When King Arthur Flour sold its first bag of flour to its first baker customer, George Washington was president. But it’s learned how to do business
and grow globally, using digital tools.
“Our approach is to listen, hear what people are saying about us and our brand, and respond,” says Halley Silver, director of online services for King Arthur Flour.
And when the brand does respond, no matter what the form, it gives what Silver quite accurately terms “an honest, personal answer.” In short, the brand’s digital personas act the way you would expect (or at least hope) a 220-year-old Vermont-based company would. That’s not all though. The people, such as bakers who work for the company and others who interact with customers, may respond with a personal touch because they aren’t from some outfit hired to gin up the company’s social media presence. They’re the owners.
King Arthur is entirely employee-owned, through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). So the company may be especially attuned to listening, since it has more than 200 employee-owner voices with a stake and interest in its success and direction.
While it had a very robust Web site, which even included an early version of the Baking Circle (which would become the backbone of community for the company), in 2008 when the team at King Arthur really began to pay attention to social media, Silver says their social Web presence was “close to nothing.” King Arthur now has more than 50,000 fans on Facebook, 11,000 followers on Twitter, more than 125,000 followers on Google+, an active blog and, of course, the Baking Circle, which relaunched in 2011.
And the company got a boost in national media exposure when Google and the good/Corps (the agency arm of the publishing company good) selected King Arthur as one of the brands to be featured in a series of national tv spots. The two commercials spotlighting King Arthur told the story of the people behind the brand, and, naturally, how savvy paid search and seo had boosted its ecommerce business. Even before the tv spots, King Arthur’s Web traffic had been growing in leaps and bounds since 2008 when efforts began in earnest. Even before the Google spots aired, kingarthurflour.com averaged more than 1 million page views a month — up from less than 6 million for the entire year before.
And the company built its online presence and integrated social media in a way that many bakers may appreciate: organically.
“The feedback that we get is a constant stream, and it’s a part of our day-to-day decision making,” says Silver. “We use community feedback on a daily basis to help drive content, products and ideas. It’s a constant feedback loop.”