Coffee, cause, connection: Leveraging social media to save lives

Coffee is a connector.  Nonprofits are connectors.  Social media is a connector.  Mix them together in the right way and you have a seriously powerful thing going on. 

Last year, I was introduced to the nonprofit Three Avocados after someone I follow on Twitter mentioned them.  I clicked on @nonprofitcoffee in the tweet, which ultimately led me to  I was immediately captivated by the mission (clean water) and thus connected.  I’ve gotten to know the founder, Joe Koenig, a little in the last few months, and when it comes to leveraging social media to grow the Three Avocados brand and sell coffee to fund clean water projects in Uganda, Joe knows his stuff.

And before this week when I asked him the five questions below, I didn’t know the half of it!  From message control to branding to building relationships to driving revenue, Joe is doing it all through social media. It worked on me! And I couldn’t be happier about it.


1. How are you using social media to grow the Three Avocados brand?

I’m a Twitter addict. We use Facebook, too, but I have to admit, I’m a huge Twitter addict and really prefer it to Facebook. Both have been essential in spreading the word about Three Avocados though. Three Avocados started about a year ago, and we’re now at over 11,000 followers on Twitter and over 3,500 fans on Facebook. These two social networks have accounted for the majority of our growth this past year.

A great thing about social media is that I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do interviews for blogs (like this one) that allow me to put out the message to an entire new audience. A lot of people get concerned about social media and about controlling the message. Yes, social media provides a lot of potential for bad press to spread quickly, but I’ve found that by being active on Twitter and Facebook, I can really control what message we’re putting out. And, I can be available to quickly answer questions and direct people to the proper information.

I also find that social media gives you a chance to give your brand a personality. Not all of our tweets or Facebook posts are about clean water or coffee. Many are, but others add a touch of personality, which, I believe, really lets the user connect with the brand on a personal level. As we grow I can definitely see incorporating personal tidbits from employees to keep the personal touch there, but avoid building a brand around a single person.

2. What is working best for you and why?

I think Facebook and Twitter both have their place and different things work better on each of them. I’m a huge fan of Twitter because it’s so easy to make connections with people who would be interested in your brand. It’s a great way to connect and interact with customers in a quick, easy, and fun way. I find Facebook much better for posting images to share and conducting simple giveaway contests.

I can say the single most effective thing I’ve done to date is search out people who have interests similar to what Three Avocados is all about (clean water) and follow them. There have been many instances where that person went straight to our website and made a purchase, after following us that is.

3. What specific successes can you attribute to social media?

Directly because of social media we’ve been included in articles written by Fox News, TrendHunter, and numerous smaller publications. I’ve been able to connect with CEOs at major corporations, celebrities, and build a base of thousands of supporters. I’ve been able to make connections with people at companies like AOL that are interested in helping us get in front of people. I’ve seen sale after sale driven directly from social media. We’ve picked up new retail locations for our product solely by social media and been able to connect with partner organizations that we would never have been able to connect with without it.

4. What’s the key to success with social media?

Being active and paying attention to your social media. I see so many organizations that post something and then don’t pay attention to the responses. They’re simply talking at people, not participating in a conversation. You absolutely have to engage with your audience. So many people want to ‘go viral’, however, not many things truly go viral. And, in reality, you don’t need to. A steady growth will get your message out, build your brand and ultimately drive revenue.

5. What advise would you give other nonprofits or businesses about best utilizing social media?

Take the time to learn the tools and then stick with it. It will take longer than you think to get it going. Realize that each person you connect with through social media has the potential to be a brand advocate for you. Try out different types of posts, different times to post, etc. Just make sure that you post when you’re available to review responses and communicate with your fans/followers.

The potential social media has for your organization is huge. Just as an example, we have 3,500 fans on Facebook. If each of those fans has an average of 200 friends, we have a potential reach of 700,000. For a tiny organization that’s only been around one year and has a very thin marketing budget, that is absolutely huge.


3 thoughts on “Coffee, cause, connection: Leveraging social media to save lives

  1. The goal is practical and sort of specific practical experience on the suitability of online class social media marketing prior
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  2. I’m really glad I came across this interview. I first heard of Three Avocados about a month ago and was impressed with the online following they have cultivated, not to mention the impressive concept around their brand. I loved Joe’s comment about giving Three Avocados personality and not just using social media as a pipeline for company content. He also hit a key point for me when he mentioned that they always make sure to post when they are available to engage with their fans. I get discouraged when I see companies who just use Facebook and Twitter for self-promotion and don’t engage with their followers. I’ve seen quite a few Facebook pages where followers post comments or questions and never receive a response, which doesn’t create a very positive impression. Social media is about reciprocation and two-way conversation, and the brands that understand and demonstrate this benefit the most. Thanks for highlighting what makes Three Avocados so social media savvy.

    Zoe Geddes-Soltess
    Community Engagement, Radian6

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. There are definitely many things other users of social media can learn from Joe. I think what he’s doing today will payoff huge for the nonprofit down the road.

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