The power of social media: How to revive a struggling business.

What’s the secret to a successful coffee shop? Small businesses and local entrepreneurs are pushed down by giants like Starbucks and Tim Hortons. If they want to survive and grow their business, they have to figure out how to stand out in a crowded market. Java u is one of them, and our mission was to help them conquer the digital world.

What started out as a single coffee shop inside a Montreal university, has now expanded into many locations in Montreal, and even around the world. With all this growth and franchising, this little coffee shop has slowly been losing its identity, and is now struggling to find its place.


To create a digital marketing strategy we had to keep java u’s “why” in mind. They serve coffee, teas, pastries, and paninis, but they want to be known for their coffee. Proudly serving exclusively fair trade organic coffee is what they’re all about, and we had to communicate that in our digital strategy. We want to engage loyal customers who share the same core values. However, for any company to be considered experts in their field, they need to build credibility. This can be done by writing a blog about their expertise. We started a blog about coffee that also talks about the importance of the fair trade movement.

Start a conversation

Java u’s social media presence is not at its best. Their official Facebook page only has 513 likes and their posts are creating almost no engagement. Their Instagram is a little better, but still has a long way to go. With over 5000 followers, their posts are getting as few as 6 likes although a year ago, their posts used to get over 100 likes. The big problem here is that they’re having a one-way conversation. Instead of just posting pretty pictures, brands have to interact with their customers. Engagement doesn’t come magically, you have to start a conversation. Let your audience talk to you. Mark Schaefer recommends amplifying your content by using hashtags and asking questions. That is why we decided to start a campaign and use a new hashtag that will invite users to share photos of themselves with their favourite java u drink. A prize will be given as an incentive for instagrammers to share their java u moment. Not only does this help build brand loyalty, it also provides valuable knowledge about their audience. We also created an event, and gave customers a reason, and a deadline to go to java u and participate.

With these simple but incredibly important steps, businesses can get back on the path to success by making the most of social media. A Digital strategy that effectively communicates their brand identity and values will help the company position themselves in the market. Having an engaged community creates brand ambassadors and keeps the customers coming back.


JAVA U – Project… Is teamwork really democratic?

Putting 5 people in one room and assigning them a shared project does not constitute teamwork.

True teamwork is when all members are working in harmony; but remember, a symphony plays best when it has a leader, someone who keeps time.

To succeed as a team, someone needs to assume the lead throwing out the concept that teamwork is democratic and that all members are equal and play equal roles.

Focus on leader

Take a Formula One team or a team participating in the Tour de France. A leader is chosen; someone who demonstrates the qualities, competencies and capacities to take a team over the finish line in first place. This person generally has innate leadership qualities and skills that gives their team the best chance of winning.

The team members are then chosen to compliment this individual. Their role is clearly defined so that every move, task and effort is made with one goal in mind; support, aid and assist the leader in their quest to win.

Let’s breakdown a Tour de France team contending for the overall prize – the GC (general classification) as it is called… other teams might compete for the polka-dotted jersey, which is awarded to the top climber.

GC contenders win the tour by creating time gaps during hilly stages, and the team and individual time trials. So the “domestiques” on these teams support their leaders by pacing them on long climb. Given this arduous task, a “domestique” rider may kill themselves to pace their leader one day, and completely fall back and take it easy the next day to recover. This hurts their overall time, making it impossible for this rider to win but that’s not their purpose in the tour, their sole purpose is to support their leader at any cost.

Eye witness

I am avid cyclist and worked in Formula One for 11 years. In both cases, I witnessed teamwork taken to the extreme, where everything and I mean everything was thought out to the very last detail. In cycling, drafting behind another rider allows you to expend 30% less effort, over a 100km ride, that’s significant.

In Formula One, look at how the garage is set-up at every race, no matter where this race is taking place. The toolboxes are laid out exactly in the same place / position so when a mechanic reaches for a ¼ inch ratchet, it’s there, without having to search or think about it. It’s about saving time and being efficient, which could be the difference of making the podium or not.

In relation to the Java U project

For the Java U project, teams were pre-selected, meaning, no one knew who they’d be working with.

