The writing’s on the wall: An interview with Sharpie’s Twitter Queen

When I first learned that Sharpie pens had its own Twitter-er, I couldn’t believe it. How in the world could you spend your day writing 140-character statements about INK PENS?

I decided to “follow” SharpieSusan and see for myself. I’m hooked. The enthusiasm, authenticity and wit driving her stream of tweets is addictive!

A former newspaper reporter and PR counsel to Kraft, Honeywell, American Airlines and others, Susan Wassel now combines “traditional” with “new” as both PR and social media manager for Sharpie. This week, Susan and her company launched a new community website and social media strategy. Amid this chaos, she had time to talk to me about her social media job and challenges.

How did you become the Twitter Queen of Sharpie?

Like the rest of us, I was reading about the Twitter phenomenon and the opportunity it offered marketers to connect informally with their audiences. It also worked out that Twitter was a platform that seemed most successful when a “personality” was involved. Let’s just say Twitter and I were a match made in heaven. I was lucky that lots of passionate Sharpie users were already Tweeting away and welcomed me into the conversation.

Does your company participate in other social media channels? Which seem to work best for your brand and why??

We just officially launched Sharpie’s Facebook fan page and You Tube site. Both are part of a larger initiative to celebrate Sharpie’s passionate users and the amazing things they create with our product. Our community channels are all housed on this new community site,, along with a Sharpie gallery, a how-to video section, a virtual product test drive app, and of course the Sharpie blog, which I edit and which was our very first foray into social media.?

How do you measure the effectiveness of your Twitter-based promotional dialogue?

To date, we’ve only looked at number of followers, not because we didn’t want to know more but because we didn’t have the resources in place to dig deeper. The launch of our new community website includes an analytics initiative led by our agency Draftfcb that will take a closer look at some of our social media properties and Sharpie’s share of voice overall in the social media sphere. While we’ll get some fairly immediate feedback, we’re looking at measurement over the course of 6 months to give us broader measure of Sharpie conversation over time.

Other than raising awareness for your brand, have there been other, unexpected benefits of your Twitter campaign?

Again, nothing quantitative yet but more anecdotal. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Twitterers in general love Sharpie. They often express how surprised and excited they are to see Sharpie on Twitter. Everybody seems to have a Sharpie story they want to share – whether it’s a favorite color or a great idea about how to use Sharpies — from the Sharpie dress one sculptor sent me to the giant Sharpie-shaped birthday cake a fan made for a friend. People send me Twitpics of Sharpies on their desks at work, in their backpacks at art school, in the hands of celebrities at rock concerts and Broadway performances. It really is an amazing thing to see so many people so passionate about a little ol’ marker!?????

How do you explain to mainstream management what you do and why you do it?

Mainstream management isn’t so mainstream any more. I think you’d have to be living in a cave to have missed the social media movement and the power it can wield over brands. While not all execs have it figured out, they know it’s big, they know it matters and they couldn’t be more supportive of efforts at Sharpie to open a dialogue with our consumers and find out how we can continue to make them happy.

Everyone knows you are blatantly promoting a product … yet you remain so authentic and endearing! What advice do you have for others learning to promote their products through social media channels?

Ah, this is where the magic comes in. This is the part you can’t buy at the store. I think that for the most part, the people today who have stepped up to the plate within corporations to commandeer social media are those with their own deep passion for the product. And it is that genuine passion that consumers connect with.?I use Sharpies, my family uses Sharpies, my friends, my relatives — who doesn’t use Sharpies? There’s just something about their shiny cigar-shaped barrels, the bold, brilliant colors, the bright and smooth way the ink lays down, that I love! Not a day goes by that I don’t use them to label one of my kids’ lunch bags or make a Christmas ornament with the cousins or create big loopy bubble letters on my daughter’s 8th?grade graduation poster. So I have lots to of real-life Sharpie fodder for my Tweets. And then of course I always get off on these talk tangents. There is a group of us addicted to NPR, another caught up in the Jon & Kate crisis. It’s not just all Sharpie all the time and I think that’s important too.

Photo credit Promo magazine

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