The Cheese Stands Alone – or Does It?

The Cheese Stands Alone

In which we compare cheese to Twitter and illustrate three marketing principles.

“Hi, ho the dairy-o, the cheese stands alone!”
In reality, the cheese does not stand alone. Thought and planning go into creating the cheese, producing the cheese, and marketing, distributing and selling the cheese.

Fifth Town was one of most successful small cheese producers in Ontario in recent years. They made artisanal, small batch cheeses in an environmentally conscious, LEED certified production facility. The business worked as well as it did because they knew their product and they knew their market. They knew where the cheese would be sold, what other kinds of products were sold with it (crackers, deli products), and who would be likely to buy it.

Twitter, like other social media, will work more effectively in promoting your business if you use it within the context and framework of a business plan and marketing strategy. What you say, how you will say it, where you will say it, and when, affect whether your intended customer bites, or not.

Have you correctly identified who your customers are? Are they active online? What about potential business partners? Are your customers or partners likely to be active on Twitter? Where else might these groups look for information?

Fifth Town had a good online website with their story, lots of pictures of the facility and their products and a price list- what potential visitors and buyers want to know. Fifth Town also had information brochures in many of the shops where their product was sold, and in tourist information centres.

Twitter is most effective for in growing your business (or getting a job, or extending your influence) when your tweets are backed by more content: a website and ideally a blog, plus either a LinkedIn profile or a Facebook company page, depending on the nature of your business. Some of you will need to add Pinterest and Google+ presences to this list.

Content and branding across your sites should be consistent, so that people get a unified picture of your business.

Convert Tasting to Consumption
A good cheese should detectable as such after the smallest of cheese-tasting nibbles. The small bit fully reflects the character of the whole, but tastes powerfully like “More”.

Your tweets need to be “tasty” on their own, not requiring extra context to be understood. At the same time, your tweets entice your customers into wanting to learn more, and give them a way to do that. That’s why on average one in four tweets contain links  back to a website or blog. If you want your links retweeted, Dan Zarella  demonstrated you’re better off  if 75% of your tweets contain links to useful content (some of which can be yours).

Your website or blog is the place your customers can sample your wares more fully, learn more about you, and potentially be converted from taste testing and window shopping to buying your product or services.

Pay Attention to Shelf Life
Cheese doesn’t last forever. Some cheeses are best eaten right away; some, with care and attention, can be kept for a long time – but all cheese has a limit to its shelf life after which it is no good to anyone.

Tweets have a limited shelf life –measured in minutes or hours. To be effective, tweets must be created and planned thoughtfully, and sent out at strategic times, in strategic bursts. Know when to retire a tweet.

Consider what information you’re going to send out to your customers. You want to avoid spam (repeated torrents of wordy sales tweets, same wording every time), and mouldy cheese (dated information). Self-contained tweets with good links are best practice. If you’d like to be retweeted, keep your tweet to 120 characters or less, so information is not lost on a retweet by someone else.

When are you going to issue tweets? Cheeses are produced in season, but often have release dates to coincide with holidays or tourist season.

Research what times of day your customers are likely to be online, use a tool such as Tweriod  . Then schedule, using a tool such as Hootsuite. You may need to tweet the same information several times to reach different segments of your audience. Some of your customers will dip into Twitter several times a day, but many go into Twitter once a day, or once a week. Some of your partners and competitors have filters set up so that they only see tweets on certain topics, with certain hashtags. You will be less boring, more likely to be seen, and get more clickthroughs on your links if you vary your headlines. One good blog post can yield four completely different and interesting headlines.

Takeaway Points
Use Twitter as part of an overall marketing strategy. Feed your audience by using links to refer them to more substantial content. Tweet frequently enough to keep your business top-of-mind, but remember that the lifetime of information is short, so keep your tweets fresh.
Jennifer 

Notes
1. Sadly, Fifth Town is now “restructuring” in the wake of the breakup of the two principal owners due to business differences, and not finding the right financial partners.
2. Tweets get measured on the “half life” of their links – relatively easy because there are all kinds of analytics that measure clickthroughs.

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