Thelma’s Treats Masters Small Business Social Media

March 13, 2014

thelma's treats

Imagine having someone walk into your door right now with warm cookies and cold milk. This is not a trick! If you enlist the services of Thelma’s Treats in Des Moines, Iowa, this can be a reality. But, if you haven’t placed an order, you can still experience the cookie making and delivery virtually through the company’s social presence. (If only smells could go through computers!)

I recently talked with Dereck Lewis, owner of this mom-and-son business to learn more about their popular and well-known brand to share some insights on how they use online tools to help reach their hungry audience.

Hi Dereck! Tell us a bit about the history of this mother and son team and about the special lady your brand is named after.

We launched Thelma’s in 2012 as a warm cookie delivery and handmade ice cream sandwich business. We based the brand on my great grandma Thelma. She passed away last year at the age of 108. She always had a fresh batch of snickerdoodles on the kitchen table when we stopped to visit. When we mapped out our brand, we focused all our messages down to the word “joy.” I like to think that a little joy from my grandma gets delivered with each cookie.

That family relationship sure is evident in all of your online postings. How large of a role does social media play for your company? And who handles the updating and responding?

As a small business it has been critical to our growth. When you are just starting out you have a lot more time than money, so social media is a great way to “spend” you marketing dollars. My mom, Lana, has managed our social media with some help from my sister and I. Now my sister, Nola, is helping her plan content and expand into other platforms. We have Twitter and Facebook up on the computer during the day so we are always responding to posts and mentions.

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You share photos of the happy recipients of cookie deliveries. How do you tell these individuals that you’ll be using the photos and do you ever run into issues of people not wanting to share? How do you overcome this?

We ask them if we can take a picture of them for our Facebook page. Most people don’t mind. We actually have people include requests for it in their orders sometimes now. We haven’t had any complaints yet, but if we did, we would just pull the picture if it was an issue. I think the fun nature of our business allows this to be simple for us. It is also a lot of work to gather people up and take a picture, but my mom is very good at this. She just has a way with people that makes them comfortable. Most of the pictures are from her.

Thelmas - Mom and Son

Every brand needs a Lana! Speaking of photos, you just joined Instagram. What is the strategy behind this additional platform and how do you see this adding to your current social presence?

This was Nola’s idea. We have a visual company (cookies, ice cream, packaging) so it seemed smart to include an image driven platform. It will show a new angle of our business and allow for more viral sharing of images, which will support our more regional brand presence.

We’re excited to follow along! You seem to have a good grasp on using social media for your business. What would be your number one piece of advice to other small business owners trying to use social media to connect to their audience?

I’ve read this advice from several sources, but I think it still rings true: Treat all your posts like you are talking to a group of people you don’t know at a party. Don’t yell, “cookies for sale!” all the time. Tell your genuine story and people will gravitate to you.

Great advice, Dereck!

If you’re a small business, can you take the Thelma’s approach of talking to people at a party? Are you yelling “cookies for sale” too often?

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.