Businesses get twittery
Amy Padilla put her beloved Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra on the not-so-crowded map of Symphonic Slapstick last month, with this comic but well-versed Tweet: “Faster than a Rimsky-Korsikov piece! More powerful than Bruckner 8! It’s a violinist! It’s a conductor! It’s Pinchas Zuperman.” WITH ABOUT 140 JOYFULLY IRREVERENT CHARACTERS, AMY PADILLA PUT HER beloved Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra on the not-so-crowded map of Symphonic Slapstick last month, with this comic but well-versed Tweet: “Faster than a Rimsky-Korsikov piece! More powerful than Bruckner 8! It’s a violinist! It’s a conductor! It’s…”
By clicking on her link to the Symphony’s facebook page, a Twitter follower to @ SymphonieGroupie could discover that it’s “Pinchas Zuperman” racing skyward with a heroic grin and a violin, presumably to the rescue of cultural rubes with a sense of humor.
Zuperman, of course, is a parodic cross between the beloved comic-book character Superman, and one of the world’s great violinists, Pinchas Zuckerman. Mrs. Padilla, meanwhile — herself a cross between a New York ad agency, a cheerleading sports mom and a haiku master (write well in brief is the art of the tweet) — is the celebratory marketing voice of the Gulf Coast Symphony.
She was doing what many marketers in the region now do: They use wit, humor, imagination, a bit of themselves and intensely condensed writing skills to market their companies and products through social media.
They used to do something else — go to breakfast, go to lunch, glad-hand and backslap, perhaps.
“The funny thing about social media, quote-unquote, is that it’s just a new term. It used to be called Rotary or Kiwanis or the Chamber of Commerce. It’s an electronic handshake,” observes Nicolette Beard, the new communications manager for the Naples Botanical Garden (@NaplesBontanical, on Twitter).
“You’d be surprised what kind of personality comes through on Twitter,” she adds.
“But there’s a rule of thumb with tweeting, as well as with posting on Facebook for business: You’re there as a service and as a servant to your customer base, so you want to be perceived as a resource. I post resource links, or the education department will post what they’ve found blooming in the garden, or what unique species they’ve found — that kind of thing.”
And Twitter in particular, as everybody knows except males 55 and older (the demographic least likely to use it, she notes), works best when the tweeter tones down the rhetoric and tones up the light touch.
“People are not on Twitter to be sold — that’s why they have DVDs, so they can avoid commercials,” explains Samantha Scott, the marketing and public relations “Grand Poobah” at Pushing the Envelope (@getpushing, on Twitter).
The company builds Twitter into wide-ranging social and other media strategies for clients across the region.
“Twitter is about social relationships first, not about advertising,” she notes.
Her own Twitter autobiography suggests that, a blend of the personal and the marketable. Beneath her smiling photo she has written, “Christian, triathlete, immoderate lover of dogs/animals, wannabe foodie, consortium of random knowledge & Grand Poobah @ Pushing the Envelope, a mar-com firm, Fort Myers.”
She follows that with what now seems like an old-hat web address: www.getpushing.com.
Finding a strategy
In fact, all social media including the web can be connected and used in tandem, and should be, the marketing experts say. But Twitter has a distinct character requiring a strict skill-set.
“Microblogging is the crux of Twitter,” says Ms. Scott. “We use it for communication and research, for monitoring competition, and for sharing value-added information.”
Offering followers useful information without advertising “is something a lot of businesses should be doing and may not be doing,” she notes.
Ms. Scott allows herself a 4-to-1 ratio in tweets to 1,476 followers of @getpushing: “For every four tweets you send out that are industry related or value added or related to the community you’re in, you get one promo post or advertising tweet.”
This is not how everybody does it. At the other end of the strategy universe, marketers at Southwest Florida International Airport (@fortmyersflights) use Twitter as an indiscriminate billboard, sometimes delivering tweets every hour or two, 24/7. They all begin this way: “Cheap Fort Myers flights to…”
Strategy, advises Ms. Beard at the Naples Botanical Garden, should come first. Then marketers should find the technology to fit it.
