As part of my continuing series on Saint Louis business people, this week I reach out to Chris Reimer, who most people know as @RizzoTees on Twitter.  He’s very active on the social media front, so most questions revolve around that.  Chris founded Rizzo Tees back in October 2007, and his website went live on October 30, 2008.  Chris is a one-man-show, designing and selling funny t-shirts out of his basement in South St. Louis.  And Chris wanted me to pass this on to you:  “I love you more than bacon – never forget!”

  1. Chris, thanks for taking a few minutes to answer my questions.  What first spurred you to get involved with social media for your business?
    Two things – I truly enjoy interacting with people, and a lack of money.
    First, people: I am obviously, at the base of it, nothing more than a new-age salesperson. I mean, in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I have a funny t shirt company, and I’d be psyched if you bought a shirt or two from me! For selfish, capitalistic reasons, Social Media is a great place for me to be. But beyond that, I love being with people. It used to be that interacting with people meant gathering in the same physical meeting spot, i.e. coffee shop, pub, etc. To a lesser degree, you could talk on the phone with someone, but that was usually 1-on-1 interaction (a really underrated kind of interaction, I might add, but I digress). Today, you can join Twitter and Facebook, gather a following, make friends with who you want, and develop nothing less than meaningful relationships. There are those that don’t understand how an eRelationship could possibly be meaningful (older generations, perhaps). But 350 million people on Facebook can’t be wrong. And Twitter is a *real* gathering place – it feels as real to me as any coffee shop or pub. So I love hanging with my eFriends and making new ones, and the t-shirts sorta just sell themselves in the process. Honestly, if being on Twitter is work, then I love work! Second, money: I have very limited funds at this time – it took a whole bunch of cash to get Rizzo Tees off the ground, and right now I don’t have the money to advertise. Social Media is a wonderful way to get the word out about my tees, and the only investment is time.
  2. Tell us about Rizzo Tees´ online strategy. What online tools are you using now to grow your customer base?
    You don’t have enough room on your blog for my online strategy – I’m not kidding. I have an Excel file outlining a huge plan for 2010 – the trick is staying awake and alert enough to execute it by night while I try not to get fired from my day job. I am a serial thinker and planner, and as thoughts occur  to me, I use to leave myself voicemails that get transcribed and emailed to me. Alternatively, I use the Notes feature on my iPhone to keep track of what needs doing. The trick is executing on all of it, and it’s a matter of time and *will*. I will simply have to make the time. Being a serial planner and thinker is great, but I need to get better at being a serial doer.
    In short, 2010 is going to bring more Shareasale affiliate efforts, more video, more Twitter lists, more Facebook fan page work, more email marketing, more SEO, more interaction all across the board.
  3. What´s the `one thing´ that social media has taught you about your business?
    That truly interacting with your customers is key, and that social media makes it easier than ever to do that.
  4. What was your biggest social media blunder? How did it affect your business?
    I’m not sure if it’s a blunder, but I still feel like a big idiot. I met all three of my female models through Twitter. Jaime, Heather, and Ronda are awesome – I owe each of them so much – I have unlimited gratitude for them.
    In the case of Jaime, I’ve never met her – we spoke via Twitter, she said she’d take pics for me, so I sent her the tees. She found a professional photographer, she took the pics, and they were just awesome (see Bacon tee page for how awesome she really is). However, there was another girl on Twitter that I approached about modeling. She’s been on an E! reality show, on MTV, etc – very cute girl. She agreed to take pics – she was downright excited about it. I sent her three tees, and she did nothing with them. I emailed her, tweeted her, DMed her, tried not to be a defacto stalker…. she just took the tees and ran.
    I’m sure she’s busy with her TV baloney and all, but she said she’d do the pics. Finally, I just asked her to send them back, and she asked for my address. I thought I was going to get the tees back. After I gave her my address, nothing…. no tees. So in the end, you just kinda feel like a moron. What I DID do well, I think, is contain my feelings. I didn’t call her out publicly, and didn’t send her an angry final email telling her how it was …. I just let it go. What it taught me was to try to establish local modeling relationships when possible.
  5. How do you measure and evaluate the results of your online efforts?
    For me, it’s pretty simple. I want and need to make sales. I can honestly say I’d be on Twitter and Facebook anyway, even if Rizzo Tees didn’t exist – I’d be on Social Media, making friends and sharing info, just like I do now.
    Two goals I have for Social Media – helping others, and spreading the word about my tees — if I do those things, the rest falls into place.
  6. Are there any new tools that you´re playing with that haven´t caught on to the mainstream, but are working well for you?
