Embrace Social Media Part 3 – Get More from Twitter

Embrace Social Media Part 3

The Insider’s Guide to EcommerceIn this exclusive three-part extract from his latest book, The Insider’s Guide to Ecommerce, Chris Barling gives an introduction to engaging on social networking sites. Part 3 has tips specific to Twitter and should be read after considering the general tips for social media in Part 1 , all of which apply.

It took Twitter just over three years to achieve one billion tweets, while that’s the total every three days now. Nothing illustrates the significance of Twitter more than that. The brilliance of Twitter is that messages have to be kept short (140 characters maximum), so they don’t take too long to write and they don’t take long to read.

People use Twitter to discuss their interests, share information and find out what the latest happenings are. It’s well known that Twitter users knew about the jet crashing into the Hudson river near New York some time before it made it onto the mainstream news. Everything is immediate and Twitter lets people discuss TV programmes while they are being broadcast.

Here’s a quick Twitter primer:

  • Account. An individual has to set up a Twitter account, and an account for a company is no different from any other account.

  • Tweet. An account can post a “Tweet” of up to 140 characters. Any other Twitter user can potentially see this.

  • Follow. You can “Follow” any number of Twitter accounts. When you access your account, you will see a stream of tweets from the people that you follow.

  • Followers. Any number of people can follow you. When they log into their accounts, they will see your tweets.

  • Retweet. If you particularly like a Tweet that you see, or think it is particularly interesting, you can “Retweet” it. This causes it to be seen by your followers.

  • Hashtag. You can precede a single made up word with a # symbol in a tweet to associate your tweet with a particular subject. People can search on Twitter and if they search on the Hashtag you use they will see your tweet. Anybody can invent hashtags for anything.

Here are some thoughts on how to use Twitter for an ecommerce business.

  1. Understand Twitter

    Across the internet, there are many forums discussing various topics. The brilliance of Twitter is that it can morph to become a discussion on any topic at any time. It’s supremely democratic, as anyone can start using a hashtag in the form #HateManU or #LoveManU or similar. People can look for Tweets on that topic or post comments against that hashtag. You can create one or more hashtags that clearly relate to your website. This establishes an association between your Tweet and your business. This is particularly true when you retweet or reply to a Tweet.

  2. Understand Twitter’s potential

    Twitter now has over 500 million active users, and growing fast. As a result, there are many prospects for your business on Twitter. As an ecommerce business you cannot afford not to be where many of your existing and future customers are active.

    It’s important to realise that Facebook and Twitter are very different platforms, and large numbers are much more active on one rather than the other. So don’t just focus on Facebook because it has higher overall numbers.

  3. Don’t be too optimistic

    While some people would make you believe the aim of Twitter is all about gaining followers, the truth is simpler than that, it’s a tool for building relationships. You might produce something that truly goes viral or you turn out to be such a fantastic and interesting writer that you gain a huge number of followers. But by definition only a very small number of people can succeed at this, and if you do you can probably pursue a different career. In reality, very little has a true wow factor, so very little (relatively) gets passed on to friends.

  4. Try it

    Even if you decide that Twitter is irrelevant you need to be sure. The growth of Twitter has been so rapid that the certainties of one year have changed dramatically by the next. A Twitter account is free, and you should start by searching for your company and products and topics related to your store. The minimum that you should do is to create an account on Twitter for your company name. The danger is that if you don’t somebody else will.

  5. Follow your competitors

    Follow the competition, see what they are doing and try to pick up useful ideas from them. Learning before you participate is always the first rule of any interactive activity.

  6. Provide customer service

    One of the major reasons to be on Twitter is to engage with customers when they ask questions, request customer service or complain about an aspect of your company. So make sure you respond in a timely fashion. You really don’t want others answering on your behalf.

  7. Build up followers

    The more people that decide to follow you (“followers”), the greater your reach on Twitter, and the more potential it has. So do everything to encourage followers. As well as providing service and answering questions, when you Tweet, do it sensitively and try to add real value. Don’t encourage people to Unfollow you by posting rubbish that just clutters up their screens. Continuous and unsophisticated sales pitches particularly fall into this category. The tips below outline a number of additional ways to help increase your followers and get your Tweets retweeted.

  8. Promote your account to your customers

    If you promote your Twitter account or your company account to existing customers, that will help to increase your followers, and done the right way will only pick up those of your customers that are already on Twitter.

  9. Become a known expert

    There will be discussions and questions around the products you sell and the field you operate in general; if you participate responsibly, people will be encouraged to follow you. Participate in the discussions about things that you sell by searching for relevant words and hashtags. Provide genuinely helpful advice and you will get the chance to talk about your company, products and offerings. Done skilfully, your participation will lead to people asking for your advice on what to buy.

