your key responsibilities?
I work very closely with our Director of Content. She decides our key messaging point. Since sweetgreen is a seasonal restaurant we usually choose stories by the season. Since so much thought is put into our menus, this content alone supplies us with more than enough to talk about. For example, we use the seasons to talk about key ingredients, where we source our foods, our farmer relationships, and how each menu is different for our various markets. The Director of Content lays out the key themes for me, and then my job is to communicate and pick and choose how we are going to piece together these talking points into a cohesive story on our social channels. I also coordinate with our new store-opening calendars and make sure we are reaching out to fans in these markets. My role is both strategic and day-to-day community managing and engaging with our active fans.
How do you decide what content to share and what user generated content to use?
We are careful about what we re-tweet and re-gram on Twitter and Instagram. As a brand we are pretty picky. This comes from our founders and CEO’s who are very thoughtful about what we put out there. We get a lot of great content and engage as best we can with anyone who wants to talk with us, but as far as re-graming we are quite selective. We want to make sure the content aligns with our aesthetic and it is something that everyone wants to see. I don’t like our feed to be too cluttered. We are fortunate to have many fans with great photographic skills so we will re-gram occasionally. We try to do a mix of UGC with strategic content.
You mentioned sweetgreen focuses social media efforts on Twitter and Instagram. Are these channels used for unique purposes? If so, how would you differentiate the message and content on each?
Twitter is much more of a direct conversation and immediate. I am very active on Twitter. People will ask a question and expect a response, so I make sure to respond to them, especially for customer service inquiries or issues. I work closely with our customer service advocate to make sure she is seeing any complaints coming through on Twitter and Facebook.
On Instagram, people don’t expect sweetgreen to engage back. Instagram is more inspirational. This is where we produce a lot of beautiful photography and the content is elevated aesthetically and visually. Instagram is where I get the most strategic and thoughtful. Our captions aim to be more bold and offer meatier content. One of my goals has been to use our Instagram messaging to dive deeper into sweetgreen’s food ethos and how we design our menu.
I’m impressed with your social listening. What are some of the ways you monitor what your customers are saying about your brand?
At this point, it’s about me being proactive about what everyone saying. It makes me happy to hear you say we do a good job because bigger brands do have listening tools. The truth is, sweetgreen is a younger, smaller brand, but the way we market and brand is as if we are much bigger. We try to have a big voice. As a Marketing team, we must stay creative in the ways we listen and find content. We use Google alerts, read many blogs, and set up tabs on tweet decks for key words.
My first blog focused on sweetgreen creating a “sweet touch” moment for me. What does “adding the sweet touch” mean to you?
For me, it is remembering the humanity of social media. Remembering the customers. I remember one experience specifically, there was a guy on Twitter and everyday for lunch he’d tag sweetgreen, Chipotle and a bunch of different restaurants and he’d say whoever responds to his tweet first he’ll eat there for lunch. It made me very competitive. After a few weeks he stopped doing this but I tweeted back at him one day asking where he was having lunch. He was super stunned by it because what brand remembers. The way I approach the sweet touch is trying to remember our customers and creating moments for them.
What a great story! What is favorite part of your job? What is your biggest challenge?
This job is so real. What I enjoy about social media is that even though it is digital, there is so much reality to it. There are so many real relationships that form through social media. Like me talking to you! When people tweet I respect that it comes from a real place – people are excited and there is an emotional factor involved. Social media means something. I love that my role is a mix of creative and strategy. At sweetgreen there is a clear mission about food, healthy eating and lifestyle that I can share and I can immediately see results in people’s tweets and messages.
Since we are growing so fast and attracting so many new customers. A challenge is how do we keep our authenticity and communicate with ever person and maintain our intimacy. As we grow, there will be more opportunities to engage and I fear we won’t have the bandwidth. My goal is to try to give attention to everyone since I see this as a way to be unique compared to other restaurant chains.
Baltimore, Maryland. A new store will be opening here soon. Source: sweetgreen Instagram
So I promised my friend I’d ask, any intention of selling your awesome sweetgreen snapbacks in the future?
We have so much merchandise and I’m not entirely sure how this process works, but I’d love to provide you and your friend a sweetgreen snapback! Send me your address!
Thank you! and thank you so much for your time, your insights have been so useful and inspiring and I’m looking forward to sharing them with my class.