Business Tweets: Tweeting Before The Store Doors Open!

How one New Jersey Best Buy store used Twitter to create a connection with the local community before it was even open for business

The retail giant Best Buy first stumbled into the social media history books last summer when it announced that it was looking to hire a marketing person who had a university degree – and at least 250 followers on Twitter! The criteria was met with guffaws in the twitterverse, but left the electronics retail chain undeterred in forging ahead with its plans to grab hold of the new medium of social media.

Since its slightly ungainly entrance into the world of social media, Best Buy has come a long way, establishing a Facebook account with over 1 million fans, including its Twitter account in television commercials, and empowering its employees to tweet with a measure freedom few companies allow. Best Buy is a corporation that “gets” social media and gains by giving its employees the freedom to join in the conversation.

One Best Buy employee, John Knoeppel, took the initiative to start tweeting on behalf of a local New Jersey store before the store doors were even opened, connecting to the community and creating fans before the shelves were stocked. It is an initiative other retailers and businesses would be wise to consider.

John explained that he first opened a personal account on Twitter in February of 2009, but that he “didn’t really ‘get it.’” Shortly afterwards, however, he was selected to help open a new Best Buy store in Eatowntown, New Jersey, as an assistant manager. “I thought it [Twitter] would be a new and interesting way to get to know the local community.” Interestingly, he opened the store account five months before the store was even open for business:

I happened upon the Twitter account while doing a search of New Jersey-based twitterers, aiming to create more local connections. Though I realized the account was for a store, I thought that I would follow along to see how the account was handled. To my surprise, its tweets were personal, fun and engaging. The account was plainly being managed by someone who understood the fundamental requirement of social media: being social.

Because the account was managed in a social and “real” way, its presence created a bond that no newspaper ad or advance television commercial could have achieved. Even without opening its doors, the Eatontown store was building up brand awareness and loyalty.  Even more so, it was making a connection to likely consumers that said, "We're a store with people who care about who you are and when you shop here, you'll already know us, not a 'bot,' but real people."

Refreshingly, John, who tweets for his Eatontown, New Jersey store, said:

To me, all of social media is personal. I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, and a Best Buy employee. I don’t separate who I am online….the people I talk to online expect me to be social….The same guy you tweet online is the same guy you will meet in the store or out with friends and family.

So what does John tweet about?

I tweet that I took my kids to a water park in Asbury Park [NJ] and recommended it to everyone. I usually tweet a review after my wife and I go out to dinner or about a community event Best Buy is attending. I don’t separate the two. I am who I am.

John noted that in his tweeting he tries to support local community events and even other local businesses as well. He explained that his tweeting can be “pretty random,” but that he does direct message a lot “to let people know that I appreciate their RT’s and follows.”

John also uses the account to share information about store hiring and the company website.

John’s advice for others?

1. Have a purpose. Know what you want to get out of social media.

2. Follow interesting people and RT their information.

3. Be social. It’s not always about business, business, business….Who are you, what do you know about me, and how can we help each other.

4. Get involved in your local community. There are so many people in the Twitterverse that are in need of some sort of assistance. Help them. It will pay dividends.

5. Don’t be a bot…Believe it or not, people read what you post and it’s not hard to tell a bot from a human.
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