How California Tortilla built a burrito loving army online

Stacey Kane PicWhen I chose Rockville based California Tortilla this month to do my web strategy “deep dive” I have to admit that I had an ulterior motive. I have always had a strong respect for the company and its ability to infuse a voice into their brand and I wanted the opportunity to learn more. I have loved the quirky little company since they had just one location blocks from me in downtown Bethesda. I was delighted when Stacey Kane, the organization’s VP of Marketing agreed to chat with me. Without further ado, the interview…

What part does social media play in your overall marketing plan?


For us, social media takes engagement with our customers out of these four walls. We can interact with them where they are. It is a perfect compliment to our robust email platform.

I have always been intrigued by the voice that CalTort has created in their marketing communications. Can you tell me about that?


The California Tortilla voice has evolved over time. The origins of the voice is that of one of the founders of the company, Pam Felix. We have updated the voice over the years to reflect the growth of the brand. In recent years, as we have gone through a large rebranding process and we have been updating the voice quite a bit to compliment other changes we have made.

Does having such a strong and recognizable voice make it easier or harder to create content?


It makes it easier. The voice allows us to be very real when we speak as a brand. It really allows us to have a two way conversation with our customers.

What advice would you give business owners who are just starting out on actively marking online?

A few things:

  • Take baby steps. Listen before you speak. Set up google alerts for all iterations of your brand.
  • Own your yelp page. Be aware of what people are saying. If you aren’t listening you can be certain your competitors are.
  • Figure out where your audience is, that is where you should be.
  • Once you start, you need to commit to continue. A dead brand page is worse than not having one at all.
  • Stick to it! The ROI is off the charts.
  • Manage your time wisely. It is very easy to get sucked into a social media vortex and spend more time then you planned.
  • The person running your social media needs to really know your business. This isn’t the place for an intern.
  • Set up a calendar (at least until you make participating a part of your everyday activities.
  • Sign up for Smart Brief for social media. It is a great way to keep up with what is happening.

California Tortilla is pretty promotion happy company (Erika’s favorite… Pop Tart day). Does social media drive promotion or does promotion drive social media?


Definitely both. For instance, we partner with the Discovery Channel for Shark Week. That is a great promotion and consistently drives increased reach. Other promotions are using our existing channel to bring people in the restaurants. All of our promotions have the goal of getting food into people’s hands.

Can you tell me about some tangible benefits you have seen out of your online participation?


We absolutely know that we have improved customer retention due to our online presence. We are always listening and when someone has mentions a bad experience we can respond and try and bring them back. Actually, it has also been a great tool for doing customer research. In 2010, our vegetarian burrito the “NoMeato Burrito” was named by a customer on Facebook.

To learn more about California Tortilla, visit their website, or better yet, visit one of their locations and get a yummy big fresh salad with a black beans and guacamole.