Which is exactly what Miracle Baseball (@miraclebaeball.com) promoter Gary Sharp has done to appeal to his 3,918 followers — tops in the Florida State League, he says, and up in the top 50 of all minor league baseball teams.
“It’s been a huge tool. We were one of the first teams in all of minor league baseball to embrace social media and turn it into a valuable asset.
“We use Twitter on a daily basis and year-around, not just for in-game updates but our whole operation of Miracle baseball,” he explains.
“The only way our Twitter count is effective is if we provide value” — a sentiment that echoes the thinking of Ms. Scott and Ms. Beard.
So every time the Miracle tweets, followers learn about players or events in a game, as expected, but also about what the team does in the community, or what special deals or celebrations may becoming along for followers.
“We want people to react and retweet what we put out there,” says Mr. Sharp.
Farming it out
While those are all local approaches, a major company such as McDonald’s use Twitter the same way, on a local or regional basis. But the company hires an ad agency — a marketing and communications firm — to do it, in this case Fahlgren Mortine, with offices scattered around the Midwest and in Fort Lauderdale.
“@McDonalds_ SWFL is local — we want consumers in Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Lee counties, plus part of Sarasota County to be aware of McDonald’s news, offers and events,” explains Amy Bagner, a communications expert for Fahlgren Mortine.
Regional owner-operators establish business strategies and directions — what promotions to offer, what charities to support, who to sponsor and so on — and Fahlgren Motine twitters.
“We’re doing our job well when we engage a follower in conversation about who they like to share a meal with, or how a Rolo Mcflurry can make all the problems of your day vanish.”
The strategy requires joining other businesses in the area — Miracle baseball, for example — to make hay while the sun shines. Which is why McDonalds recently sponsored a “Family Fitness Night” with the Miracle.
“Prior to the game, we conducted a week-long trivia event where we gave away tickets to the game via Twitter.”
Twitter becomes a tool in charity fund-raising too — last year during one 11-day period, recalls Ms. Bagner, McDonalds owners in the region donated a quarter to a charity for every new Twitter follower.
Asked how much is too much, she replied this way: “McDonald’s is fortunate to have a strong, loyal customer base in Southwest Florida. Our goal is to engage these consumers in a dialogue about a brand they love. It’s a balance — we want to be considerate of their time but keep McDonald’s top-of-mind.”
All of it will change, of course.
“It’s an evolution. And all of it’s an evolution for everybody. Who knows what’s around the corner? The key is to be adaptable,” notes Ms. Beard, at the Naples Botanical Garden.
“The advice I have for others,” suggests the Miracles’ Mr. Sharp, “is don’t be afraid to embrace Twitter, but have a plan that enhances what your business is trying to achieve.”
In other words: Don’t get jittery about the new technology, just get twittery. ¦
(NOTE: Gulf Coast Symphony promoter Amy Padilla is married to Osvaldo Padilla, Fort Myers editor of Florida Weekly.)
A sampling of local Twitter accounts
>> Sam Galloway Ford, Fort Myers,
>> Following: 232
>> Followers: 79
>> Tweets: 732
>> Typical Tweet: Trade the carpool lane for
the sand this summer. Pack up your
@Ford and enjoy a day on your favorite
Florida beach. http://ow.ly/bnIOj
>> Lee Memorial Health System, Fort
Myers, @Lee_ Memorial
>> Following: 413
>> Followers: 1,054
>> Tweets: 1,988
>> Typical Tweet: Are you a caregiver? Learn
more at “Powerful Tools for Caregivers”
class. Take care of yourself. Call 343-2751
>> Fort Myers Miracle, Fort Myers,
>> Following: 257
>> Followers: 3,920
>> Tweets: 4,524
>> Typical Tweet: Congrats to former Miracle
OF Oswaldo Arcia on his selection to the
MLB Futures Game
>> Chico’s, Fort Myers, @LoveChicos
>> Following: 1,841
>> Followers: 3,492
>> Tweets: 1,150
>> Typical Tweet: Black Label by Chico’s
continues to redefine luxe looks. This latest
collection is such a splash! http://bit.ly/
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