Here’s a story a little bird told us: Out of the 17 million users on Twitter, 250,000 were nominated for the Shorty Awards—an international “Oscars” for those who live their life out loud on Twitter in 140-character blurbs. Of those 250,000 nominated, a year-old, little-known English handbag company named Izzi Bag made it to the top six in the “Brands” category—the only fashion brand nominated. Izzi was up against brands like Whole Foods and ultimately lost to Sesame Street. Heard of them? Here, Izzi Bag owner/designer Anne Agoren—who wisely moonlights as a social media strategist—tells Accessories her David and Goliath tale.
So how did you get into the top six? Do you have 86,000 followers like Sesame Street? Or 4.7 million followers like Ashton Kutcher?
I have 2,000 followers and was nominated by one of them. You aren’t allowed to nominate yourself. Actually, I did lose some points after showing someone via Twitter how to nominate me since he was having trouble and asked for help.
That’s one of the biggest misnomers for brand promotion. More is not better. It’s about quality, not quantity. I have 2,000 of the right followers. They spread my word to their followers. There are lots of sites where you can buy 50,000 followers but they’re not relevant to your brand. Don’t do it. You’ll start getting spam and your important—and legitimate—followers will stop following you. Protect your brand reputation.
How do you get started using Twitter?
My tecchie husband pushed me into it to help build my budding brand. I was so resistant to Twitter—saying I didn’t understand it, that I didn’t have enough time, and so on. Now I’m
a Twitter addict. I use it to promote my blog (blog.izzibag.com), to talk about things that are happening to me, and to strategically promote the brand. I realized the power of Twitter early on—I ran a Twitter competition where the first 10 people who went to one of my retailers on Bond Street got a $40 keychain. Suddenly, a rush of people went to that store. It was apparent it was working.
Did you launch your brand and tweet about it simultaneously?
I launched Izzi Bag with no customers, no retailers, no e-tailers. So I used Twitter and the blog to find those small stores that I wouldn’t even know about. The goal was to get retailers talking about us. To build that buzz.
You need to join the conversation—because it’s going on without you. The most important thing I say to companies is ‘Are you listening?’ Because if you’re not, your competitors are. On Twitter, you can read every tweet that mentions your brand—good and bad—and respond if you want. It’s important to join the conversation.
What do you tweet about?
I come here a lot so I write about my life as an English person in New York. I write about the journey of building Izzi Bag. Yes I’m a brand but I’m also human. People want to relate to you. It makes them want to buy your product.
Do you use Twitter to show your bags?
I use Twitpic to upload images, but often I link a Twitter entry to my blog so people can see more there. There are so many tools that are all free, from Twitpic to Tweetdeck, which helps you manage Twitter better.
Do you tweet all day?
No, but my followers are passionate! When I slow down, they start with the ‘Where’s Izzi Bag?’ ‘Did something happen to Izzi Bag?’ They miss me! I’d say 60% of my tweets are relevant to my brand. The rest are relevant to other people—recommendations of things to check out, or I pass along information I read on Twitter.
Ah, so you’re a re-tweeter?
In many cases, yes. You can retweet (i.e. RT) something that one of your followers post. It’s good will and keeps the conversation going.
Did building buzz on Twitter in the U.S. and UK give you immediate international cred?
I was able to simultaneously connect with retailers worldwide—all for free, and all with the power of social media.
Has Twitter gotten you free publicity?
The Australian news show equivalent of “60 Minutes” found me on Twitter. They sent a crew to New York and filmed me for a day-long documentary. Later, they flew the reporters back to New York to get additional footage because they wanted to extend the segment! That publicity didn’t cost me one cent. And although it aired in Australia, I was able to post it on my blog and tweet about it, and still get local (and worldwide) exposure. Again, for free.
How does a brand prevent a tweeter from posing as them and saying something bad?
It’s important to control the conversation. You can be verified by Twitter (celebrities do it), and you’ll get a blue check next to your brand’s name/avatar. That way the Twitter community knows it’s authentically you.
But it must be a little bit tempting to bash your competition on Twitter…
Never do that! If you report another company for spam, for example, the Twitter police will shut them down while they investigate, so you really must follow business ethics. I will un-follow people if they don’t “keep it clean.” That’s my one rule.
What about companies who say they don’t have time to tweet? Or skimp on the resources to hire someone who can?
Social media should not replace your existing business structure, but it must be integrated with what you have in place. Just as a brand has a PR, branding and advertising budget, it must have a social media budget.
What if the company owner, or designer doesn’t want to tweet personally?
The person doing the tweeting or blogging must have a passion and understanding of the brand and its objective. They should write in the “voice” of the brand.
What are some great Twitter branding anectodes?
There were some people in the Empire State building tweeting that it was so hot and they wished they had ice cream, but they were too busy to run out and get some. An ice cream truck picked up the conversation on Twitter and sent over a truck to give them free ice cream! The story got picked up on the international news. You can’t buy that sort of publicity!
So what were the Shorty Awards like?
First of all, I pulled a Diva moment and while walking the Red Carpet I refused to be photographed with some of the puppets from Sesame Street. Then they beat me!