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Marketing Pros: Amy Caltabiano and Lincoln Magee at The Grounds of Alexandria

Sydney’s The Grounds isn’t your regular café or restaurant. It is an immersive wonderland of epic proportions. For a physical location, it also has a very rigorous approach to digital marketing. We had to find out more!

cafe marketing

The Potting Shed at The Grounds of Alexandria - enjoy your coffee or cocktail amongst the greenery.

The Grounds‘ location in a former 1920s industrial precinct is the perfect backdrop to endless theatrical stagings and reinventions – whether that’s a ‘Garden of Sweets’ or Disney partnerships, like Aladdin. And we’re not talking a few nods to a theme. These are entire worlds imagined – laneways turned into the souk markets of Agrabah and genie-in-a-bottle color-changing cocktails.

Turns out you don’t have to see it to believe it though. The Sydney-destination has over 200,000 followers on Instagram and 140,000 on Facebook – many of whom haven’t visited the destination in person, but engage with the brand through its content. We chatted to the marketing team at The Grounds to find out how a food and drink destination went about amassing such an audience. Introducing Amy Caltabiano, Marketing Manager, and Lincoln Magee, Social Media Manager!

Hi guys – tell us about your team!

“We have a creative team that work onsite at The Grounds. We call ourselves the Dream Team (original, right?!) but we do have a blue neon “Dream Room” sign in our office so we guess that makes it true…

“We’re led by our founder, fearless leader and creative director, Ramzey, and our team is made up of a creative developer and stylist, digital marketing manager, marketing manager, social media manager, graphic designer, business development manager and a special events coordinator. It’s a pretty well oiled machine!”

How do you balance the split focuses across cafe, coffee and events?

“With the help of Linktree of course! It really does make it so much easier to direct people to the information that’s relevant to them. But really, it can be a delicate balance. The varied interests in our business don’t necessarily always match our audience’s every interest – those who love our installations and special events may not feel the same passion toward the science behind coffee, and vice versa. There’s a lot of testing involved to learn what resonates with our audience and on which channels.

cafe marketing

Everything. So. Pretty.

“It’s a juggling act but we always maintain our values and key business goals in the top of our minds so everything gets the love it deserves.”

"[Linktree] really does make it so much easier to direct people to the information that's relevant to them."

How did the business make the switch from foodie destination to experiential wonderland?

“The Grounds was built as an experience-based business from the beginning, so there wasn’t a moment we could pinpoint so to speak. It’s one of the reasons it’s been so successful – it was never about building cafes and serving food, it’s about the life, soul and energy that goes into everything we do.”

How did you get such a big following?

“We aim to create the most beautiful experiences for our customers, which has proved to be very shareable online, so much so that we’re considered in the top 10 most Instagrammed places in Australia!

“We’re very humbled by the way our guests interact and share their experiences through social media, and with so much user generated content, they’ve really created an amazing platform for us to share what we do with the world.”

" It was never about building cafes and serving food - it’s about the life, soul and energy that goes into everything we do."

What is your approach to UGC?

“We love seeing people enjoying our venues and sharing their experiences. It’s amazing how creative people can be  and also the effort they put in to capturing awesome content. We always encourage people to tag us in their photos so we can share it across our channels – either @thegrounds or #thegrounds. We’re also partial to a good dog pic too, they’re a real highlight for us!”

cafe marketing

Good looks AND good coffee?!

How far do you plan content in advance?

“We map out our activations (quite loosely) on a yearly basis so when it comes to Instagram specifically, we try to map out our feed as far in advance as possible. It may not be exact images, but we make sure the feed ‘flows’ through the content we know we’ll be producing.

“As we’re always creating new installations and content, everything you see on our feeds is really current at the time we’re posting. We evolve and change things so quickly that our images can have a really short shelf life. It tends to be a pretty quick turn around between capturing and posting content.”

What’s your most popular content? And have you had any surprise successes online?

