Ralph Lauren once said he wanted to create advertising that tells a story of a lifestyle and to create stores that encourage customers to come in and participate in that lifestyle. You may be thinking, “Sure, that’s easy for Ralph Lauren to say, but that company has all the money in the world to tell their story.” But remember this: All those products from Ralph Lauren first started with a collection of neckties. Today, you can share your company’s story using tools and communication channels that were unimaginable when Ralph Lauren was selling just those ties. With a Twitter account, photos taken with an iPhone camera and a 140-character chapter in your company’s story, you can attract customers to your store (be it a bricks-and-mortar store or online) and establish long-term customer relationships. Here are some ways how to do it—with helpful examples from two businesses: Chubbies Shorts, (@Chubbies), a San Francisco-based, venture-backed e-commerce startup and Parnassus Books, (@ParnassusBooks1), an independent bookstore in Nashville, started and owned by the best-selling author Ann Patchett and her business partner, Karen Hayes.

Announce the arrival of new products.

One thing Chubbies does well is their use of Twitter photos in their introduction of new products. New prints, fabrics, etc.: When it happens, you know about it right away.

And when customers respond with questions—perhaps, “What about my state, Maryland?” they’re right on it.

They’re also great about letting customers know when a popular product—say their American flag shorts—are back in stock.

Spotlight customers

So you have customers who love your product, and maybe send you pictures of them using it? This is a perfect chance—barring their permission—to feature them. It does one of two things: 1. Rewards them for using your product and taking the time to send you a picture and 2. Encourages other customers to do the same (or new customers to purchase and do the same)

Use events and special reasons for customers to drop by.

Parnassus is never short of hosting cool events/author signings (or, in the case of Jane Goodall, signing books for their First Editions Club). They’re also superb at posting photos of them. What this does? Either sends customers running in, or keeps them watching for their favorite author to make an appearance.

Have fun.

Both companies do a great job of keeping their Twitter photos lighthearted and entertaining. This makes following them more enjoyable for customers, and keeps them in better spirits when debating whether or not to spend $60 on shorts.

When in doubt: Pets.

People always love seeing photos of dogs and cats. It’s an internet rule. Parnassus “employs” several of them, and they even have their own page on the website, featuring short bios of each pup. Who doesn’t want to go to a store where they might run into Opie Brennan, legendary “manuscript restorationist at the Morgan Library in New York City.”

(All tweets via Twitter.)

Do you use Twitter photos to tell your company’s story? Share how in comments.

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