Businesses using Twitter to build brand, bring in customers
Nashville Business Journal – by Eric Snyder Staff Writer
Just as the image of Santa Claus has continuously evolved — from the skinny patron saint of Greece and Russia into today’s jolly-sized chimney diver — merchants have continued to find new ways of connecting their wares with the public.
This holiday season, many local retailers will continue reaching out to shoppers where they live — and via Twitter feeds, where they work, play or pick up grocercies.
Twitter is a free “micro-blogging” service that allows users to send bite-sized info blasts to subscribers, more commonly (or ominously, depending on your perspective) referred to as “followers.” Tweets can be sent or received via computers or smartphones.
Spurred by breathless media coverage and celebrity adopters like actor Ashton Kutcher and NBA player Shaquille O’Neal, Twitter has enjoyed exponential growth. According to eMarketer, more than 18 million American adults will have used the service this year, compared to 6 million users last year.
And while reports suggest Twitter’s growth may not be sustainable — up to 60 percent of users quit after one month, Nielsen Online said in April — many local retailers say you have to remember one thing: It works.
And it’s free.
“It is, by far, our best (return on investment),” said Lori Paranjape, a partner in Redo Home & Design in historic Franklin, citing a primary reason it has proven popular with retailers.
Lori immediately began “tweeting” when she joined the business in January, thinking the company might just put a toe in the water. No longer.
“When we get new inventory, we tweet. When we get an interesting new client, we tweet,” Paranjape said. “It’s just how we communicate.”
Paranjape said Redo got multiple clients, whom they had never previously met, via Twitter. When Redo joined A Shopping Soiree, a Franklin fundraiser for several local charities — an invitation they received via Twitter, of course — they tweeted. They’ve tweeted Christmas shopping tips and holiday gift guides.
She doesn’t, however, make the same mistake some retailers do; Paranjape’s advertising button isn’t always on.
“There’s consequences in the Twitter world,” Paranjape said. “It’s not all business.”
It may seem paradoxical. To receive messages via Twitter, you must sign up for them.
But they also want to be entertained, or innocently informed, not just sold to.
“There’s a kind of 9-to-1 rule,” said Christine Taylor, vice president of social media marketing for local firm JTMarCom. “You need to be marketing other people nine times more than you’re marketing yourself.”
Taylor said clients sometimes have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept, but she used the example of a big-box store pointing a customer to another store if they don’t have a particular item in stock. Perhaps the competing store gets that sale, but the original business earned trust and built a relationship.
“You have to develop a relationship with your customer base,” Taylor said.
Even if it is transferred over a so-called social media, traditional advertising will be found out.
“We have a good b.s. radar,” Taylor said. “Traditional advertising is tuned out.”
Paranjape, tweeting for Redo under the account redodesign, promotes other events around Franklin, solicits advice from followers on things to do and offers moments of levity, as she did in response to a jogger that ran past the shop window: “Please stop jogging by our door. We get it. We should jog, too. At least say, ‘Hi.’ Don’t just fly by all exercisey.” (Paranjape also advertised this article, twice, tweeting on Nov. 23, “We’re awkwardly having our picture taken right now by the (Nashville Business Journal) for article about Twitter.”)
Taylor said some companies, particularly larger ones more entrenched with traditional, top-down advertising, find Twitter intimidating. While JTMarCom also advises several clients on how to wield their Twitter accounts, Taylor herself manages the accounts of nine clients, ranging from a pet food company to an executive coach. While that does negate a prime benefit for some retailers — the fact that Twitter is a free service — help from Taylor saves the businesses another, if less tangible, investment of time.
“You have to nurture it once you have it,” she said.
Rachel Lowe, owner of Two Elle, a boutique home and clothing store that recently moved into Green Hills’ Hill Center, feels no intimidation from Twitter.
With a love of writing, and an English degree from Columbia University, Lowe said she uses the Two Elle Twitter account, twoellerabbits, to reinforce the personalities of their sales staff.
“We would never just say, ‘This T-shirt came in,’ end of sentence,” Lowe said. “It always has to have a story behind it.”
Like Paranjape, Lowe said Twitter is her store’s most effective form of advertising. While she tweeted constant updates about the store’s relocation this summer, Lowe said the business didn’t run any print ads announcing the move.
As Paranjape put it, with Twitter, “We are our own press coverage.”
You can reach Eric Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-846-4254.