    I’m pretty heavily weighted on Twitter and Facebook, with 2010 plans to leverage LinkedIn. Most often, I’m a late adopter of new Social Media tools. One tool (that’s not a Social Media tool) that I mentioned earlier in the interview is The iPhone has a Voice Memo app, but what I like about Reqall is that what I say gets transcribed and emailed to me – that is the *reminder* I need to do it. The email is the reminder. Voice Memos I leave for myself could stay in that app, to be unlistened to forever! I plan to use Tubemogul in 2010 to upload videos across multiple video platforms.
  7. What is your favorite part of social media? Your least favorite?
    My favorite part is the people. I have made real friends on Social Media – my dad doesn’t understand how this works, but the people I’ve met on Social Media – they’re as real to me as any long-time “in the flesh” friends I have. On top of that, I’ve met many eFriends in the flesh, and that is a truly unique, sometimes mindblowing experience. What’s funny….. I’ll often meet someone in person and say “Hi, I’m Chris,” and they’re cordial. Then I say, “I’m RizzoTees on Twitter,” and their face almost lights up. That sounds douchey, and I don’t mean it to be – when you make friends online, and you hang out for months, or years, and you finally meet someone in person, putting a face and a voice to that name and all of that interaction you’ve had …. it’s mighty powerful. For me, Social Media has more utility when you make an effort to meet people face to face. My 2010 goal is to take my wife to Boston for a weekend to hang with Julio Varela and his wife – someday, my friend!
    My least favorite part – the haters. On the whole, Twitter is a place of kindness, in my opinion, so you don’t see it much there. But if you venture over to YouTube, or to the Fark forums, be prepared to get punched about the head. And that’s fine, you just know what you’re getting yourself into, depending on which platform you’re visiting. I guess the most disappointing thing is when it *does* happen on Twitter. I’ve had several people just attack me unprovoked, name calling, accusing me of stealing designs, etc. As a business, it’s probably a bad idea to respond in kind, so I just try to let it die down. If someone persists, I’ll block them – and that’s only happened maybe twice.
    Ahhh, this reminds me. I had a fellow t-shirt entrepreneur feature me as part of #FollowFriday, and then six days later, he unfollowed and *blocked*me. I had even been retweeted by him once just two days before getting blocked. Completely bizarre, the details are here. It’s by far the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me on Twitter. His strange email response to me was really disappointing, but I just moved on – it’s hard to care about knuckleheads sometimes!
  8. What are some good tips for a small business that wants to get into SM but aren´t sure how?
    It’s two things – listen, and care. These are not unique concepts that I just came up with, so props to everyone before me that have advocated for listening and caring. So why the hell don’t more companies do these two things? You, I, and all of your blog’s readers deal with this every day – customer service sucks!!! The best businesses, whether they use Social Media or not, will listen to their customers, and then they’ll care about them. Social Media is just a tool to help you listen and care, and you should use it because you have alot of customers that are on Social Media. Listen, if none of your customers have phones, would you set up a bank of operators ready to take customer phone calls? Conversely, if you had a ton of customers complaining about the fast food burger they just tried to eat, wouldn’t you have a bank of people on computers, ready to respond to their complaining tweets? So it’s not a question of “How can we sell stuff using Social Media?” I couldn’t care less about ROI – I’m building a community of people that believe in what I’m doing. If I ship the wrong size tee and someone tweets about it, I’ll be there. When someone compliments my fast shipping, I publicly thank them back. Be where your customers are, listen to them, and care about them.
  9. Do you recommend any books or blogs that have helped your business grow?
    I am a Gary Vaynerchuk fan. Full disclosure: when it comes to the “gurus” of social media and marketing, I have my radar up BIG TIME – for all of their good ideas about how to achieve success, what they’re selling you is their system. They’re selling their 4-DVD set on how to use Adwords, or how to convert leads, or how to become rich selling mail order diet supplements, or whatever bullshit. And it’s $1,500 worth of stuff, all for the low, low price of $299. So I always think to myself, “If this magic elixir of yours is so damn good, why aren’t you using it yourself to build a real business, to sell something real? The answer, of course, is that their how-to product never delivers as advertised, they sucker in a large chunk of buyers, then they start counting their money, and then they move on to the next “system.” Gary knows he comes across as obnoxious to some people, and while I think it secretly bothers him, it *never* stops him from being himself. And the key, of course, is that he has already lived what he preaches, and he’s using it *now.* He talks about building your personal brand, about caring, about outworking the competition. And yes, he did write a book about it (that I can recommend), but he’s putting it into practice – Cinderella Wine, Gourmet Library, PleaseDress.Me – these are real businesses that he’s building. So whether or not you like him, I feel he’s a great example of what you can do with hustle and caring for others. He even cared about little me one time– can you outcare this guy? Have a decent product and act like this, and your business will grow.

Also: Read last week’s interview with Russ Henneberry

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