Eastern Canadian radio personality Kate Peardon’s photo was on the Facebook page of Scotian Gold Cooperative in Nova Scotia.

Eastern Canadian radio personality Kate Peardon’s photo was on the Facebook page of Scotian Gold Cooperative in Nova Scotia.

Since summer, it’s been all over Twitter and Facebook—the news that SweeTango apples were coming in September, in triple the volume of 2010. This is undoubtedly the first apple to be promoted so intensively—almost exclusively—through social media.

Next Big Thing, the grower cooperative that is the exclusive producer and marketer of this club apple, hired the Minneapolis-based agency Fast Horse, Inc., to manage the SweeTango Web site and its presence on Facebook and Twitter. Not a cent was spent on advertising, though the agency did put out news releases, which were picked up by newspapers across the country.

In July, the SweeTango Web site announced the ­SweeTango First Bite Giveaway, in which one winner in the United States and one in Canada would receive boxes of SweeTango apples as soon as harvest began.

In August, a new contest, “Apple a Day the SweeTango Way,” was announced online. One winner in the United States and one in Canada would receive four dozen apples in the mail over the course of about five weeks.

A master plan

“This was part of the master plan when we began in 2007,” said Tim Byrne, the president of Next Big Thing and also manager of apple sales for Pepin Heights Orchard in Lake City, Minnesota. “We rely on social media and word of mouth of consumers. We are appealing to the alpha shoppers who love to discover new foods and shout out and tell a thousand friends.”

Alpha shoppers is a term used to describe people who want the latest stuff and willingly pay full price for it. They’re not coupon shoppers.

The social media effort began last year, when the first apples became available in limited quantity. This year, many of the trees are in their third and fourth leaf, so the volume has tripled. Byrne wouldn’t disclose what the volume is, but said that about 700,000 trees have been planted at densities of 1,000 or more per acre, and the first serious planting began in 2008.

There are 44 growers in New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, and 20 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Apples are packed at six locations in New York, Nova ­Scotia, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington.

The apples mature in late September, and Byrne expected they’d be sold out by the end of October. They’re being sold by major chains, including Walmart, and Byrne was pleased that Walmart would buy into marketing an apple over such a short season.

See the full story at www.goodfruit.com and follow links to SweeTango on Twitter and Facebook. For more information, go to the Web site www.sweetango.com.