Over the course of working on the project, it became clear which member would play which role.

Our team quickly gelled and found a balance permitting us to work efficiently brought on by the fact that the proposed strategy was immediately endorsed by the team, call it our finish line.

Once our mission / purpose were set, the team fell into place and off we went. But this strategy was mainly driven by one individual who drove it and sold it to the other members getting their buy-in – the leader.

Had there been 2 leaders, 2 strong willed individuals in our team with opposing views, it could have split the team down the middle or made defining our strategy difficult.


So for teamwork to actually work, as in Formula One or in the Tour, someone needs to lead and others need to accept and assume their specific roles. Teamwork works best when this concept is accepting by all, that’s democratic but the make-up of the team and the assigned work is not.


A great coffee quote, “a morning without coffee, is like sleep”.


Sitting and listening to Valerie’s Java U presentation, I can’t help but wonder if the focus of their brand got lost because they didn’t have a true why. They even diluted their coffee message by partnering with Natrel, going so far as to detract from their own logo by giving Natrel prime real estate—their coffee cup! What you’re about to read is my impression of Java U and the best two practices I would recommend for them.

We all have numerous choices of coffee shops within a short walking distance. How do you get a consumer to choose you over the guy next door? Java U’s new brand voice “more than just coffee” is a good start. This is not a deep why message from the President but branding as a Fairtrade and organic coffee that is healthier and socially responsible will appeal and connect with a niche consumer.

It’s all about the connection

A best practice will be ensuring this message is authentic and connects with the right audience. As Bernadette Jiwa says: “If you fail to make an emotional connection with your audience–to tell the story that illustrates value–you’ll never quite reach your potential.”  This target audience will be broken down into 3-4 personas with the social media tactics adjusted with each persona in mind.

Hashtags are our friend

Creating a hashtag for their brand would be a second best practice. Not only will it give Java U a way to track consumer comments, it will also give them the opportunity to form a connection by entering their conversation. Mark Schaefer sums it up well: “the hashtag is one of the most important components of monetizing the web.”

Overall it seems Java U is on the right track. As long as they stay focused on their new why “more than just coffee” and creating an emotional connection, they will succeed in carving out their own niche clientele.

How to profitably reposition a diluted brand identity in a saturated market?

For years, Java U has been known for the quality of its food and its catering services. The brand identity has become so synonymous of delicious food that not once in 11 years of living in Montreal have I ever associated Java U with great coffee. That fact in and of itself illustrates the challenge the Java U brand is now facing: how to profitably reposition a diluted brand identity in a saturated market like Montreal’s coffee shop scene? Here are three best practices in digital content creation to achieve just that, woven into my experience of this project.

Paving Java-U’s way to its journey on social media content marketing!

When it comes to social media content marketing for company like Java U, so many directions can be taken. For an organisation, choosing the right platform(s) would not be the first question. The brand should be true to its identity and use social media to reflect it.  The choice of the vehicle should simply be where the customers are or in social media language where the followers are!

Be on the right social media platform to engage

They are so many options out there. For example not that long ago Mastadon was the buzz word. A couple of months later nobody is talking about it. When I first started working on the Java U project, I immediately looked at what was going on with them and their competitors on social media.  This quick analysis gave me a clear indication as to where the followers are and where Java U need to pay attention.  Since they are a small team they cannot dilute their efforts for their social media approach.  That is why in our group assignment we recommend they be present on four social media platforms. Google+ to help their SEO, which is low right now.  Twitter mostly to listen and to do damage control in case of crisis. Facebook, well everybody is on it and as a B2C company it is a must. Finally on Instagram, where most of the action is happening.

In the analysis, the engagement snapshot showed us that Instagram was the driving force for Java U and their direct competitor Van Houtte.  Thought leader Mark Scheafer cannot say enough good things about it. In addition, Instagram is a popular platform for the 18/34 year old demo, which is specifically the audience/market that Java U is targeting. Therefore, extra attention and effort must be taken with it. The usage of appropriate hashtags is an important detail and it should not be taken lightly. For example, when you look at Java U Instagram posting engagement ratio, when they used up to seventeen hashtags they had an average of 156,8 likes compare to 15,8 when using only one.

