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Starting up

I joined Twitter in February 2010. Like most people who have joined Twitter I felt I had to, because everyone kept going on about it. Because I kept hearing about it, it became a case of, "If you can't beat ‘em, join em".

I joined Twitter using the name @Underwoodwines as I wanted to push more traffic to the Underwood Wines website. Like most new tweeters, I attacked Twitter with a ‘sell sell sell’ attitude and fell flat on my logo avatar! 

"So what?" you may be thinking. Well, once I had worked it out and started to just tweet rather than sell, some amazing things happened. I have no Marketing background, and my main role at Underwood wines is in fact to drive a transit van, yet some pretty strange things have come my way. So many people are asking about this, I thought I'd scribble some stuff down in a blog.

As you may already know, Twitter is a slow burner. Nothing happens for ages, and many fall by the wayside as breakdowns on the social media highway. However, those who plough on through reach the golden gates; the placewhere the magic happens.

Here’s what I found when I got there.

Organising a Tweetup in Warwick back in February 2011 was really the start of the madness. The now infamous Warwicktweetup is 5 events strong. Back then everything began with one conversation between myself and Christie(@WarwickTweeter), who was helping to run a restaurant in Warwick. We had never met. It was a right time, right place moment that I certainly don't regret.

Following two radio interviews, a website built in under a week, a banner, some cupcakes, goodie bags, a logo, and an 80 strong crowd in a closed restaurant, it was deemed a roaring success. February 2011 saw the start of Warwicktweetup’s journey and the start of a wonderful friendship with Christie and Karen (@karensphotos). Together we make up the Warwicktweetup committee.

2011 in tweets

Here’s a brief overview of my year in tweets:

#Banuary - In January I gave up alcohol to support an overseas friend in his quest. I started to tweet about it and it started a monthly challenge from Twitter followers with my diet. I completed the month off and I now drink less lager as I realised how much it bloated me. Wine I still love!

#NoBreadFeb – In February there was no bread for a month. I now don't eat bread at all - it makes me lethargic - but it took giving it up to realise. I also avoid pasta now.

#noSugarch – In March I gave up sugar, and, more significantly, vanilla syrup in my latte. I now don't take sugar and also use skinny milk even with my porridge.

#OffyCoffee – With April came a huge mission - no coffee for a month. This was hard; I love the stuff. I had a partner on this one on Twitter (I have never met @Boho__ to this day) and we helped each other through. I even had to help her throw a grand Americano away after she tweeted me a photo of one her colleague had bought her and placed on her desk as a treat. I now only have two coffees per day and always skinny with no sugar or syrup.

#5aDayMay – In May I made sure I ate five portions of fruit/veg every day. I was joined by several people on Twitter with this one too, some of whom I now consider to be good friends. I now eat far more fruit, veg and whole nuts than ever. 

#WTUHeroesRun – June saw the Warwicktweetup team running 10km at Stoneleigh Abbey, and I’ve continued the running since then.

I also enjoy cycling, so in July I set the target of 300 miles in the month which I achieved. No hashtag was created for this one.

In October we had another new challenge. I gathered a small team of swimmers together and swam for Air Ambulance. Our team included Rob (@lifePTstudio), a brilliant personal trainer. I now train with Rob and help with his social media. Also in the team were Jack (@jacklinstead) and another Rob(@robjcameron), two chaps I met on Twitter that I run and cycle with, and Rachael and Debbie who I met for the first time in person, poolside, 10 minutes before the challenge began. These challenges have formed friendships which will last for a long time to come I'm sure.

Health benefits

Throughout these challenges I have lost around two and a half stone and 4 inches from my waistline. Healthy eating and exercise anyone? This was a total accident, but I feel great and have learnt so much that I still continue this healthier lifestyle.

Supporting Air Ambulance

Throughout the year, Warwicktweetup has been carrying on in the background. We support and raise money for Air Ambulance and I have met the inspirational Jo Payne(@AirAmBird53) from Warwick and Northants Air Ambulance; for this I feel very privileged. In 2011 the Twitter efforts have raised over £2000 for Air Ambulance, which is fantastic. I have been to the base and the HQ, and what a super bunch they are. I had never given to charity before but now whole-heartedly support WNAA Air Ambulance. (www.WNAA.co.uk.)

In October a pilot that I met on Twitter treated the WTU committee members to a helicopter flight. Craig (@captainCraigos) needed some flight time and tweeted me asking if we were interested. We snapped up the opportunity to go flying one autumn Sunday morning. A first for me and totally amazing. I even managed a few live tweets from the sky. All because of Twitter.

Local media

I have had the odd brush with local media through Twitter this year. I have commented on local parking issues (front page) after a reporter tweeted me for comment. I’ve also hadWarwicktweetup’s efforts featured, and appeared for the charity work with Air Ambulance too. I think I made it into four different papers on several occasions this year, but I really didn't keep on top of it all.

As well as three radio interviews, I also made it into the studio with Karen and Jo Payne before the Heroes run thanks to Tim Boswell (@BBCTim) at BBC Coventry and Warwickshire. This event also sparked the #Twubcrawls which now run monthly under the Warwicktweetup name. All organised on Twitter of course. 

