You might not know what Humphry Slocombe is. But its 311,982 Twitter followers do, and you should, too. This unique ice cream shop in San Francisco, California, is notable for both its social media presence and its interesting flavors. Purveyor of such exotic ice cream flavors as Boccalone Prosciutto, Peanut Butter Curry, and Government Cheese, the company has gained a following of rabid foodies and everyday ice cream lovers. And while their flavors must be tasted, their impressive online presence should also be admired. So how does one small ice cream shop earn more than a quarter-million followers? Here we examine the success of Humphry Slocombe.
Location, Location, Location
Humphry Slocombe is in San Francisco, a city of foodies with a vibrant culinary culture. But its physical location has a second benefit. The city is a hub of tech-savvy early adopters who have a strong online presence. Those early adopters are the tastemakers and trend-setting online voices that direct the following online masses. By establishing a physical and online relationship with that community, the company has gained significant exposure.
There are plenty of gourmet ice cream makers, but Humphry Slocombe is unlike any other. This “adult” ice cream store is a far cry from the kid-catering parlors of the past. It only offers unique, exotic flavors that push boundaries. Combinations like Strawberry Candied Jalapeno and Salt and Pepper keep customers’ palates titillated. But it isn’t just the novelty flavors and clever names, like I Have a Dreamsicle, that get customers in the door. The ice cream is actually good. They offer more than 100 flavors with a rotating daily menu, but the Secret Breakfast flavor — combining vanilla ice cream, bourbon, and cornflakes — is a stand out desired by repeat customers. Humphry Slocombe’s commitment to ice cream innovation is well-known, as well as its commitment to quality. Its ice cream is produced using organic dairy, and other organic ingredients are sourced when possible. All this means Humphry Slocombe truly has something to brag about.
But the flavors are not the only unique thing about the company. Though one might think makers of such “sophisticated” ice cream may be pretentious and condescending, co-owners Jake Godby and Sean Vahey are far from hoity toity. In fact, their flavor combinations are nothing short of edgy and rebellious, a style they gleefully embrace. Humphry Slocombe is fun, quirky, and subversive – an attitude reflected in its product and online presence. Flavors like Jesus Juice, made with red wine and Coke, reveal its playful irreverence while the criticism received from the vegetarian/vegan community for its meat-flavored ice cream has only fueled its cheekiness. Tweets like “Ugh, trying to come up with a tribute flavor for Amy Winehouse but what does liquid eyeliner and heroin taste like? Missin’ you gurrl..” are what followers have come to expect, and enjoy, about its online presence.
Taking advantage of their “captive” online audience, Humphry Slocombe does an amazing job of interacting with its community. The shop only serves a certain selection of flavors each day, so it updates its feed daily with snapshots of the current menu. Pictures from off-site events, progress on mystery flavors, and other updates are also tweeted. Having direct personal contact with its customers also has added benefits. The shop has revived flavors, thanks to online customer requests/feedback. And the recent tweet “Is your name Austin and did you leave your supa fly wallet here last night? We gots it and we know what you look like…call or stop by,” likely ended in one relieved customer. This type of direct interaction only strengthens the consumer relationship.
Want to Be a Copy Cat?
Humphry Slocombe is proof that a small business can be a big player in its local community. And if they can do it, so can you. Here’s what you can learn from the little ice cream shop that could:
Embrace online marketing: Online marketing is free, which makes it a perfect tool for small businesses. All businesses need a website, but you should also take advantage of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. When you have a network, you can instantly reach it for updates, promotions, and more.
Identify your style: Although you want to maintain professionalism, social media sites give you an opportunity to be a little more playful, interesting, and engaging. Your customer interactions – and even website design – should reflect your company’s style.
Communicate with your customers: Social media offers you a two-way customer relationship that continues after they leave your store. Customer feedback is invaluable, so encourage your network to contact you, comment, and ask questions. You can also spark the conversation: What do they think of your new product line? Which of your products helps them most? These answers will directly influence your business decisions.
Using online tools to help further your brand’s reach and cultivate relationships with your customers is the smartest thing you can do in this day and age. Use these tools for your small business, and you can disregard anyone who tells you size matters.