Image dogappreciationday post

Simply be true to your brand

To be successful on social media you must be true to your brand or at the very least strategically authentic.  If Montreal is part of your DNA, well be it and say it.  Do not pretend to be something that you are not. Because people are going to see through it and it would eventually hurt your brand.  Java U’s most popular Instagram posts had many Montreal based hashtags.  The city of Montreal is part of their identity as they clearly expressed it to us during their presentation. As of December 2017, there are ten Java U locations on the island.  On the above Instagram posting, all the Java U’s identity ingredients that we were told about their brand are in it. You have: Montreal with the graffiti wall behind. A cup of coffee, which is the premiere product they want to push. The Fairtrade aspect that is represented in two ways, first with the walking in the neighborhood and the holistic dog biscuit. Finally, the women shown representing their target audience of 18/34. I almost forgot the usage of black and white that is tying nicely with their cup and logo. This post is a clear example of how some of their Instagram posts could look like.  To be authentic is not difficult after all. It is who you are!

Although, this not a complete nor an exhaustive road map as to where Java U should go with their social media approach, It touches two fundamental issues: authenticity and following your target audience/market.   They should focus on fewer platforms and use them to their full potential. If Java U wants to find in which direction they should venture to following those two basic issues will surely guide them into their social media journey!



Italy’s most powerful blogger: Who is Marco Montemagno?


Maybe his name doesn’t ring a bell or you maybe you’ve seen one of his videos online without knowing who he was. His expressive, candid facial expressions, highlighted in every video he’s done are hard to forget.

Marco Montemagno, known as ‘Monty’ is one of Italy’s most powerful influencers. As a law graduate, what he does is completely out of his comfort zone, let alone the lawyer world. Trials, judgments, hearings? None of that.

He is an entrepreneur and an Internet and Digital Communication expert that lives in Brighton, England. Since relocating to England, he decided to embark on an ambitious project: make 1 video a day and share it with fans. Every day. Saturday and Sunday included.


Professional ping pong player, lawyer, and reporter, Monty is a chameleon. He became interested in all things Digital as a journalist on SkyTg24 for seven years, discussing all things related to Innovation and had the opportunity to interview important players such as Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Al Gore, Chris Anderson and  Tony Robbins to name a few. He inaugurated the first Startup School and Social Media Week in Italy, and is the founder of SuperSummit and BlogoSfere.  Continue reading “Italy’s most powerful blogger: Who is Marco Montemagno?”

Bite-sized Brand Marketing Strategies

cookie monster

By Erin Whittaker

Bernadette Jiwa’s blog, The Story of Telling, provides tasty, bite-sized anecdotes and examples on how to successfully execute your brand strategy.

Digging into personal experiences and referencing the influences and stories that inspire her, she sparks thought-provoking ideas that can change our perspective on the way that we approach our brand strategy, our way of reaching out to our audience, and of seeing the world around us.

For example, in her post “One or All?“, she recounts a simple story of the message on a local florist’s blackboard that reads “Flowers for all”. She points out this vendor’s decision to go with a very global message versus targeting the message, depending on the hour and the profile of customer that would be walking by at those times. She then asks, as marketers, would we write on our blackboards –

“As marketers, we have two choices, we can say something for the sake of saying something, or we can say the thing that will change something. What would you write on your blackboard?” 

The style and content of her posts remind me of the inspirational quotes people were into posting on social media for a while – yes, they became stale after a time, but somehow resonated with a large audience in that they (sometimes) provided a refreshing change of perspective on how we see the world around us.

As a marketer, I believe in the power of communicating simple ideas and messages, and I value the opportunity to have my perspective altered, especially if it offers the opportunity to bring me closer to seeing things from the consumer’s point of view.

The Story of Telling offers insight, but never instruction, on how to approach our messaging as marketers. 

Inspired by Jiwa’s 200 word or less blog posts, I’m keeping this first entry to a easy-to-digest length myself!