Blogging

Blogging has become a passion of mine since joining Twitter. So many blogs are posted by people I follow that it bought back the English Literature ‘A’ level in me. My two most popular blogs (about Twitter naturally) have combined views of over 2000, and have been used as examples of social media use by three different Twitter tutors. Many new Twitter users are directed to my blogs as a guide to what Twitter is all about and my efforts have also got me noticed and indeed used as anexample of good tweeting by several local breakfast meeting groups, despite my absence at them. 

Not bad considering the first blog was written on my iPhone in the garden with a beer when I had locked myself out after a bike ride.

Freebies

I have had my fair amount of free stuff because of Twitter:

  • Personal training.
  • Website advice.
  • Website maintenance training (via tweets).
  • Drinks, dinner and tapas at several restaurants.
  • App advice in abundance for my iPhone.
  • Photography.
  • Coffee.
  • Cupcakes (@CupcakeDaisy) on several occasions.
  • Homemade mince pies in London.
  • Haircut.
  • Tickets to Warwick castle concert.
  • A hot pink hoodie...which I’m wearing as I write this. 
  • I have been bought presents for my tweeting.
  • Proofreading by the wonderful Jo Ciriani(@Pinky_Princess).

Helping others

I have helped many people too:

  • Twitter help, constantly. My favourite subject.
  • App help. I'm an iPhone junkie.
  • Computer help, Tweetdeck school happens very often.
  • Directions via tweets. Yes, I once guided a lost customer to our shop, live, via tweets.
  • Parking advice in Warwick.
  • Advice on local restaurants and facilities.
  • Social media classes tweet me during their classes to demonstrate how a conversation works on Twitter. (They know I will reply instantly.) 
  • I refer people to other businesses daily - such is the power of Twitter.

Benefits to the business

So, what has it brought to Underwood Wines as a business? 

  • 20% of our late summer wine tasting attendees were from Twitter. Twitter is free; mailshots are not.
  • We have gained customers who previously shopped at a national wine merchant just because they like my tweeting.
  • I have sold wine to an F1 journalist who took the wine directly to the Spanish Grand Prix.
  • We have new customers in London.
  • 25-40% of our daily website traffic comes from my Google/social media activity.
  • I have sold wine directly over Twitter to many people including tweeters who don't even follow me thanks to recommendations from my followers.
  • The people I tweet are constantly referring others to Underwood Wines because of our Twitter relationship. 

The direct sales (and I use this term as there are many sales via recommendations and word-of-mouth which are untraceable with our current system) from Twitter are massive, and I certainly don't sell on Twitter. People just connect with my tweets.

Fun

I have had fun with twitter too:

  • I delivered chilled wine to a boutique in Warwick as a surprise on a hot summer’s day (with glasses and a corkscrew) after the shop owner complained of thirst.
  • I delivered coffee to an office just because they were cheeky enough to ask. (This has happened on several occasions.) 
  • I collected a pallet of water from Sainsbury’s which they donated to WNAA. I had my photo taken by the press with the sign-written van. (I promise I'm not in Marketing.) 
  • I have moved furniture after being asked on Twitter for help (several times). 
  • I have failed to meet for ice cream one summer afternoon but since met them all for wine instead. 
  • I have helped organise a wedding drinks service via Direct Messages.
  • I have offered free wine to anyone who can spot me when I deliver in a random vehicle on many occasions. I have never paid up as I have never been found! 
  • After asking Twitter what the phrase 'Wine Warehouse' meant to people, we dropped it from our logo as it couldn't be further from the truth. 
  • I ran a competition for free tickets to the Warwick Castle(@WarwickCastle) summer concert after I was approached through the Warwicktweetup website by their sponsor with 6 pairs of tickets and wine vouchers. 
  • I like to tweet the Mayor (@WarwickMayor), she is great and often responds. Trudy has attended two Warwicktweetups.
  • I have helped the Warwickshire police (@Warkspolice)with Twitter advice.
  • I often tweet traffic holdups and accidents to the Warwick Courier (@Warwick_Courier).
  • I once had a pretend full-blown argument with another guy on Twitter - many fell for it, but the Mayor told me off. I don't plan to repeat this.
  • During the Apple iOS5 update, I managed to beat the geeks to it after Apple’s servers crashed. They tweeted me asking me to test the location reminders (a new service with the update). I walked down my street in flip-flops, a body warmer and shorts in the dark just for them. I didn't go far enough and the test failed. Hilarious though. 
  • I appeared in a Warwick council video on social media uses in business after answering a tweeted request for volunteers.

Learning

Most of all, Twitter has kept me going when times were tough - and it has made me laugh when my day was not going so well. I have met some amazing people, some mentioned here but so many who are not. I'm very grateful to you all. Twitter has taught me things about myself, the business I work in, the technology I use, but most of all, the world we all live in.

I have learnt that life is all about helping others and not about looking out for number one; we all need each other to progress in life. You need the guy at the petrol station, the lady at the shop, the police directing traffic, the charities raising money to save lives. There's a great car advert I think by Honda that simply says, "Are we not all trying to get somewhere?"

And it's so true. I see it every day on Twitter, different folk trying to get through the day. I love helping and being helped on Twitter. On Twitter you don't - and in fact can't - judge people by their appearance. Everyone is judged by their tweets or actions if you like. Relationships are formed in the most unlikely circumstances.

Wouldn't it be great if real life was like this? 

 

Cheers and thanks for reading, comments always welcome here or on twitter.

Todd @Underwoodwines

Many thanks to Jo (@pinky_princess) for proof reading this blog. Visit her website here

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