Building a Following: Attraction Rather Than Promotion, Part II

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We are continuing this month with David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, indeed my better half and a very bright light.  Photo: Renee and David Bates, circa 2001.

When I asked David how he prepares for writing the newsletter each week he said, “I rarely know what I’m going to write about. I schedule time to write. I sit down and some thought comes or I think about what has transpired over the week and I begin typing. As the type goes onto the screen, that’s where I become inspired and, it’s important for me to have a deadline.”

People often tell me that they get several newsletters but David’s is one that they always read. David’s late friend, Rebecca Bain of Nashville Public Radio, told him that his articles were good though he needed to keep them brief. Mark Twain once said, “I apologize for the length of this letter as I did not have time to write a short one.” Writing with brevity takes time. Most weeks David keeps it to 350 words as his homage to Rebecca. He also tries to keep the self-promotion aspect low in newsletters. Topics are generally informational and not about promoting specific items.

Tracking outreach, he notes that about 1,500 people open the email within the first hour. People sign up for the newsletter through his website,, or when they check out at the register and sign up for Bates Rewards, a loyalty program.

Regarding social media, Bates’ has Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr sites. David also co-hosts a weekly radio show, At Home with Josh Cary and David Bates, on WWTN 99.7 FM. He tries to coordinate all aspects of promotion across these formats.

Bates’ Twitter account has over 81,000 followers and Facebook has close to 3,000 likes. The Twitter following has more of a global audience and when he began in 2009 he said he didn’t really have any idea what he was doing. He spent an average of 2 hours a day for 2 ½ to 3 years building it.

He is committed to keeping viable content on social media. “Keep people engaged,” David offers. “Facebook has a decidedly more local audience. The up to date information is posted more to that site.”   When I asked him about whether he had delved into paying to promote on Facebook he replied, “Not yet.”

When asked what advice he would give someone who was just starting out with social media, he said that he would take his father, Earl Bates’ advice: “If you are going to copy someone, copy someone who has been successful. Don’t try to make someone else’s failure work for you.” David looked at what others were doing successfully and emulated their practices. Apparently it works.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit Greenways for Nashville to pursue art and product development. Renee likes being in nature, hiking, birding, and working in the garden. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, she appreciates that the legacy of the 3rd generation business was begun in 1932 at the height of the depression by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.

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