For Humphry Slocombe, Twitter is the Cherry on Top of the Ice Cream

How does a local ice cream parlor transcend the plain-vanilla archetype? By not serving plain vanilla, for starters.

Sure, purists can find mainstays like chocolate and mint chip on the menu at Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco. But the shop caters to more adventurous palates, offering creative flavors such as candied jalapeño, balsamic caramel, and “government cheese.” The shop stocks 10 to 12 varieties on a rotating basis, and more than 50 of its recipes will appear in the book Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, which Chronicle Books plans to publish this spring.

Thanks to its high-quality products, considerable press coverage, and a Twitter presence that most large companies would envy, Humphry Slocombe has a cult-like following. The Intuit Small Business Blog recently asked co-owner Sean Vahey to share his recipe for developing a large, loyal audience through social media.

ISBB: How does your online audience help you to do business at a local level?

Vahey: Our products and flavors change daily, sometimes throughout the day. Social media has been pivotal for direct communication with all our guests and potential guests. And it doesn’t cost anything to use, which is perfect for our non-existent advertising budget.

How does a small ice cream shop attract 300,000 Twitter followers?

Twitter was the first social media outlet we explored. There was no rhyme or reason to it, so we kept it fairly simple, un-intrusive, and conversational — with some cheek. It still blows our mind.

Do you treat in-store and online customer interactions differently?

It really depends on the scenario. We take all guest feedback very seriously, whether in person or online.

When and why did you decide to write a book?

It never crossed our minds, to be perfectly honest. Our publisher approached us. A year later, with the help of Paolo Lucchesi, who made sense of our ramblings and recipes, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book was born.

Tell us the secret behind the Secret Breakfast flavor. How did you come up with the name?

The name came before the flavor. The story and the secret — wink, wink — are both revealed in the book.

About Kevin Casey

Kevin Casey is a regular contributor here, at InformationWeek and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @kevinrcasey.
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