How Tweets Put Sales on the Cards; GROWTH CAPITAL HOW LONDON'S ENTREPRENEURS ARE BUCKING THE ECONOMIC GLOOM

Article excerpt

Byline: Lucy Tobin

[bar] HE bosses of Twitter might not yet have worked out how to make money from their site but London's small and medium-sized enterprises have. Greetings card business The London Studio is just one of the myriad companies seizing opportunities to boost their own coffers via the social media site.

When Soula Zavacopoulos set up TLS three years ago, she relied on word of mouth to spread news of her card designs, which include slogans such as "I have 2968 friends on Facebook and no one to shag... Fancy a quickie?' and pictures of prefect-style badges reading "old fart". Then Zavacopoulos signed up to Twitter -- and sales have soared, with revenues set to hit [pounds sterling]250,000 this year. "I didn't really know much about Twitter, and it took me a long time to understand it," she explains. "For a while I just followed people but then I started tweeting, and looking out for awards and 'journo requests' for case studies on the site."

Then Theo Paphitis of Dragons' Den launched a Twitter competition called Small Business Sunday. Once a week, he started asking entrepreneurs to tweet him about their business, choosing his six favourite, which he then flagged up to his 240,000 followers and on his website.

"I tweeted Theo hoping to tempt him to look at The London Studio website and see the products I'd designed," says Zavacopoulos.

"He did -- and his single tweet saw my website's traffic more than double on its weekly average. I thought the server might break. Sales jumped too -- gift shops and other independent retailers got in touch and asked me to be a stockist, and existing ones put in larger orders. I sold an extra 13,000 cards in the month after Theo's tweet. Twitter has been great for business."

Zavacopoulos was working as a graphic designer for clients including the BBC and Cancer Research UK, when she decided to quit and launch her own branding and design firm in May 2009.

"I started researching the UK greeting card industry and realised that around [pounds sterling]1.3 billion was spent on cards each year -- more than tea and coffee put together. I knew from my experience in branding and advertising that I had to come up with a strong concept to set myself apart from the existing market.

I wanted my cards to be trend-setting, humorous and different."

With no backing, Zavacopoulos withdrew [pounds sterling]2000 from her savings to book a small stand at the London International Card trade show, then bought theLondonStudio.com domain and worked up a logo, catalogues, and banner for the trade fair.

"It was tough to do everything," she says. …