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Twittering from the Field and the Bench

Pierce Mattie

In the land of miracle potions and lotions, should cosmetic chemists, labs and R&D find themselves in a state of twitter?

Lately, it’s hard to ignore the buzz and momentum that have been building around the microblogging site Twitter. Journalists are on Twitter, celebrities are on Twitter, there are even doctors twittering from the operating room.

Social media sites, as exemplified by Twitter, have quickly become the 21st century’s version of word-of-mouth, quickly putting brands on the map and generating conversation around products and services. While jumping on the bandwagon may seem easy enough, there are definitely guidelines to follow to get the most out of connecting and networking for the sake of transparent communication, especially if it involves your latest cosmetic creation.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a free microblogging service where “tweets” are sent out in 140 characters or less. Tweets can include a wide variety of topics such as your thoughts, conversations with your followers, links to pictures, inclusion of RSS feeds from your blog as well as links to video clips, news articles and Web sites. Twitter can be used direct via the Web, SMS (short message service) via your mobile phone or other third party applications such as TweetDeck, Twirl and Twitterrific.

You begin by following those you may already know, those you want to get to know better and those who may benefit from the knowledge you provide via your Twitter stream. For the most part, those you follow will follow you back, and soon enough you’ll find members discovering you through search and shared followers’ profiles and tweets.

Twitter profiles can be made viewable to the public, thus they are also indexed by search engines, or you can make them private so that a follower has to first send you a request to view your Twitter stream, allowing you to approve or deny the request.

Depending on your purpose and strategy for using Twitter, one may be a more appropriate option than the other. With Twitter being among the most used social networks with roughly 32.1 million users (according to a May 2009 report in The Wall Street Journal), your reach can be vast, however it takes some time to build the online community that is right for you.

How Twitter Works to Your Advantage in Marketing and R&D

Being on Twitter gives you the capacity to tap into the mind-set of “what is happening now.” Beauty brands can track who is discussing their products, competitor’s products or relevant keywords in a variety of ways—including the use of, TweetScan or Hashtags (#). Not only does this help you to find advocates of your beauty brand—and be sure to follow them—but it can give you insight into what people are saying about your products, ingredients and formulas while providing valuable customer service to those posting questions about your brand, and can give you a good sense of how your brand is being viewed by the general public. In a sense, Twitter is a way to manage your online reputation, gain direct feedback, poll your followers and interact on a more personal level. It puts a face to those involved in everything from the chemistry and science behind a product to packaging to marketing and helps provide an emotional connection to a brand with consumer response.

Building brand alliance and a loyal following is not only beneficial when trying to drive sales to your current products, but it can also play an important role in creating buzz before the launch of a new product.

Purple Lab is company that recently used Twitter to tap into the beauty market and reach its target audience. Karen Robinovitz, the creator and co-founder of Purple Lab, first began tweeting in December 2008 as a fun way to talk with people she knew and to find those with similar interests. She began tweeting about the projects she had going at the time, the launch of Huge Lips Skinny Hips (a lip gloss designed to suppress appetite) being one of them. It grabbed the attention of beauty bloggers and beauty addicts—which led Robinovitz to use Twitter as a vehicle to communicate information about her products, retailers who would be selling them and answer any followers’ questions. She also gathered feedback by polling her followers and utilizing the information provided to create a more meaningful experience with her brand. Her genuine and personable approach resulted in a far greater reach of connecting with trendsetters and key influencers that led to requests for samples and written reviews before the launch.

One such review on the blog “Butterfly Diary” was seen by a producer for CBS’ The Doctors, a daytime talk show featuring a panel of four practicing medical professionals, who then used Purple Lab’s gloss on the show. That product placement resulted in several retailers contacting Robinovitz to inquire about selling Huge Lips Skinny Hips in their stores. Robinovitz credits Twitter for this, as it was through this social media outlet that she first connected with the blogger behind “Butterfly Diary.”

Robinovitz’s advice to those in the beauty industry looking to leverage Twitter? “Conversation is key. Be a person, a real voice behind your brand’s profile. Avoid being constantly self-promotional, and instead humanize your company. It will result in greater brand awareness among the Twitter community.” Note, it’s important not to be solely a cheerleader for your brand—use the tool to improve and evolve the brand. Post questions when you have hit a crossroad in your marketing and are in need of outside advice.

Robinovitz believes that consumers today live in a distributive manner, and it is that repeat brand awareness that will keep your products in front of consumers most interested in your brand. This is seen most often when followers “retweet” (RT) something you tweeted. This puts a link to your profile in front of other Twitterers beyond your own followers as others also RT what was said. This will not only help with word-of-mouth, but it can also increase your number of followers.

Cosmetic chemists and R&D teams may find it beneficial to use Twitter to increase buzz around key ingredients going into a product, to conduct research using Twitter followers as a quasi focus group, to discuss non-confidential items and to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry. Keep in mind that a consumer poll on Twitter should not go into your latest press kit.

So What Do I Tweet About?

Where to begin is always the biggest stumbling block for anyone looking to use Twitter effectively. Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist for 17 years and contributing writer to “The Beauty Brains” blog (, shared five ways he is using Twitter:

Connect with beauty product fans and other cosmetic scientists. Thousands of beauty bloggers are using Twitter, and connecting with them is simple. This allows you to quickly meet people from all over the world and find out what’s important to them or what problems they want solved. For a cosmetic chemist, this becomes an excellent source of new product/formulation ideas. Also, a number of cosmetic chemists have also joined Twitter, which lets us trade formulating tips and suggestions.

Share links and discuss beauty industry news. Link-sharing is one of the most useful aspects of Twitter. Rather than search the Web for everything that might be interesting, you can follow people you respect and read what they think is important. You can also put your own story links on Twitter and engage in lively beauty news discussions.

Learn about new product launches. Sometimes beauty product companies launch new products in limited markets or even conduct test markets before a launch. There are beauty tweeters who can tip you off to these launches. This early warning system can help you keep up with your competition and inspire new ideas on how you might address consumer problems.

Virtually attend conferences. Some cosmetic chemists use Twitter during conferences, and, through them, you can keep up with the latest talks and technologies without incurring travel expenses. This is even more relevant considering the travel cutbacks that many beauty companies have initiated due to the sagging economy.

Becoming a resource for other media outlets. Twitter allows scientists to connect and build their reputations. They are no longer hidden in the labs and filtered from the media by the PR arms of corporations. Twitter makes direct contact with the press and the public easier for scientists. This can help people get the information they really need while minimizing the marketing spin.

In Conclusion

Balancing the right and most appropriate mix will help keep you on-point so that your branding strategies online and off are succinct. To gain, increase and sustain Twitter followers, provide tweets that are of value, so the previous points should prove beneficial to get you on the road to twittering. Some suggested Twitterers to follow are: @CosmoProf, @BellaLucce, @thebeautybrains, @ScandleCandle and @BehindtheBrand.

It can be very gratifying to have a thought, tweet about it and see the response. And it’s not always about praise, but it’s advantageous to avoid working in a vacuum.

Pierce Mattie is the CEO of Pierce Mattie Public Relations, Inc., which was recently honored with Inc. magazine’s fastest-growing private companies in America Inc. 5000 award. For the past decade, he has represented top beauty brands in the industry, from mass-market to prestige. Mattie heads up the new business for the organization, and is always on the hunt for brands to represent that are unique, innovative and, most of all, packed with a good story.

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