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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Putting Social Media To Work In Your Retail Store: #socialmediasmokesignals

Wes Thornton, CMT Academic Contribution
Certified Master Tobacconist #1840
Putting Social Media To Work In Your Retail Store

According to, there will be an estimated 250 million active Twitter users and over one billion active Facebook users by the end of 2012.
#Facebook: My store currently has an email list of around 3500 consumers that receive information about upcoming events and promotions, and while the majority of these subscribers are local, these emails yield little result. Our Facebook page has quite the opposite effect. Most consumers receive lots of advertisement emails daily, and merely scan them and dump them in the trash bin before getting halfway through the subject line (guilty as charged), while Facebook is a site that people will visit at their leisure with the intention of reading the content they subscribe to. With the commonality of smart phones on the rise, you are able to upload a photo with a detailed description of that hot new product your store just received, within seconds, by using Facebook. While a Facebook page is easy to set up, the important thing is staying active and keeping the content interesting for your page viewers. If you set up a page, and then fail to update the content, then it isn’t worth setting up in the first place. There are two other social media sites that are somewhat of an exception to this, that will still yield some results if you end up neglecting them for a short period of time, and I will mention these sites later in the article.

Some advice for you to keep your Facebook page active and interesting:

1. Take photos of customers at your cigar events, and tag the customers’ personal Facebook page in the photos. This gives an additional reason for a person to view your page, which will in turn put your other content in their view.
2. Reserve a couple of minutes of your day to at least update your current Facebook status, so that your company name and message appears on a user’s timeline each day, and stays fresh in their mind.
3. Get creative and offer a contest that is only available through Facebook. This will give people a reason to view your page, and if the contest is executed well enough, will create some word of mouth, and person to person sharing of your contest via Facebook.
Facebook for Beginners: Facebook is an online social networking website. To set up your account (profile), simply visit and sign up with a personal or business profile and it will guide you through the setup process by asking you questions regarding yourself or your business. All that is needed to begin is an active email address. Adding a recognizable profile picture to your account is one of the most important things to do once your account is active because this is the main thing people will use to identify with you.
#Twitter, for me personally, has become one of the greatest sales tools for my retail store. A day rarely goes by that I don’t make a sell to a consumer via Twitter. Keep in mind; this is money that goes in the cash register on top of customers that actually walk through the door of the store. The biggest obstacle of Twitter is that it only offers you 140 characters to get your message across. Your first order of business using Twitter is to begin gaining “followers”. This takes time, but the great thing is, a user has to choose to follow you, which means they are interested in what you have to say. With the same rule as Facebook, Twitter users will log on at their leisure to read what you have to say, providing they “follow” you.
My favorite part of Twitter is the camaraderie that comes with it. Much like the tight knit group of folks that hang out in your cigar shop every Friday night, Twitter offers a similar environment. The general consensus of Twitter users, which are interested in cigars, is the same. We all want to talk about cigars, the industry, what’s good, what’s not, and overall, have fun passing a few friendly jabs at each other from time to time, via the comfort of a keyboard.
Another great asset of Twitter is the fact that numerous manufacturers are active users. A good majority of these folks will post late breaking news on their Twitter feed before it is available at other venues, which puts you ahead of the game. You also have an open door to talk to the owners of manufacturers at the click of a few buttons, and most of them respond in a timely manner, which helps build the important relationships we all need to help our stores grow.
If nothing else, create a Twitter name for your store, so that your current customers can tag you in their posts, which allows other users to see your company name that may not otherwise know you exist.
When trying to sell a product on Twitter, make sure to spell everything out for readers. A twitter user doesn’t want to call a store to ask questions about a deal you are running. Make it easy for them. An example of a deal may read: “@CigarWes: @TheCrownedHeads #FourKicks Robusto 5 pk, $40 shipped 423.267.7740”. This successfully tells the customers the exact product, and the exact price it is going to cost them, so all they have to do is pick up the phone and give their address and credit card number.
Twitter for beginners: Twitter is an online social networking tool that can be accessed at Similar to Facebook, you will need an active email address to set up your account. You will also want to begin by selecting a profile picture as well. Without a picture, many people will pass up your account without stopping to browse. Setting up your twitter account will be much faster and easier than the more detailed Facebook account, so if you want to slowly ease your way into social media, this would be my first recommendation.
#Foursquare is the easiest to maintain once set up. Your store is more than likely already logged into the Foursquare database, and you may not even know it, but there are ways to tap into this to make it more successful. Foursquare is an application that allows customers to “check in” to your shop once they arrive at your store, and the application shares this information with their friends, Facebook, and Twitter, if they so desire. The biggest way to make this program work for you is to take control of your Foursquare account, and register with Foursquare directly, as the owner or manager of the store. This will require a phone call to their company headquarters, but is easy to achieve. By doing this, you will be able to offer special discounts to customers that “check in” to your store. My store offers a 5% discount to anyone that simply checks in with the application. The reason for doing this is because that information is shared with their friends and puts your company name in front of many other people.
Another example: My store is located in Chattanooga, TN. When someone from out of town is within a certain mile radius of my store, and they pull up their Foursquare application to see what businesses they are near, my cigar shop will always be at the top of the list because I have registered with the company and offer a discount to Foursquare users, which is advantageous for their application.

This article only touches the tip of what these three sites can do for you, but the best part about each of them is they don’t cost a dime and won’t take any money from your advertising budget, and will more than likely yield more results than some of the other avenues you are taking. The more you involve yourself in these tools, the more results you will have.
If you are new to these applications, you will no doubt have questions, and I am more than happy to help you with anything you need. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Writing For PR & Credibility

Patrick Gallagher, CMT Academic Contribution
Certified Master Tobacconist #1835
Writing For PR & Credibility

I recently began writing a monthly cigar review for a local men’s fashion magazine. Like any other reviewer, the position requires me to smoke a cigar and give my thoughts on the experience. But what is unique about the review, is that I am a certified tobacconist.

Too often, we see in today’s media the demonization of tobacco and cigar smokers. And more often than not, these anti-tobacco zealots are typically uneducated about our industry and fed a high amount of propaganda and false data. We tobacconists know the benefits and albeit the risks of tobacco thanks to our extensive training.

I am encouraging tobacconists like myself to reach out to those media channels whom embrace the luxury life style. In doing so, it is important to share your educational experience and your knowledge to those who are with us and against us. These articles and reviews are important for the longevity of our industry and our trades. We must be viewed as educators and purveyors of history and the luxury lifestyle.

Much like a sommelier is to wine, a tobacconist is to cigars/pipes. Our role is to set the stage for the consumers’/readers’ experience and to educate. Thus, preparing the consumer/reader for an emotional and spiritual moment that transcends “just smoking”. Tastes, textures, feelings: these evoke emotions which translate into a valuable experience.

Taking the role of an educator through editorial style writing is an excellent way to reach those enjoying the luxurious moments in life. I suggest finding a local magazine, blogger, or newspaper to get involved with.  Develop a piece and share it with their editor, maybe over a cigar. Explain to the editor the purpose of your piece. Much like a style columnist, we are informing those interested and involved in the lifestyle.

Remember, we are purveyors of luxury and educators of history. It is our job, not only in our stores but in the world, to uphold our traditions, values, and beliefs to honor the great cigar/pipe makers and tobacconists who came before our time.