Archive for the ‘ Useful Sites ’ Category

The Perfect Storm Guide to Using Twitter in Online Retail

The Perfect Storm Guide to using Twitter in Retail, Part 1

This is the first of three guides on how best to use Twitter for your online retail business. We hope you find it of interest and please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

What is Twitter (if you don’t know, where have you been?)

As of March 2009 nearly 5 million people use Twitter, a service that lets people — and marketers — send frequent, short updates to their followers. Twitter is uniquely valuable to marketers because it’s more immediate and interactive than any other digital channel. It’s easy to use Twitter’s search to monitor conversations about your brand; marketers as diverse as Dunkin’ Donuts, Comcast, and Dell also use it to connect with fans, address support questions, and sell products.

What is it all about?

Essentially, it’s an instant messaging platform that was developed to answer the simple question: what are you doing? People who sign up to the service have a space to fill 140 characters about whatever it is they are up to, and these “tweets” are filtered into the newsfeeds of the others who follow you. You can follow as many people as you want, and many celebrities have already developed a loyal following of 1 million plus!

People who sign up to the service can receive other peoples/businesses messages by “following” them. Following an account causes the updates they post to appear on the home page of the user following them. To be heard though, you need to have people following you. It’s important to remember that Twitter has come from nowhere to become the 3rd largest social network (behind Facebook and MySpace) and is a completely new channel for brands to interact with their consumers.

How Are Current Online Retailers Using Twitter?

Advertisers have begun to use Twitter to set up pages to not only reflect the essence of their brands butalso to act as a direct line of contact with product advocates and potential customers. Therein lies the beauty of Twitter for ecommerce – it’s an indirect way to build loyal relationships with customers and to informally communicate with them about what you’re doing.
Twitter should therefore primarily be viewed as an extension of your corporate communication and customer service functions rather than a sales channel in its own right, but done well and your Twitter profile could lead to a surge in sales at certain points of the year. In general, there are two types of approach that brands tend to be taking on Twitter; these can be described as “personal” and “informative”. Both can work well for your brand, depending on your overall marketing
strategy and the where Twitter falls into it.

The Personal Approach

Zappos – http://twitter.com/zappos

Zappos Twitter Profile

Zappos Twitter Profile

Zappos, the American ecommerce giant which specialise in shoes, have their CEO update their Twitter feed regularly. The tone is colloquial, and the feed is a mix of personal information about CEO Tony Heish, what he’s up to, where he is in the world and what’s on his mind. His everyman tone embodies the brand he leads, and this ensures he (and the Zappos brand) endear themselves to the Twitter audience (he has300k followers). He doesn’t push products, and actually very few of his tweets talk about what the brand is doing. It works because Heish puts a personal front to a big name ecommerce brand, and by engaging with users on a wide range of topics he makes his audience think of the Zappos brand as a person, and a person they like to do business with.

Informative Approach

WholeFoods – http://twitter.com/wholefoods

Whole Food Twitter Profile

Whole Food Twitter Profile

This American organic food grocery chain has taken a completely different approach from that of Zappos, using Twitter not to entertain, but to inform it’s 300k followers.

Their strategy is based around answering every question submitted by their followers, whether the question is on ingredients, packaging or store openings. This “discussion forum” approach works for this brand because they are a retailer with an audience who have a special interest/need. A vegan who’s allergic to sunflower seeds doesn’t want to mess around with unclear package messaging; she wants to know there’s a place where she can go to get the facts. Twitter, to that consumer, is a direct link to a brand that’s entrenched in her world and a major part of her life philosophy. Knowing she can get her questions answered quickly and efficiently means a lot.

Final Word

Your brand will probably fall somewhere in between these two different styles. Most companies have a number of people internally responsible for Twitter (so it’s not just built up around one employee who could leave at any given point). There is no doubt having your CEO or Chairman would add to the gravitas / readership of your Twitter profile, but most likely you’ll want to intersperse colloquial comments about what you’re doing as a business with replies to questions from interested
followers.

So now you need to get set up on Twitter and utilise its power…

Twitter Recommended Actions

Go to http://www.twitter.com and set up your own business account, if only to grab the name of your business before anyone else does, even if you don’t plan on using your account for a while.

If you are ready to set up your profile, the first step is to set up a Twitter background. Developing a branded background which has
your brand logo and colours is recommended. It tells your potential followers you care about your Twitter presence and will probably be a good brand to follow.

The next step is to build your network. The service allows you to import email lists etc from your own contacts, but for brands the easiest place to start is by going to Twitter’s own search engine at http://search.twitter.com and inserting your interests. If you sell fashion/clothes, it’s worth typing those keywords into the search engine and following users who have mentioned this keyword regularly in their posts.

If you want to get a little more granular in your search, you can use a service like TweetGrid or Twilert to search under multiple keywords and get email alerts when someone in the Twitosphere is talking about your brand or related subjects.

Following someone is the same thing as adding them as a Facebook friend, except that they don’t see your updates unless they choose to follow you as well. Generally the best way to get followers is to add people based on your interests, as most people will follow you once you start following them. It is easy to remove people if they keep posting irrelevant content.

