Montreal general store Fait Ici opened its doors about four months ago, but several months before that, the store's team started blogging.
A small shop with a local and organic focus, Lindsay Davis' new business has started strong: in person, in the media, and online.
"We are foodies who could not get information about where the products we bought came from," said Jackson Wightman, Ms. Davis' spouse and vice president of marketing and community for the shop. "We always tried to eat local and organic food, but often could not get what we needed."
Fait Ici aims to solve that problem, providing customers with "responsibly produced products" and the information and resources to prove it.
As the "buy local" movement has continued to grow in popularity, so too has the presence of food bloggers. This has been a perfect opportunity for Ms. Davis and Mr. Wightman, who have paired the store's unique offering with a powerful digital strategy that has propelled the new company forward almost immediately.
Fait Ici is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but probably most unique is the approach the couple has taken to their blog.
Early on, Fait Ici invited five Montreal bloggers to each provide a post over five days – a creative way to get free content and engage with the food community that also resulted in a huge increase in traffic.
"We selected five people that we knew and liked. It wasn't just about finding the biggest names so we could bring their existing communities to us," Mr. Wightman says. "When doing something like this, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. People like to be a part of something, and that includes bloggers…They thought it was a really cool group exercise and they also received exposure to each other's communities."
Mr. Wightman has a strong background in PR, and it is clear that he is both thoughtful and very passionate about Fait Ici's mission and digital strategy. He even shared a case study on the blogging experiment, so others could benefit from what Fait Ici had learned.
He believes the company's online efforts are effective because their activities aren't only about promotion: they strongly believe in adding value to community.
"You have to give to get because people are tired of being talked at and broadcasted to," Mr. Wightman says. "We're inundated with messages, and I just don't think a billboard gives in the same way that sharing a piece of valuable content on a Facebook page or listing useful tips on a blog does."
Their efforts continue to pay off. Mr. Wightman says as much as 85 per cent of Fait Ici's more than a dozen media and blog hits came via relationships built on Twitter, and the chatter online and in the media has brought people directly into the store.
"I cannot count the number of times people came in this summer and said 'Oh, I heard about this lemonade on Twitter,'" Mr. Wightman says.
In the coming weeks, Fait Ici is going to launch something even bigger: a new blog called Ici et Here.
"Fifty-two weeks, 52 posts, by 52 different people," says Mr. Wightman, adding that the bloggers will include local chefs, food bloggers, a Hollywood actress, a New York Times bestselling author – even his mother. "They are going to write about the interplay of food and life in Montreal."
Through their blogging, Mr. Wightman and Ms. Davis have garnered media attention, increased their traffic both online and in the store, but most importantly – they haven't just reached out and advertised to their community, they have become a valuable part of it.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.