After speaking with several in-store bakers and even a few retail bakers at IDDBA in Atlanta, it was clear that social networking and its place in the bakery was on everyone's minds. Everywhere I turned, all I heard were discussions about Facebook and Twitter and how bakeries could harness their audiences to benefit their businesses. The next question: was it worth the time and effort?
My initial thought was, “Do people besides Demi and Ashton actually Twitter?” OK, I know John Mayer does too. But what about average Janes and Joes? I'm not one to know. Only very reluctantly did I join Facebook recently, and that was mainly to know what was going on with my high school class reunion. So, tweeting is still beyond me. I hadn't even been on the Twitter website until I sat down to write this. I figured I'd better at least know a little about it.
But the world may be passing me by. I can't see into the future, and I don't know if online social networking is here to stay or just a passing fad. But if you have someone on your staff who is capable, can it hurt to have them take a few moments to send out a tweet about your fresh cookies coming out of the oven?
Finding your “followers” or audience should be fairly simple. It could be as easy as sending an email to your customer list and asking them to follow your bakery's tweets. After that, rely on what has always worked well for bakeries: word of mouth. Many access Twitter on their cell phones, and if they receive a tweet about the cupcakes just placed in your bakery's showcase, they are likely to share that information with their companions. Hopefully, those companions will start following your bakery as well.
One point that Dr. Lowell Catlett, futurist and economist, brought up during his presentation at IDDBA was that 97 percent of Gen Yer's (teens and 20-somethings) prefer texting to talking while only 7 percent of Baby Boomers feel the same. This is something to keep in mind when developing your marketing plans. Gen Y are the consumers of the future, and you will want to be able to communicate with them in a way they will notice.
This doesn't mean you need to go out and set up a Twitter account tomorrow, but it is food for thought. In this issue of Modern Baking alone, social networking is discussed in four different articles. (Can you find all four references?) Retailers are starting to pay attention.
Take a look at how quickly the Internet, which some once considered a passing fad, has become a part of our lives. In a little more than 10 years, the Internet has evolved from something only students and techies used to something as essential in our lives as a telephone. I can't remember the last time I looked something up in a phonebook; that's what Google is for.
Enterprising bakers already are harnessing the power of social networking; do you want to be left behind?