It is a bleary-eyed morning, and far too early to be productive, let alone cognizant of the world around. Yet here we are at Communal Coffee in North Park, which holds the distinction of being both a coffee shop and a floral boutique. It’s the kind of spot that should appeal to the mysterious creator of the @cali_coffee Instagram feed. And of course, she already knows it well.
Thanks to her Instagram profile, @cali_coffee has become somewhat of a local coffee guru, amassing a dedicated and growing following who turn to her for the next “it” coffee shop. Her caffeine-fueled sojourns across San Diego County and beyond are well documented and artistically photographed, catapulting her over other similar feeds. The location we’re in is fitting, given that Communal Coffee’s own popular Instagram feed (36.5k followers to date) is itself a haven for coffee addicts.
Cali_coffee and I are two of the day’s first patrons, and likely the only ones here to chat about social media content. During our conversation, we talk about Instagram trends and the joys of social content creation. We also speculate about why a lovingly curated feed about San Diego coffee is outperforming many small businesses when it comes to likes and engagement. Fortunately, there is great coffee to guide our conversation (salted caramel latte), so we are buzzing in no time about the topics at hand.
Double Zebra: What was the initial inspiration behind your Instagram feed?
Cali_Coffee: Well, it just started in April of this year. Because I like trying a lot of different coffee shops, I would post pictures of them on my personal Instagram. And then, friends began asking me for coffee recommendations. And I realized that it was something cool, to have one place for all the best coffee shops in the area. Because I feel like they are always hard to find. So I started with pictures of coffee. And then I figured I’d put them all in one spot, and make them accessible.
DZ: Why did you select Instagram as your social media platform of choice?
CC: Because it’s so widely used, more than other social media platforms. And it’s easy to search, and it’s centered around pictures. I like photography, with the variety and angles and little elements you can incorporate. I like the artistic side of it.
DZ: You have more than 2k followers today on a relatively new feed. You consistently gain 2-4% more followers every time you post. People are turning to you as a coffee expert. Would you consider yourself an influencer, or micro influencer? Micro-micro influencer? Where does this designation even start?
CC: Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t think of myself like that at all. I never started it with the intention of becoming anything. It was just kind of a hobby of mine that turned into something.
DZ: Who do you tend to follow on Instagram?
CC: Other pages like mine that highlight places around San Diego, celebrities. A variety.
DZ: Has anything unexpected come from your Instagram activity?
CC: I mean, this interview is pretty unexpected (laughs). I think a lot of my posts were getting 40 to 50 likes, maybe like 30 to 40. And then one of them got 190-something one day. You don’t always know what will get attention, or why.
DZ: Have you experienced any negative reactions to something you’ve posted?
CC: Not really, I think everyone likes coffee. It’s one of those non-controversial topics. If you don’t like coffee, you probably wouldn’t be following me.
DZ: Your posts tend to be lighthearted, and you’re not afraid to break out a pun or two. Do you think Instagram, and social media in general, is taken too seriously?
CC: For sure. Social media brings a lot of good, but there are so many negative things that can happen in this age. I believe in putting something out there that is lighthearted and positive. So people remind themselves that life isn’t always so serious.
DZ: Our Double Zebra team works with clients on their social media strategy and impact. What would you say to a company that puts no effort into their social media, or they barely have a presence?
CC: I’d say they’re kind of asking to fail, because that’s where most people find companies and make decisions. Most of the time it’s through social media, looking at pictures that others have tagged. You can only find so much on Google. Usually, the first thing I do is go on Instagram, and look at photos and posts that match what I’m searching for.
DZ: What about companies that are trying their best, but still have low social engagement? What can they learn from your experiences so far?
CC: I think in order to have people engage with you, you have to engage with them. See what they have posted on their own pages. Get to know the content they are putting out. Then you can start creating content of your own that is meaningful and has value.
DZ: Instagram has recently announced fundamental changes, like hiding the number of public likes. What will the platform look like three years from now?
CC: I think Instagram will be different for sure. But it can’t change that much, because it’s already working pretty well, the way it is right now.
DZ: You’re on a self-proclaimed mission to drink all the coffee in California. Does this include bowling alleys and dive bars that have a coffee pot in the corner somewhere?
CC: Probably not my first choice. Maybe when I run out of all the other options. I never turn down a cup of coffee. So if I’m in a bowling alley, and I want coffee, then yes. Though I probably wouldn’t travel to a bowling alley for the coffee, unless it was really good.
DZ: That sounds incredibly hipster, a bowling alley becoming famous for its coffee.
DZ: Is there a “holy grail” of coffee shops that you’re looking forward to visiting?
CC: I’m headed to Seattle soon, so I’d have to say Starbucks #1. That whole city is like a tribute to coffee shops!
Connect with Double Zebra to learn more about our team’s approach to social media engagement and content production for your business. And be sure to look for cali_coffee on her Instagram feed and at a coffee shop near you.