Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Know-How: Use Twitter to Build a Community of Loyal Customers

Microblogging site Twitter has the potential to be a powerful marketing and brand-building tool for ecommerce businesses interested in engaging their customers and being part of a community. But successful marketing on Twitter, or any microblogging site, requires more than just posting tweets about your newest products. Rather, it takes commitment to and honest interest in the things that matter to your potential customers.

Recently, I had the opportunity to see a presentation from Mike Volpe, Vice President of Marketing at HubSpot, about successful marketing on Twitter. Using one of Mr. Volpe tweeting techniques, I contacted him and got some advice specific to ecommerce. So, in this edition of “eCommerce Know-How,” I will (1) share some of Volpe’s basic steps to getting more follows, (2) describe what you should tweet about, and (3) make some suggestions regarding retweets (tweeting about other users’ tweets) and gaining more followers.

Video: Five Steps to Increase Your Chance of Getting Twitter Follows

Simple Steps to Get More Follows

Mr. Volpe’s company, HubSpot, develops inbound marketing software that is designed to help businesses get found on the Internet. As such, HubSpot tracks a lot of Twitter data, including some of the things that popular twits (as I like to call those who tweet) have in common. In his presentation, he outlined several of those techniques, but here I narrow the list to five essential strategies.

  • Have a biography. According to Volpe, twits with biographies had six times more followers on average than twits who did not bother to post biographical information. What’s more, your biography should be real commentary about your store, not a list of keywords.
  • Include a link to your store. Besides the obvious value of having a link that potential customers can follow back to your store, adding a link should increase your likelihood of attracting follows. Again, according to HubSpot data, twits with links generally have six times as many followers and unlinked twits. I know from my own Twitter practices that I often click to a twit’s link to see her blog or business homepage before I decide whether I will follow or not.
  • Follow top users, your reviewers, and your followers. Unless you are a celebrity or your brand has a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign supporting it, you’ll get more followers if you follow more twits. The desired ratio is right around one to one. So, if you have 100 followers, you should follow about 100 twits.
  • Retweet posts related to your industry or your customer’s interests. A retweet is when you repost another twit’s tweet assigning credit to him. It usually take the form: RT @EcommerceBoy Magento User Guide Review http://someurl.com, where the “RT” stands for retweet. The “@” indicates who you are retweeting (and will link to that person), and the message with link follows. When you retweet you are dialoguing with the community and encouraging more follows.
  • Tweet about 20 times a day. There is no magic number of tweets that will have the masses lining up to follow your businesses, but according to Volpe, about 20 tweets is a good daily target.

What Ecommerce Businesses Should Tweet About

“For ecommerce I would decide what your audience is and then what you will publish,” Volpe wrote in an email. “You might do specials and discounts (like Dell), or if you are a premium brand, maybe photos of people using your product and information about it (more like Whole Foods or Jet Blue). I would not mix the two; you need to stay on brand. And, make sure you are conversational. People like to buy from people and have relationships with people. Even in ecommerce, it is nice to know there is a person behind the tweets. Reply to people sometimes and ask people questions sometimes.”

I think the keys to Volpe’s comment are that you need to understand your audience first, and that you act as a person and not a business entity. As a marketer, you have to show an interest in who your potential customers are and what they care about. Then align your brand with those things that your customers value. So, your tweets should:

  • Focus on the customer. I am reiterating, but this is important. As an example, if you sell shoes, don’t necessarily post about shoes, but post about great hiking trails in California. Your customer will figure out that he needs a good pair of hiking boots and will trust the purveyor that has the same interests, values, and worldview that he has.
  • Have a conversation. Think of your tweets as a series of conversations. When someone you follow tweets about something interesting, add to that conversation in a positive way. To continue my earlier example, if you sell shoes and a twit you are following tweets “Hiking to El Cap via Yosemite Falls Trail,” and you know about a great stop on the way, reply and let that hiking twit know.
  • Offer how-to advice. If the products you sell help customers complete some task, consider tweeting how-to content. For example, if you sell chisels for woodcarving, try posting links to how-to carve articles on your site.
  • Coupons. Finally, I am a huge fan of coupons, and I think it is a great idea to tweet a deal of the day. Just ask woot.com. With the strength of a daily discount, Woot has more than 690,000 followers.

Three Tactics to Try on Twitter

So now that you have some solid Twitter marketing techniques in hand, I am going to offer you three campaign ideas to try.

  • 1.) Offer a retweet discount. Once you have a hundred or so followers, tweet a retweet offer. Anyone that retweets some coupon (probably a separate tweet) in the next hour gets a gift or prize.
  • 2.) Randomly award a retweet. When someone retweets one of your offers, send a direct message offering her an additional 20-percent discount or a free item. You’ll encourage them to keep retweeting and they will spread the word.
  • 3.) Hold a tweet up. When Twitter users (twits) meet in the physical world, it is called a tweet up. For major events, product launches or special sales, consider scheduling and promoting a tweet up. For example, if you sell women’s clothing, and a lot of your customers (and Twitter followers) are from Des Moines, hold a tweet up fashion show in Des Moines.

Twitter For Business

It is clear that ecommerce merchants can use twitter to market and build brand. Here are a list of top ecommerce twits that Mr. Volpe sent my way.

Resources

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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Comments ( 6 )

  1. Chris "Cartel" English June 9, 2009 Reply

    "The desired ratio is right around one to one. So, if you have 100 followers, you should follow about 100 twits."

    Unless "you are a celebrity or your brand has a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign supporting it," that is a very unrealistic ratio.

    The top twitters expect to have a large amount of people following them and there are those that won’t return that follow.

    I think a more realistic ratio is 2/1.

  2. Armando Roggio June 10, 2009 Reply

    Ok, so what if we compromise and say between a .5/1 and a 2/1?

  3. Michael Stearns June 11, 2009 Reply

    Great info in this article, Armando.

    I would add one point: think about twittering as you would about search optimizing your site and writing web content. People are using twitter search very heavily at this point. If you work your key phrases into your tweets people will find you more readily.

  4. NYO June 11, 2009 Reply

    Just one thought: there is no Tweet This button on the article (or the site for that matter. Hmm.

    Nice article. Starting by tweeting this now.

  5. Armando Roggio June 11, 2009 Reply

    @NYO you make a great point. We need to update our own site.

  6. compwhizmm June 12, 2009 Reply

    I just saw this article on wired. This is proof twitter can generate sales: [http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/06/dude-%E2%80%94-dells-making-money-off-twitter/](http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/06/dude-%E2%80%94-dells-making-money-off-twitter/)

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