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The Perfect Storm Guide to Using Twitter in Online Retail – Part 2

The Perfect Storm Guide to using Twitter in Retail, Part 2 a

You’ve already seen our first part Twitter and Retail Guide, now part two!, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Advice on tone of voice on Twitter
Each brand has its own identity and tone of voice, and this will need to be reflected in every interaction which comes from your brand on social media sites (Twitter included). However, Twitter is designed as a
friendly, informal mechanism for sharing information and tidbits, and therefore your tone should ideally be reflective of this:

Tweet Honestly
While keeping in mind that everything you do on Twitter is public, make sure that your tweets are always coming from a place of honesty and transparency. Put real emotion in your tweets and your followers will stay with you. If you don’t treat Twitter as a more personal experience and spam it with sales messages, you will get unfollowed very quickly.

Give your followers value
Answer questions that your followers have if you know the answer. Share helpful tips for your industry that don’t have to do with your followers buying your product. Ask questions, speculate on theories or ideas and invite others to join in. What’s going on in your industry or in the news? What insights or opinions can you offer? Feeding out links is fine, but add commentary if necessary. Always give your followers something that they can take away from the conversation and use. They will recommend you to your friends and you will generate tweets that will encourage new people to follow you.

Tweet Regularly
Tweet often, but only if you have something of value to say. You should aim for a few tweets a day. Do not install a bot program to Tweet for you – your followers will figure it out and unfollow you. If you are taking off for a few days use a service like TweetLater to schedule your tweets.

Leverage your other online properties
If you have a company blog or are running a competition on your website, share updates that you make to it on Twitter. Give out free stuff Sitepoint, an American content hub for the web development community, grew their followers by 10,000 in a week. All they did was give away a free e-book that was usually only for sale as a paper book to anyone who followed them on Twitter or gave them their e-mail address. For you it might be online offers, free online tools, discounts, job openings etc. Think quality, not quantity unless you narrowly avoided death by eating a puffer fish, nobody really wants to know about what you are eating today. Just ask yourself if this is interesting to your followers – if the answer is “yes”, then it’s OK to tweet.

Offer exclusives
Give exclusive news, offers or insights and you’ll find that your tweets will be full of great content to please your followers, get you Retweeted and entice new people to join your network.

Snip Your URL’s
Since you have to adhere to the 140 character limit, it is almost impossible to link to pages on your site without the URL taking up all of the post. Users get round this by using any one of the URL
snipping services out there, like TinyURL, to shorten your links to something manageable. Most Twitter users snip their URL’s regardless of their size just to keep them readable. If you can fit your tweet into the box whilst maintaining your brand URL, this is better since Tiny URL’s go through redirects and therefore aren’t ideal for search engines.

Twitter and sales revenue?
Do not start a Twitter account on the back of thinking it will drive you sales revenue!

Whilst the core of online retail will always be about selling products, it’s extremely important to note that retailers who simply advertise to their Twitter audience are unlikely to make £1 in revenue. The emphasis needs to be on conversation and engagement with brand followers, not selling to them.

However, that is not to say Twitter can’t make you money, as done properly, Twitter offers a new channel for users to hear about your products and go directly to your site to make a purchase.

Dell report $1m in revenue from Twitter “Less altruistically, some businesses have discovered that Twitter is an effective way of communicating with consumers. Dell says Twitter has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through sale alerts. People who sign up to follow Dell on Twitter receive messages when discounted products are available the company’s Home Outlet Store. They can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others.”

Jet Blue drive brand loyalty with special offers US discount airline Jet Blue uses Twitter to offer real-time discounts, sometimes even offering tickets or adding flights when large numbers of people are Twittering sadly about the lack of transport options to a conference or festival. JetBlue also monitors Twitter for comments about the company, responding quickly to compliments and complaints, and following its customers.

Twitter and customer service
Twitter is another social media site which can help your customer service teams to react quicker to customer complaints. Many more customers are likely to write a passing negative comment in their Twitter feed or Facebook status then actually bother to phone up and speak to a customer service representative to lodge a complaint. The point here is that if you are monitoring Twitter you can pick up these negative comments (which can linger round the internet for a long time) and deal with them quickly. Do it quickly enough and you will not only nip the problem in the bud, you’ll also be providing a positive brand message that generates its own feeling of goodwill. Consider this recent example; Sam Decker, the CMO of Bazaarvoice tweeted on April 7th a mild complaint about the American retailer Zappos. He did not contact them with this tweet; he merely updated his own network of over 2,000 followers:

Within 24 hours the Zappos Twitter Team had got back to him with a complimentary $25 coupon. The fact the customer service team spotted this and then dealt with it byoffering a coupon changed the situation from a negative story about the Zappos brand into a positive customer service experience (which he subsequently told his network about):

How to track Twitter for brand mentions
A great way of keeping track of what’s being said about your brand is by using a site called Monitter.

This tool is great as it allows you to monitor Twitter in real time for a set of keywords and watch what people are saying. Stick your brand name in to see what’s being said about you, compare against competitors, or try some keywords relating to your brand and find out what’s being said about the industry in general. Below you can see the real time updates of tweets that mention “Amazon”, “Tesco” and “Asos”. In many ways social media can (and should) be seen as a key facet to your overall customer care / retention strategy. Some brands have their own customer service teams operating on Twitter and all the time they are building loyal customers by talking to their customers about products, explaining delivery/fulfilment queries and offering regular customers VIP status.

Twitter as a free insight tool
Although Twitter brands itself as a place where you can tell the world what you’re doing now, it is also a place where people give recommendations to each other.

Important caveat:
We do not recommend that brands should join in these conversations and try and influence opinion. In this instance you’re not impartial and any attempt at influence could earn you some substantial negative press within Twitter circles. Our advice would be to simply use Twitter’s Search Engine to tap into this free insight and keep in tune with what’s being said.

Twitter to build a buzz
Another way retailers can tap into the power of Twitter is by subtlety dropping hints to its followers that something big is afoot. By doing this you are effectively giving your most loyal followers a sneak peak into something which is going to happen before anyone else. This generates further loyalty as more users will be inclined to follow your brand if you are providing scoops via Twitter, and it this type of information will build you blog attention – and any links generated are great for SEO.

Who should be responsible internally?
The person or persons who take responsibility for your branded Twitter account must have a comprehensive understanding of how conversations online work.

This kind of engagement is possibly more within the territory of the brand manager and marketing but be aware that your employees may already be Twittering. Utilise these existing experts within your company to help drive your understanding forward. The best brand engagement is a mix of PR, customer service and personal engagement.

As Twitter only broadcasts to those who opt-in, it is essential to add value to those who choose to receive updates so previews of new releases, engaging users in consumer research or access to exclusive specials or advance ticket ordering can really drive opt-in. Additionally promoting your Twitter profile through regular mailings will help increase readership. Any internal team responsible for Twitter should be adept at web analytics. For instance, Omniture have already added functionality into their Site Catalyst product to import Twitter data for better measurement of brand activity.

Other web analytics platforms are expected to follow suit, enabling marketers to identify brand advocates and detractors, better acknowledge feature requests from loyal users, categorize Twitterers as customers, vendors, or employees, and get real-time alerts via email or SMS based on specified criteria like spikes in brand mentions.

Our next installment will look at Twitter and SEO and conclude “Is Twitter Worth the Effort?”

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 –

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 –

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

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

Twitter Recommended Actions

Go to 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 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!