“The launch images for our installations definitely perform the best, and we’re constantly dreaming up ways to make our next installation even more amazing so we can beat our own records. Our events and wedding content is really popular, and our limited edition drinks and desserts that tie in with our installation themes do really well too – you really do eat with your eyes first.

“We always knew our followers loved Kevin Bacon, our resident pig from 2012-2018 (he’s hanging out at The Riverside Farm up the coast now if you want to see what he’s up to) but it did shock us a little just how well our audience engaged with his content online too!”

What marketing tech or tools do you use?

“There’s so many out there, but a few we’ve found helpful are Schedugram and Iconosquare for planning and scheduling, Canva and VSCO for design and technology, and Creative Hub and Hootsuite for inspiration and help.”

cafe marketing

The latest installation at The Grounds was inspired by Disney's Malicifent, with a forest of black roses, feather details and laneways filled with green-lit mist.

Your storytelling includes behind-the-scenes and how to’s. How do you decide what goes in Stories versus Feed?

“We try to keep our feed curated and always consider the ‘why’ before sharing content. With so many competing brands out there it’s important to understand why people follow you and ensure that you’re adding value to their lives through your content.

“It’s also really important for us that our feed represents our whole business, so we work to balance the content between the different business streams. We keep in mind the question of ‘if someone happened across our Instagram page for the first time, and only scrolled for a few seconds, would our page tell them who we are?’ It’s a good thing to keep perspective on. It’s not necessarily about the most potentially viral piece of content every time (just most of the time!).

“Stories allow us to share so much more with our followers and in a more immediate way (we love the candidness of capturing on a phone and sharing as it’s happening). It helps us add value in different ways, whether it’s keeping them informed with events coming up, jumping behind the barista bar or into the pastry kitchen to show a ‘how-to’ style video, or following our experts through their day to day work to see what’s happening behind the scenes.

It’s a more playful way to show the brand’s personality and with so much happening here at any one time, it means we can share as much as possible.”

cafe marketing
cafe marketing

You use Pinterest really well – a tool that’s under-utilized by many businesses. Tell us about that.

“Pinterest is doing a lot of great things at the moment. Keep an eye on it! While it can be used really well for some businesses, I think it’s important to prioritize the platforms that are going to give you the best return on your investment. This comes down to a combination of what platforms your target market actually utilizes and the type of content that you have to share. In a perfect world, you’d be posting on all social platforms regularly but there are only so many hours in a day.

"Pinterest is doing a lot of great things at the moment. Keep an eye on it!"

“Find what works best for your business and make that a priority and treat the others bonuses. It’s better to put out great content on one channel, than bad content across 10. For us, wedding and event content works really well on Pinterest so that’s what we prioritize there.”

Do you work with influencers?

“We definitely do! We have a few wonderful influencers that we consider ourselves very lucky to be able to work with. If you’re just starting out, the main thing we’d suggest considering is whether it’s going to be beneficial to both parties, and what the value looks like to you. Are you looking for someone to create amazing content you can share on your channels? Are you trying to leverage their audience? How would you measure the success of working together? Keep your communication really open with the influencers you’re working with.

“Creating a solid relationship from the start will set you up for a long term partnership; there’s nothing better than working with an amazing influencer who genuinely loves your brand.”

cafe marketing
cafe marketing

What is the next social trend that you’re excited about?

“There are brands out there doing some pretty inspiring things with the use of AR. No doubt with time we’ll see more and more, and we’re pretty keen to see how we can start playing in that space too.”

Profile:@thegrounds

The Grounds' Linktree

The Grounds team has created a slick-looking Linktree thanks to a few little tricks:

  • They’ve customized the theme, with house branding to tie in with their other platforms.
  • They’re using social icons to link to grow social audiences across destinations.
  • They keep topical, seasonal content lins at the top of their Linktree for discoverability.

The Grounds use Linktree PRO.

Get your business its LinktreeJoin the PROs

Whether you can make it in person, or can gorge on The Grounds’ digital content, there is plenty to feast on. Seamlessly blending online/offline like this is no easy feat, but this team is some of the best out there – congrats and keep up the good work!