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March 1, 2013

Entrepreneur Spotlight – Toffee Talk Turns To Twitter

Toffee Talk TwitterToffee Talk, like many small food businesses, has a marketing budget of $0.  Rather than let this hold them back, the company has harnessed the power of Twitter and the results are paying off.

I had the opportunity to talk with Ellin Purdom, Director of Social Networking, at San Francisco-based Toffee Talk.  That title, Ellin will be the first to tell you, is self-designated as when she and her cousin Catherine started Toffee Talk Ellin didn’t know the first thing about social media other than it was going to be one of the most powerful marketing tools they had at their disposal given their limited marketing budget.

“I’m totally self-taught,” Ellin admits, “and didn’t know what Twitter was when we started.”  toffee entrepreneurFiguring that the best way to learn was by watching what the experts did, Ellin started following great women tweeters (@SuccessnChocolat) and her competitors who had large followings of their own to see what they did and didn’t do.  One of her favorite Twitter mentors is @thegirlsmeanbiz who tweet out simple, concise marketing tips daily.

How Ellin Makes Twitter Work For Toffee Talk

By watching these experts, Ellin noticed that those who had the most followers weren’t the companies who were constantly using Twitter to promote themselves and their products but, rather, those companies who shared interesting information and insights with their audience.  “It’s about fostering relationships,” Ellin says.  “Instead, I look for something new and interesting I can share every day.”

One of Ellin’s favorite bloggers and tweeters is @foodimentary who every day shares information unique food facts or information about a special food tie-in to that day.  For example, by following @foodimentary Ellin learned that January 26th is National Peanut Brittle Day.  Since Toffee Talk makes an amazing Peanut Toffee, this was a great topic to tweet about.

In addition to sharing information, Ellin also uses Twitter as a tool to reach out to potential store buyers and other interested parties.  Twitter, she says, is a way to ‘softly’ reach out to someone without barging into their email inbox and a way to build a relationship or keep a relationship going after meeting someone initially.  The connections Ellin has made via Twitter have also landed her speaking opportunities in the Bay Area through which she’s also been approached by interested investment partners.  “When you have a great story and it’s something you’re passionate about, that can come through on social media,” she says.

Of course, social media is just an extension of Ellin’s own personality.  She is, without a doubt, a born networker.  “I’ve been planning my high school reunions for the last 20 years,” she says with a laugh.  In fact, one of Toffee Talk’s biggest wholesale business – selling approximately 10,000 pieces of candy every month to Google headquarters – came about thanks to a bus stop encounter.  As Ellin tells the story, she and another woman had been standing at the same bus stop for years when one day they finally struck up a conversation.  As so often happens, they asked one another what they did and Ellin used this as an opportunity to share the Toffee Talk story and some of the individually wrapped Toffee Talk candy she had in her pocket (which she always carries with her).  Turns out that woman’s sister loved the candy and just happened to be a food buyer for Google headquarters which is how Toffee Talk ended being one of the snacks Google purchases for its employees.

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But Who Has The Time For Social Media?

For those entrepreneurs who don’t think they have time for social media, it’s worth noting that Ellin currently has a full-time position at an investment firm.  In fact, she was standing at the bus stop on the way to her investment job when landed the Google account.  It’s also worth mentioning that Ellin uses her 60 minute commute each way to San Francisco every day to do all of her Toffee Talk tweeting, facebooking, and other social media tasks.  Then it’s onto her ‘real’ job until the bus ride home again.

“If I can do it anyone can do it,” Ellin says confidently.  In fact, Ellin loves to help out those who are just starting out and invites you to follow her, and ask questions, via @toffee_talk.  “This social networking is just the icing on the cake,” she adds, “because it’s always going on.  You’re little fingers get out there and that’s how you meet people.”  And you never know where those relationships may lead!

Want to learn more about Toffee Talk?  They had a video produced to help share their story that you can see here.  In addition to being in several stores throughout the San Francisco Bay area, you can also purchase their toffee via their online store.

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