Adagio Teas: Steeped in social media, no unicorns and rainbows

February 26, 2010 6:00 AM EST

Adagio Teas, a small online retailer of gourmet teas, makes innovative use of Twitter and other social media to drive sales and cement relationships with customers. They're a tiny company, but they do a couple of tricks that I haven't seen done anywhere else.

To induce customers to sign up for Adagio's Twitter account, @adagioteas, the company has set up a process to automatically send direct messages on the status of a shipment. To receive direct messages, a Twitter user has to be following the sender account. Adagio hopes that even after your tea shipment arrives, you'll continue to follow @adagioteas and receive occasional marketing messages.

Also, when you buy tea from Adagio, they encourage you to send a message to your friends on Facebook. That alone isn't unique -- many companies do that, and it's frankly annoying. But Adagio takes the annoyance out of the process by making the Facebook messages into a discount code that the recipients of the message can use to buy tea at Adagio. The company also lets you send out gift certificates on Twitter.

But neither of those things is what really impresses me about Adagio.

I blogged about them in September, "Adagio Tea: Steeped In Twitter, Facebook". I concluded that blog by saying:

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I am obliged to note that I also buy loose tea from Upton Tea, and I actually prefer them very slightly to Adagio because Upton is less damn cute. When you are a lover of loose tea, you are constantly fending off damn cuteness.

I wrote that blog the day I placed an order from Adagio. A few days later the shipment arrived with a handwritten note on it, telling me that they were going to cover my box with unicorn and rainbow stickers, but decided against it.

I was delighted -- and astonished. I've never seen that kind of personalized customer relations from an Internet company before.

And I've been patronizing Adagio exclusively since.

Recently, I talked to Ilya Kreymerman, who heads up Adagio's technology, Web marketing, and social media (I told you it was a small company -- 20 employees). I'm going to make a pot of Adagio Pur Erh Dante tea now, and then come back and give you a little taste of our conversation.

I asked Kreymerman if he thinks social media has been successful in driving business. He said it's too early to tell. "Twitter has interesting potential. Social media as a whole has potential. I don't think anyone has made good use of it. A couple of years from now we'll have a more defined answer for you. Now we're just playing, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't."

I'll have more of my discussion with Kreymerman soon.

For more of my discussion with Kreymerman, read this: A conversation with Adagio Teas' social media manager