Aiming to boost its presence on the popular social networking site Twitter, Whole Foods, Austin, Texas, held a contest promising a million grains (about a 5-lb. bag) of quinoa plus a $50 gift certificate to winners, as well as to their millionth follower. The contest asked customers to begin following Whole Foods' Twitter page and tweet, in five words or less, their philosophy on food. One of the winners simply asked, “Can you pronounce those ingredients?”
“We're having a blast interfacing with our customers on Twitter,” said Bill Tolany, global coordinator. “Our stores have long been community gathering places, and now we are extending that community online.”
Bakers can simultaneously build online audiences and elicit valuable feedback from customers on social networking sites in much the same way. But Twitter's structure isn't like e-mail; you cannot collect customer Twitter addresses at the bakery, add them to a list, and expect them to see bakery updates.
Only the customers themselves are able to add you to their “following” list. A call to action like a contest is an effective way to be sure customers remember to log on and add your business when they get home, or even right there in the bakery on a mobile device. Once they are following you, they will see any message your bakery chooses to send. Also, the quick and informal nature of Twitter makes responses more likely than in other media forms, promoting community building. And though a contest will provide the impetus to get customers through the Twitter door, it's the community fostered afterward that will keep their attention.