  10. Use common hashtags in tweets

    Find out the hashtags that your customers are using and then publish relevant content with these included. Basic market profiling says you should find more prospects for your store this way.

  11. Make tweets interesting

    Your objectives is to attract attention, so take a poll, make an offer exclusive to Twitter or maybe pre-announce a general deal on Twitter, hold a contest and include stories about your followers in your tweets where possible. Post a blog on your website and post a tweet pointing to the blog.

    It’s important that you do more than just promote links to your website. Yes, you can use some tweets to promote specific products. Your followers are quite likely to expect to hear about your offerings. This is one of the reasons they chose to follow you, but your links do not always need to point to a page on your website. Offering relevant links to other non-competitive sites such as news sites will help to establish a better relationship with your followers.

  12. Follow trends and try to be fresh

    Twitter provides a list of “trending topics” which are what is currently being talked about. You can participate in these conversations and it does provide the opportunity to get known more widely.

    However, beware, as it is open season and it is easy to get caught out and become the butt of jokes if you stretch the connection to trending topics too far. This is particularly dangerous as you are responding in real time, which means you have less opportunity to think through the implications of what you are posting.

  13. Use Twitter as the prime place for launches

    Launching a new product happens at a point in time and then decays, so a “now” medium is required and Twitter fits the bill. Having launched on Twitter, you can follow this up rapidly with a full launch to all customers. On one hand you want to make a noise on Twitter, on the other you don’t want to encourage existing loyal customers to get their information from you on Twitter, where they will be exposed to the competition, rather than on your website or mailing list.

  14. Learn about your followers

    The more you know about your followers and what they like, the more useful you can be to them, the more loyal they’ll be to your brand and the more money you can make from them. You might find that your followers click a lot more on links to coupons versus links to product updates. Knowing what gets people to actually click a link means that you can tailor your messages to get the most impact from your social media efforts. For example, you might find that your followers click a lot more on links to coupons versus links to product updates.

  15. Respect followers

    You need to reward those that take the trouble to follow you. Understand that giving back creates trust, which is crucial for your brand, so think of ways that you can be useful to your followers. Share news and tips that they’ll find helpful. Ask their opinions and interact with them. Respond to queries and discussions on your business quickly. Follow them back and retweet their tweets, join in discussions without always appearing to be just promoting your own interests (although you are). This really provides a positive vibe to your followers who will increase, feel more positive and be more likely to retweet you. This amplifies your message as it ripples through the followers of your followers and is the whole point of the exercise.

  16. Encourage Twitter to promote you

    By participating regularly and building up your followers, you make it more likely that Twitter will suggest to other people that they follow you.

  17. Use paid-for promoted accounts

    When you pay to promote your account, it becomes much more likely that others will follow you. This is because your account will appear more often when Twitter is suggesting who people might like to follow, who is like them and when they search for accounts. You only pay for every follower who signs up. Be careful, as prices have started rising.

  18. Use paid-for promoted tweets

    When you pay to promote your tweets, they will appear at the top of search results when people search and your tweet matches; they will appear near the top of the timeline when people log in to view their timeline; and if you target “users like your followers” they will appear in the timelines of people who aren’t following you but have similar interests to your followers. You will only be charged by Twitter when someone else retweets, replies to your tweet, clicks or favourites your promoted tweet. This is known as the Cost-Per-Engagement (CPE) model. Twitter estimates that 3% – 5% of people who see the tweet will engage. There are a variety of targeting options including geography and device (e.g. mobile versus desktop). An example of a very effective advertising campaign using this facility is illustrated by the tweet:

    This elicited a 34% response. Just beware however as prices are rising.

  19. Monetise your followers

    Getting followers on Twitter is the start, but not the end, of your use of the medium for ecommerce. So use offers, free information or product announcements to drive traffic from Twitter to your ecommerce store, where followers and other users can make purchases. Ensure you use services like bit.ly and Google Analytics so you can see what is working and make sure that the reward justifies the effort. Just make sure you don’t post too many deals which may result in people that would have bought anyway getting a discount.

  20. Speak to the world

    The social networks are international. If you have hopes of selling internationally then Twitter may be able to help for research and test marketing.

SellerDeckChris Barling is co-founder and chairman of ecommerce software and EPOS systems supplier, SellerDeck and has over 17 years’ experience of helping SME retailers with advice on trading online.

In his third book Chris shares the basic steps to setting up shop on the web, together with the key lessons he has learned that can make the difference between success and failure.

The paperback edition is £12.99 from www.sellerdeck.co.uk/insider and a Kindle version is also available on Amazon for £6.49.

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