Sunday, 11 March 2012

Word of mouth

Word of mouth.

Well, the past two and a half weeks have literally flown by. Where did it go?! Considering the late nights and early mornings, it still feels like only a few days ago that I started this blog. 8000 views on and it all seems like a dream. I knew when I started this blog that it was for the right reasons and I knew I believed in the reason I was writing it. Never did I imagine that so many people would share my view, and never did I think that I would be gaining support and encouragement from Warwick's finest.

The thing with this blog though is that it's taught me a lot about people and how they communicate. I use Twitter a lot; some would say it's my life - they may be right. I love Twitter and I love blogging, so for the last couple of weeks I've been pretty much in my element. It's been so instrumental in mobilising a community that it has really instilled new-found confidence in the tools I use daily. Of course, the message I'm promoting is not new, and the great news was not mine but that of Hatton & Harding. All I've done is communicate an idea, a success, shared some news and sent out a clear message. The real success has been the very thing that Twitter is all about:

"Word of mouth."

It broke, as everything does nowadays, on Twitter first. The wonderful news about Hatton & Harding was shared way before the night of the awards, and support and encouragement was on Twitter way before this madness ensued. The sheer speed of Twitter made it the perfect news breaker.

Something happens at 10:10 and it's news at 10:11 - or faster if you can type it into a tweet quick enough.

The first entry for this blog was written and posted within minutes, and people on Twitter were hearing about it and indeed reading and commenting almost immediately. Powerful! Mixed with fresh energy and excitement, it propelled the news even faster. We didn't have to wait for tomorrow's papers; we were sharing and talking about it whilst the Telegraph awards were still happening, while Mary Portas was still talking to David and Jerry.

Next the word of mouth kicked in. People were talking to people. Shops, businesses and also (as it turned out) the councils were talking about it by morning. Contact was made, and the ball started rolling. At this point unless you were on Twitter and had connected with the relevant parties over the previous 12 hours, you knew nothing of this new wave of enthusiasm. Unless you happened to meet someone and they mentioned it, you were in the dark. Meanwhile on Twitter, groups were forming, ideas were circulating and this blog was receiving comments that now form the proposal brainstorm. The newspapers locally wanted to get involved, with the Warwick Courier finding out on Twitter.

36 hours after the idea was suggested to Hatton & Harding in London, the local paper was in the shops. But not with our story. Why? Was it not interesting enough? No, it simply missed the deadline for that week. The Warwick Courier, a well-supported paper and one I work closely with on Twitter and now with the Pilot, wanted to cover the story - but it would not appear until a week and a half later.  

Radio stations were keen to air the story once the hype reached them. Some contacted me via Twitter after seeing the tweets and reading this blog. On Monday (five days after the news broke) the story was out on the airwaves. But if you listen to Radio 2 and and don't tweet, you were still none the wiser. By this time, a town meeting was planned and teams were mobilising. I had taken to the streets to spread awareness, but without the knowledge or contacts I didn't reach everyone. Word of mouth prevailed and people turned out to attend. Old school methods were still working well. Still some had not heard.

Eight and a half days on, and the Warwick Portas Pilot had made front page news. Add to that the three radio stations I'd broadcast from and finally everyone had heard or read about it...right?

Well no, still people were finding out via the old grapevine. I received an email yesterday from a shop in Warwick who had only just heard about it two and a half weeks on. Communication is seriously an issue in Warwick, and the lack of it is something that needs to be tackled in this pilot.

To me life is instant. I want that music I've just heard, so I download it. I want to watch a film, I do the same. Answers are but a google away and more importantly local, national and international news is instantly streamed to my mobile while I wander around Warwickshire. I'm constantly up-to-date with the information that I chose to find out about.

So good old word of mouth is dead right?

Not exactly. For all the magic and instant connections Twitter provides, it lacks that vital component, a component that I had forgotten about until this campaign; human contact. For all the speed and magic that Twitter offers, it doesn't give the real life feel, the street level view or the sixth sense instinct you get when talking person to person. Sure it's a lot slower going around every business and shop in Warwick to tell them this great news...but I've really enjoyed trying.

The community sprint in Warwick is like nothing I've ever experienced. I've spent the last ten years driving around and speaking to people in Warwick, but I've never really stopped and listened. Twitter is a great referral machine and WarwickTweetup has done amazing things linking businesses and customers in the area together, but spending time in the shops with the people who run them has been fantastic.

There was a time when I didn't use Twitter. It doesn't feel like it, but there was. When I was a 'non-Tweeter' I thought it was rubbish, weird and pointless. It annoyed me how much I kept hearing about it. Twitter this and Twitter that. I did what every human does with something they don't understand.

I feared Twitter because I didn't understand it.

Like it or not, Twitter is a big part of the modern world and it's not going away. The good news is that it's free and very simple to get on with. The community on Twitter is also very strong. Add to that the instant help and answers, and things really get done on Twitter. There's always an expert and a doer right your shop...on your Twitter timeline. It's an amazing community and has many of the brilliant people in it that I have met these past few weeks. But it's not complete, it's half a community. There are people not walking into my shop and telling me their news.

Twitter should be used by everyone and not feared or hated.

Quite simply, if you're not on Twitter, you're not in the know about everything. On Twitter your message, your gossip, your news reaches a much wider audience much much quicker. My ultimate dream would be to mobilise the whole of Warwick onto Twitter. Get everyone tweeting, and keep everyone informed.

What do you think?

Cheers Todd @Underwoodwines & @Warwicktweetup


  1. Great momentum Todd, Jo, H&H and the rest of the team. I really admire how you all have inspired a truly worthwhile movement in the area.

    I may not be a Warwick resident myself, but I wholeheartedly agree, the problem is the same in Stratford - communication, or lack of it.

    Power to the people!

    Best Wishes to everyone,
    Michael T aka @hi_blueeyed

  2. Great work everybody. I am including a link for all business owners to consider. Having another organised body along with The Chamber of Trade may get local politicians to listen to, and understand the Independent Traders needs to help them survive the onslaught of "Out of Town Retail Parks" Perhaps if we had a say in whether or not they remain in office might make them listen.

  3. Better signs are a great idea.One easy improvement would be to advertise that the Barrack Street car park is available to the public at evenings and weekends. The public would still have to pay, although County Council staff get it for free!