Scoops Westside: Using social media to transform an ice cream business / by Mike Takahashi

Scoops Westside

Tucked in the middle of a tiny strip mall on the corner of Overland and Woodbine lies an ice cream shop. You’d never notice it driving by, especially at night, because there’s no permanent sign up yet. Only a small banner hangs above the entrance that proudly reads “Scoops Westside.” The shop’s interior is minimal at best: a few tables and chairs, a small coffee press that serves Intelligentsia coffee, and a laptop with speakers playing music from Pandora. But drop by in the evening on any given day of the week and there is a continuous flow of people coming in and out. They're eagerly anticipating a menage e trois of flavors such as coconut white chocolate wasabi, brown brown bread, salty white chocolate and black sesame chai. At times the shop has gotten so busy that it has to close early because it’s run out of ice cream.

If the name Scoops sounds familiar, you’re right. Another highly successful location in Hollywood exists, which was started by its founder Tai Kim. Scoops Westside is the brainchild of food blogger Matthew Kang, a frequent customer of Scoops, who decided to open a location on the westside of Los Angeles. The amount of growth and support it has received in just one month since its opening has been remarkable. With no traditional advertising, Scoops Westside has already begun to attract a loyal following. How? Using social media.

Kang is an active social media user who uses social media to constantly engage with consumers online. Want to know what the newest flavors of the week will be, check his blog. Have a question? Just ask him on Twitter and you’ll get a reply. This has been key to the success of Scoops Westside. Kang has been able to foster a community of loyal followers and brand ambassadors who continue to help spread the word, free of charge.

According to a Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries, recommendations from personal acquaintances or opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising. People rely more than ever on word of mouth recommendations from friends and family to decide which restaurants to try, places to visit or movies to watch.

In the past the rate at which recommendations traveled was much slower. You might have recommended Scoops Westside to a friend after trying it for the first time a few days later. Today you’re more likely to make a recommendation by posting it on your Facebook profile or Twitter account the moment you experience it.  Within minutes of your post, your recommendation is broadcast and ready to be consumed by your entire social circle of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter.  In turn some of them will “Like” your post or retweet your message extending its reach with even more people within their social circle. It's viral marketing at its best.

The impact that social media is having can be seen everywhere. On the popular tech blog TechCrunch, the top two link referrals in 2010 came from Twitter and Facebook. Not Google. Proof that people are now consuming and relying on information within their social circle more than ever.  With a little Yelp from my friends, I first stumbled upon Scoops Westside searching for “ice cream” while eating at Chego nearby. Chego is owned by Roy Choi, who is famous for starting the food truck revolution in Los Angeles with Kogi using, you guessed it, Twitter.