THE INC. LIFE

This Bookstore Accidentally Found a Brilliant Way to Get Customers Engaged

If you wait long enough, everything comes back in style.

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BY Guadalupe Gonzalez - 13 Jun 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Many founders want a book deal. Not many get one the way Mike Gustafson of the Ann Arbor, Michigan, bookstore Literati did. When the shop opened in March 2013, the co-founder set an old, light-blue Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter in the basement, amid the travel guides and cookbooks, with a single blank page in it.

Customers began typing, anonymously, reveling in an odd public intimacy. Some messages were poignant ("She needs help. I really want to help her. But I don't know how"). Some were absurd ("My mom used to be a mime. I just found out. She never mentioned it"). Some proposed marriage. It became A Thing. This spring, Grand Central Publishing made it a hardcover: Notes From a Public Typewriter, which collects 123 notes from the thousands Literati customers have pecked out. Postbook typewriter communiques can be seen on Instagram at @publictypewritr, an account we like so much that we just made it our #IncSocialSpotlight. (Really. That's a thing, too.)

Today we're spotlighting Ann Arbor-based Literati Bookstore, a small business that uses Instagram to drive real-world engagement--and vice versa. How? It's all about secret messages: When the store opened in 2013, co-founder Mike Gustafson set up an old typewriter with a single blank page, and visitors began typing anonymous notes. The @literatibookstore feed makes us feel like we've been transported to a classic hometown bookstore, and we love reading the sometimes poignant, sometimes odd typewriter notes. "We share moments that capture moods," says Gustafson. "A quiet pause inside the bookstore, a silhouette walking down the sidewalk, a mother and child reading in the kids' area." They use Instagram to "continue that conversation with those who visit our store, enjoy the ambiance, and would like to stay connected." You can read more typewriter notes on their other account, @publictypewriter. If you know another small business with serious @instagram style, let us know in the comments below! #IncSocialSpotlight

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