Ask yourself why you are on Twitter. Are you operating on a personal or commercial basis? As an aside, it is important to acknowledge that if you answer the latter, you need to understand whether you are an individual ‘face’ of an organisation or if you’re Twittering under a brand name.

Be clear about your Twitter objective. Are you using it as a customer service support? A brand monitoring tool? A marketing or sales platform? Understanding why you’re using Twitter will help you follow these guidelines and create great copy…

And finally, if you are serious about wanting users to interact with you on Twitter, you can add the “follow me on Twitter” badge to your blog or website. This will encourage your consumers to check out your Twitter profile.

Use this Badge to Attract Followers

Use this Badge to Attract Followers

The next part of this guide will be published on May 26th, when we will be guiding you on your Twitter tone of voice and general etiquette, so make sure you come back and continue your Twitter education!

This Twitter lesson is the first in a special series of Digital Best Practice blogs that Perfect Storm will be producing over the coming weeks, essential reading for all digitially minded people!

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Following on from Social Media – Why All The Fuss?

Peter Hershberg wrote a very good piece for Ad Age that was published today – http://adage.com/digitalnext/article?article_id=135276
It explains that Facebook etc will not be demanding large search spends in the immediate future. Well worth a read.

Our blog from yesterday received a great response and has been wildly debated on the like of LinkedIn. Thanks to all of those who took the time to read it and we hope you found it of use.

UPDATE – Great blog here – http://tinyurl.com/pkz5yv about the myths of SMM. Make sure you take these factors in to account when working out your SMM strategy.

Social Media Marketing – Why All the Fuss?

Social Media Marketing is taking over the world right? You can’t read a blog without somebody trying to tell you that you must be using SMM to promote your brand/product and communicate with your current and potential customer base. But what is the value of SMM and does it make business sense for your company?

What does it take?

The expense in terms of capital is low which is obviously attractive however it has to be remembered that it is hugely important that you have people moderating your profiles, responding to any queries and updating content. This can be a very time consuming process and draws on resources that may be better utilised elsewhere.

Outside of actual time and spend, a major cost factor of SMM is reputation. Opening up your brand to the masses and allowing them to comment creates the opportunity for bad mouthing and negative content to be viewable by the masses. Yes you can respond directly to the negativity and even delete it but it is important to remember that there is no brand/product/service out there that is perfect! Problems occur when the negativity outweighs the positivity and at that point it is wise to consider the sense in continuing to have SM presence.

What are the main advantages?

Well, you have an instant channel to your audience (once there are people hooked up that is) within which you can promote sales messages, answer any queries, gather opinion via polls and showcase creative all from within the one portal. As you know there are so many options out there (I am not going to list them!) in terms of networks and it is important to streamline the use of these. This will save you time in terms of updating and communicating as well as minimising fronts for potential negativity. Choose networks that offer you the best medium. Facebook allows you to upload creative amongst many other features. Twitter allows you to communicate in short sharp bursts (MS Windows example – http://twitter.com/MSWindows) but at the moment is limited to this. Work out what you want to achieve from the activity and then identify the best tools to use (remember SMM doesn’t stop at networks).

You can use SMM to create a buzz around your product, just like Skittles did when they made their homepage a Twitter search page set to display any tweets that mentioned their brand to the public (see image below). This was a bold move and one that got the online community blogging. Yes there were negative tweets that where then displayed on the Skittles homepage (e.g. ‘If this is how the rainbow tastes, I think I will pass’) but the coverage and press far outweighed any negativity.

Skittles Make a Bold Move

Will It Work For My Business?

Lets face it, if your company sells rubber door sealants then you are highly unlikely to attract a large social media following and with this in mind it may be wise not to waste any resource. You may want to look at innovative ways of using SMM to engage a new audience. If you are a popular brand with a strong presence and image then people will want to engage with you and build up a relationship. Sounds easy? Well maybe not but that is half of the fun!

Money Money Money

Remember that SMM is not a direct source of revenue. Your website is still your key tool online. Any SM activity should be geared to ultimately getting people on to your site and at that point carrying out an action such as registering, making a query or even better a purchase. Ensure that your site has clear pointers to your SM outlets so that people who visit your site can quickly become part of your online community and tell their friends.

In Conclusion

Use SMM as you see fit but remember that it is supplementary to your main online business.

There is a lot of learning to be done in terms of its best uses so try out new ideas and gauge their success. Anything you do can in most cases be deleted and consigned to the chopping room floor.

Remember that you have to accept a reasonable level of negativity, people are naturally suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true.

Weigh up the best options in terms of outlets for your company, start small and build it up.

Perfect Storm Digital can help you to integrate SMM into your online strategy. We use various methods and outlets to ensure our clients get the best from Social Media. We focus not just on networks but other tools such as forums which are an excellent tool in terms of driving traffic to your site and coverting to sales. Our clients have seen great results from forum work and now have revenue streams that have never before existed.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like more information – mike@perfectstormdigital.co.uk

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