Santa Claus is Coming to Town (again)

For the third year in a row I’ve had the pleasure of attending the launch of Otter Nurseries Christmas Grotto to take photos of the latest intake of Santa’s Little Helpers to use on social media.

The good old days

For me, long gone are the days of creeping around to deposit Christmas stockings on the beds of sleeping babes, and waking up early to help build Lego or Hot Wheel sets. Now Christmas is a time to pop open the Prosecco and try not to forget a crucial part of Christmas dinner (one year the stuffing, another the pigs in blankets, but sadly, never the sprouts). However, working with Otter Nurseries means I still get to have some real Christmas fun.

Christmas at Otter Nurseries

For the garden centre, Christmas starts early in the year, with buyers visiting Christmas shows in the UK and abroad. The Grotto arrives on my PR to-do list in July or August, as sales for tickets start in early SepChristmas decs as Santa Claus comes to towntember. There’s always a lot of excitement on social media when we announce ticket sales with lots of sharing going on. There are also always one or two grumps about it being way too early… you can’t please all the people all the time. My fave  grump this time round was someone who tweeted a photo of the ‘Suffragete’ movie which bore the legend ‘Perfect for Mother’s Day’ (left over from March, of course). The tweeter asked (with good humour) if we could get Christmas out of the way first, please.

The Christmas department opens at half term, and even I uttered a few ‘Oohs’ this year as the Christmas team had done such a superb job.

The GrottSanta Claus Magical Kingdomo launches in mid November. Once upon a time this meant Father Christmas arriving in a helicopter, but health and safety rules and regulations put the kybosh on that, and now it’s a far more subtle affair. It’s quite a thrill to watch it coming together, as the external shell is put up and the magical interior scenes are added.

On launch day, the bright, cheerful gang of Santa’s Helpers arrive – many are handpicked from Ottery St Mary’s secondary school, The Kings School. Some come year after year, and there are often youngsters from the same family on the team. And then of course there is Santa himself. I can’t say too much, obviously, but he’s very clever and knows a great deal about the children when they visit him. Santa Claus - his Little Helpers

This year the Grotto was visited by a blogger for the first time, which I arranged after an approach on Twitter. Stephanie Darkes of Exploring Exeter came on the launch day and wrote a lovely blog about her visit.

So there it is, Christmas has come to Otter Nurseries and Santa is on his way!

Twitter followers – quantity or quality?

Do you ever look at the number of Twitter followers you have and wonder if more is better? Do you peek at an account that boasts 30,000 followers and wonder where you’re going wrong with your 583?

Well, the chances are you’re not going wrong. The chances are you’re talking to the people you want to talk to. If an account has thousands upon thousands of followers, take a look at who they follow and who follows them – it can be very illuminating.

There are, of course, reasons why some accounts have a multitude of followers. Take our very own #DevonHour, the Twitter account that gets businesses across Devon talking to each other. It makes sense that this account has approaching 13,000 followers – because there are that many businesses in Devon! Likewise accounts belonging to celebrities, supermarkets and the BBC –it’s pretty obvious why they have so many followers.

I always become a little suspicious when a smaller business has tens of thousands of followers. Are they purchasing followers, I wonder. In recent months I’ve been offered the chance to do just that to boost the numbers of followers on my account. Similar offers are being made to accounts I help run for clients. ‘Get 10,000 new followers instantly!’ Er, why?


I like to earn my followers. I prefer to know that someone likes what I’m saying, or wants to know more about my business. I follow accounts that have some relevance to me and my business, others that look like they could do with support, some for news and one or two simply because they make me laugh.

Running Twitter (and Facebook) accounts for clients may seem a simple task, but to do it well you need to engage the right audience and find new followers who are interested in what the client is doing and what they have to say. Why would a vintage shop in Devon want to follow a pizzeria in Glasgow (unless they’re friends with the owners), or a lacemaker in Honiton follow an energy specialist in Florida? (Of course the vintage shop and the lacemaker really should be following each other!)

At the end of the day, it’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about the relationships and relevance. It’s good to have a healthy number of followers, but it’s not so good to have thousands of followers you really don’t have anything in common with. So be content with your 583 followers – as long as they are the right ones then you’re doing well.