As Twitter continues to expand beyond the realm of celebrities and politicians, many Ann Arbor businesses are flocking to the social media site to spread news to customers, recruit new ones and promote deals and contests.
Hal White, an accounting assistant professor at the Ross School of Business, was part of a team of researchers at the Business School that studied the effects of local businesses’ using Twitter. White said businesses in town that employ Twitter may see some positive outcomes as a result, but they wouldn’t necessarily experience a financial boost.
“When it comes to local businesses using Twitter, there are most likely advantages, but not market liquidity,” White said in an interview.
Though the study focused on publicly-traded firms, not small private firms, White said Twitter use could also benefit small businesses.
According to the study, which was also conducted by Greg Miller, an associate professor at the Business School, and Rackham student Beth Blankespoor, a graduate student research assistant at the Business School, this new method of marketing may be a beneficial way for small Ann Arbor businesses to spread information.
“Smaller companies that don’t get much news coverage can bridge the information gap with investors by tweeting,” a press release about the study distributed last week states.
Scott Hirth, manager of The M Den, said the retailer uses their Twitter account, @TheMDen, to announce new products and information about in-store events to their 1,655 followers.
“We’ve been around for a lot of years, using a variety of different advertising mediums, but using Twitter to let a lot of people know about something instantaneously has been successful,” Hirth said.
Jim Millan, owner of Bella Italia Pizza and Pasta of Ann Arbor, located at 895 West Eisenhower Pkwy., said he uses the restaurant’s Twitter account, @BellaItaliaA2, to hold contests and announce the restaurant’s deals of the day.
“Last summer we did a contest where almost every day we would give away a free pizza to people who ‘followed’ us on Twitter,” Millan said. “The first five people who came in and mentioned the tweet got a free slice or free pizza. We got a good following out of it.”
Along with the benefit of interacting with the restaurant’s 705 Twitter followers in a more engaging way, Millan said he likes that Twitter is fast and free to use.
“Instead of spending money on advertising, I am spending money on the customers for the promotion,” Millan said.
Another local business, the Produce Station, uses their @producestation Twitter account to inform customers when they get unique and fresh ingredients in the store, located at 1629 State Street.
According to Andrew Gorsuch, the gourmet market’s general manager, tweeting about seasonal produce to their 549 followers has proven to be “an effective way to communicate quickly with customers about cool products without having to spend a lot of time.”
Being able to connect with their followers and posting pictures of new produce on Twitter has “attracted customers for sure,” Gorsuch said.
Chris Hanrath, a University alum who graduated in 2009, said he often uses Twitter to learn about discounts and promotions.
“I go to places for dinner because they tweet something like 50-percent off your meal,” Hanrath said. “I look at Twitter and use pretty much any discount if it’s worth going to the business.”