Business World


Theta Ridge Coffee

Tweeting on Tea & Coffee

At this year’s National Coffee Association Annual Convention, I was asked to moderate a panel on social media and its impact on the industry. In preparation for my role in this event, I began to do some research on just how important reaching out to these outlets is for companies in all sectors, of all sizes and in all corners of the world.

Even as a proud member of “Generation X,” I can admit that a phone call is generally more effective than an email; a face-to-face meeting more successful than Skype. Yet, for reasons ranging from ease of use to cost efficiency, virtual communication has become the way of the future. And along with the explosion of these 20th century forms of telecommunication came social media, and its various avenues. For those still unaware, social media is a broad term that encompasses almost any internet-based application that depends on “user generated content.” The creation of social media meant that we no longer had to submit to the information available to us on the internet. It gave every individual an opportunity to establish a voice, make themselves heard and exchange information.

But how does all this apply to you and your business? For investigative purposes, I joined the popular website Twitter, and began to “follow” certain industry companies and organizations: ranging from large international certifiers, importers, roasters, tea packers and retail shops. Within minutes I knew about a new noteworthy farm in Nicaragua, a new shipment of tea that had just arrived from Taiwan, what a small micro-roaster in Colorado would be roasting that day and all promotions taking place at my local coffee shop.

I decided to reach out to some of my new friends, ask them just how much time and effort go into their social media practices and if the result is in fact worth the commitment. To no surprise, the overwhelming answer was “absolutely.” Some of the companies had even hired an employee whose sole purpose was to update and maintain their website and presence on all social media sites. The increased business due to this presence was more than enough to justify an additional salary. The owner from one of the companies I “follow” on Twitter even told me they’re getting more creative with their social networking. Posting notes, such as, “mention this Tweet to receive a 10% discount on your next purchase,” have been incredibly effective. Not only is this a good way to keep track of just how many people are taking note of your social media status, but it encourages people to check back regularly.

Social media has expanded the definition of “transparency” within the tea and coffee industries. With an honest and relevant presence on these sites, clients can know exactly what you’re doing, as you’re doing it.

While the success of social media is becoming more and more apparent, it is important for us not to forget the benefits of good, old fashion, personal contact. Facebook and Twitter should not be a replacement for phone calls, emails and meetings, but rather a supplement that will help you reach a perhaps different, broader demographic.

Alexis Rubinstein


Tea & Coffee - March, 2010

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