Naming Products & Spreading News on Social Media

Stewart’s Shops’ exec drives message, fun on Twitter

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Of the few tweeting executives in the Albany, N.Y., region, none stand out as much as Gary Dake, president of convenience store retailer Stewart's Shops Corp.

Business Review featured Dake in a recent issue, highlighting how Twitter is becoming a daily tool in some business executives’ eyes.

"When you're talking ice cream, it's fun." That sums up Dake’s attitude toward Twitter: Have fun, the magazine reported.

Dake's followers on Twitter are a mix of media people, customers and employees. You can usually find @garydake sharing a lighthearted joke, or perhaps sharing some company business news. Saratoga Country-based Stewart's is a family-run company that operates more than 300 convenience stores in New York and Vermont.

Recently, Dake thanked concert attendees of the two-day Phish show for sales at the Stewart's shop on Saratoga Lake.

@garydake “Thank you Phish: Saratoga Lake shop by campground set all time record volume last week. Sold 5,700 bags of ice, 671 egg sandwiches.”

Stewart's has a special place among local consumers; the company doesn't just have customers, it has fans. Even some of the chain’s products have fans, including the store brand beer Mountain Brew.

One fan even started a fan Twitter feed about the beer. Non-official accounts like this are not a concern for Dake. "It's freedom of speech, and if they love one of our products that much, let them have fun with it," he said. Recently Stewart’s they made some changes to its supplier and can labels, which prompted a few discussions with Dake on Twitter.

The most popular topic on Dake's Twitter feed, however, is ice cream.

He recalls being in a meeting when executives were trying to come up with names for flavors and no great ideas were coming up. "In the middle of the meeting, I tweeted what the ice cream was and that we needed a name. Within 15 minutes, I already had a dozen replies," Dake said.

The company also saw the power that social media can have when an incident occurred at one of Stewart's shops earlier in the summer.

Due to a misunderstanding, a disabled customer was locked outside of a shop during a severe storm. The story spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter, which was picked up by local media.

In the past, media outlets would have reached out to Stewart's to get the company's comments on the matter. But social media has changed the way news spreads, and it was reported before Stewart's had a chance to look into the issue. Dake jumped on Twitter and took ownership of the mistake, apologizing that it happened.

What was more miraculous about the situation was that even though word spread via social media, Stewart's customers responded in droves, defending the company and collectively saying that there was more to the story.

"People recognized it as not being the Stewart's they know,” Dake said