Build Community Around Your Coffeehouse with Twitter

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By night I edit smallaxecoffee.com and the @smallaxecoffee twitter feed.  By day I work for a marketing firm.  Since Twitter is helping people build community around coffee, I somehow thought writing an article on how coffeehouse owners can get develop community and customers on Twitter would be a good intersection of my interests and expertise. 

This quick how-to was inspired in part by an article by Erica O'Grady on Mr. Tweet's site about how one coffeehouse is using Twitter to promote itself and connect with customers.  This article isn't the be all and end all, so please add to the discussion here or on Twitter.

Don't forget to scroll to the bottom for examples of awesome coffeeshouses marketing and developing community on Twitter.

Getting Started
Twitter is emerging as a new strategy for increasing awareness of coffee retailer brands as well as foot traffic - both of which should contribute positively with more people enjoying your coffee.  Creating a Twitter following is like a snowball rolling downhill.  If you do it right, the momentum of audience growth will build exponentially

First Thing's First: What is Twitter?
Twitter (twitter.com) is an online social networking tool created to allow you to tell the universe what you're doing in short text messages.  With Twitter you have a username and through that username you can enter text messages into a running feed.  Individual entries are called Tweets. 

Twitter allows you to communicate with others in several ways:
 

  1. Post Updates, like, "I'm on my way to the doctor to get my test results.  Wish rash would go away."
     
  2. Respond to Others by tagging your posts with the "@" symbol and their username, like "@JimJones Great post on the new motorcycle tires, be careful heading up ol' baldy."
     
  3. Participate in Large Discussions by tagging your posts with the pound sign as is often used by people attending a common event, like "#coffeefest anyone want to meet for dinner at Wendy's later? I hear their chili is delish."

Is Twitter Right for Promoting Your Coffeehouse?

Who is your target market?  Remember, we rob banks because that's where the money is.  Don't bother marketing on Twitter unless you know there are customers or potential customers there.  If you're located in an office park or in the lobby of a corporate building, Twitter's less likely to return results than if you're situated in a college town right by campus or in the hub of a busy main street.

How can you find out?  Ask them?  Make a sign that says, "Are you on Twitter? Tell me about it."  See who responds.  Tell them you're considering reaching out to folks on Twitter and see what they say.

How to Get Started

Go to twitter.com and sign up for an account.  Pick a name that is relevant and unmistakably associated with your retail establishment, like the name of your business.  Once you're signed up, you can start posting news, updates, promotions, and whatever else you think will motivate people to come into the store.

Build a Following

Advertise by providing a link on your web site.  Make a sign for the storefront "follow us on twitter @twittername or twitter.com/twittername."  The hardest Twitter followers will be the first.  Start following the following groups of people.  Once they see you following them, they will start following you, as ironic as it sounds. 

  • Other similar businesses in your area
  • Your customers "Hey Steve, you on Twitter?  Let me follow you."
  • Other coffee businesses around the country (see examples)


Make Time

Like any marketing strategy, you need to make a real commitment to it for it to work.  In a best case scenario, someone who's sitting behind a computer or has their handheld with them all day should monitor Twitter for direct replies and to update the feed as new promotions present themselves.

Invest at least five minutes three times per day to post news and participate in conversations.

Most coffeehouse owners are unbelievably busy and customer marketing understandably takes a long time to bubble to the top of the priority list, especially when the Synesso needs a backflush.  So, try using a tool like BrightKit, which allows you to schedule your tweets.  This way, you could write a few days at a time and schedule them to come out over the course of time.

Content

Here are some tips for your twitter content to keep people engaged.

Talk about the weather - adds timeliness - and suggest the right beverage.

  • Man, it's cold this November.  Man does this Rwandan coffee taste like cider when it cools? 

Create a sense of urgency

  •  Now til 4PM $1 off all lattes

 Create a sense of specialness, like the orphan annie club

  •  To get $1 off, mention the secret word "lando"

 Educate Folks

  • Join us for a vac pot demo this Sunday.
  • Seems like the new Sidamo crop is the best in years.  Come try this unwashed coffee gem.

Single Out Your Followers for Praise (but not the same ones all the time)

  • @johnnyboy187 Good to see you today.  Love that new steel mug.
  • @suzieq123 Hope you enjoyed that latte, check back Thurs for another and I'll make it myself.

Celebrate Holidays

  • Got the day off for MLK Jr. Stay?  Stop by and warm up with a sweet latte.

Be Daring

  • 7 out of 10 CU students find members of the opposite sex more attractive when they drink black coffee.

Get Promoted

  • Hey @coffeegeek loved the latest podcast, come see us in Sandusky next time you're here.

Examples

Check out these feeds of coffeehouse folks who have established a presence on Twitter.

Resources

Check out some of these resources that I found useful  Send me yours so I can incllude them here.