Last month I needed to find a new pair of running shoes quickly and didn’t have time to order a pair online and wait for them to be shipped. Instead of heading to the nearby store, I decided to try out Twitter as a shopping tool and I sent a DM to two local running stores, one being the Greater Boston Running Company (@GreatrBstnRunCo). The GBRC quickly responded, and helped me find a great pair of shoes for my half-marathon that weekend, along with a nice “Twitter discount” off my purchase.
Afterwords, the GBRC was kind enough to answer a few questions about how they are using Twitter, and the strategy that goes into it. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s proving to be a great success.
RaceTalk: How and when did you first hear about Twitter?
GreatrBstnRunCo: It’s tough to pinpoint when and how we first heard about Twitter. There’s been such surround sound in terms of how people are using it, trends that are developing, and from our perspective, the business application of strategically using Twitter to build a community and instill our branding. We’ve been fortunate to see and hear about Twitter from all aspects including our store employees, other Running Company franchises around the country, and the large businesses (Zappos, Comcast, etc.) that have established interesting case studies that Twitter recently shared in “Twitter 101 For Business.”
RaceTalk: What strategy did you use to find people to follow and gain followers?
GBRC: Our “following” strategy is simple, and focuses on local runners and other companies, organizations and initiatives that are passionate about running. We feel that our strategy to follow people takes care of how we gain followers because there’s a direct connection our love of running.
Twitter tracking tools have been incredibly helpful, and we are always on the look out for ways to connect with local runners as they are the focal point of our community. One that we find useful is Nearby Tweets, a geography-centric tool to find runners. We’ve found that most local runners tend to tweet about running before or after a run, and most tend to head out the door in the morning. So, we will run a morning search in our 30 mile radius from the stores for various search words to find folks tweeting about running. From there, we’ll take a closer look at those who are tweeting about running, and see if they would welcome the information we offer on Twitter and services at the stores.
In terms of companies, organizations and initiatives that we follow, we immediately tracked down the usual suspects: Asics, Nike, Reebok, New Balance, Brooks, etc. As a local store, we are a big believer in supporting local businesses, so we’ve made an effort to track down others that are also tweeting, and alerted our local paper, The Patriot Ledger, about the Twitter trend which lead to this feature – “South Shore Merchants Use Twitter to Spread the Word.” Additionally, we keep an eye out for national races and charity organizations to stay informed for our store customers. We look at our following list as a real-time collection of incredible running information that we can share with our customers to enhance their experience the moment they step in the door. For example, our Twitter followers have alerted us to cool articles, races on TV, and new running products that we’ve been able to pass along to our customers.
RaceTalk: What types of topics do you try and focus on when using Twitter? Are there any in particular that attract a lot of @replies or DMs?
GBRC: We’ve tried to focus on “all things running” when we send out tweets that aren’t related to store sales, news and giveaways. Any interesting articles, tweets or upcoming races will usually find us RTing or creating a tweet with the URL to the article or race Website. We’ve found that running articles spark the most interest in terms of our followers RT. In terms of @replies and DMs, followers primarily send us questions on store inventory and prices. Additionally, we’ve been fortunate to find a number of followers including us in #FollowFriday hashtags.
RaceTalk: How has Twitter impacted your businesses? Does it bring a lot of new customers into the store or strengthen relationships with existing customers?
GBRC: As we continue to build our following list, we’ve seen a number of folks coming into the stores. We’ve also been able to strengthen relationships and establish the stores as a source of running information and thought leadership. We use TweetDeck to monitor activity in a number of areas: running shoes, marathons, etc. and whenever we find a person looking for answers, we’ll try and provide a timely answer to their problem. Even if the person isn’t located in our area, it’s extremely important to lend any advice or counsel to continue to build our community in the running world.
RaceTalk: Do you entice your Twitter followers with any special offers and/or new products?
GBRC: Yes, we’ve recently started offering our Twitter followers special offers, discounts and giveaways. First and foremost, we wanted to build up a strong following that was engaged in our brand, and once we felt the communication lines were alive, it’s given us a great opportunity to engage Twitter followers with great incentives to check out the stores.
RaceTalk: What types of challenges have you run into while building and using your twitter account?
GBRC: The greatest challenge and advantage is the real-time nature of Twitter. We have started to receive more DMs for purchase requests, and since we are working with customers in the store, we aren’t always keeping an eye on Twitter every minute of the day. We continue to aggressively monitor and answer customers as quickly as possible.
RaceTalk: Do you think Twitter will continue to have a positive impact on the Greater Boston Running Company going forward?
GBRC: Absolutely. Twitter, or whatever the microblogging service morphs into as the days go on, will continue to allow us to connect with potential customers in real-time and share our passion with running on a larger scale beyond the walls of the stores.