Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Know-How: Four Keys to Twitter, Facebook Success

The debate over whether Twitter and Facebook are fads or sustainable businesses has yet to be resolved. Their popularity is indisputable but whether Twitter, in particular, can avoid erosion of its user base, let alone continue its impressive growth, has been questioned.

But for the ecommerce merchant, the Twitter/Facebook debate detracts from the central question: “Whether they’re fads or not, can they help my business?”

Application Dynamics CEO Lawrence Cramer has studied social media since the introduction of newsgroups. “Before it was called social media,” he says. He has also lectured extensively on the topic. When he speaks at business seminars about social media, Cramer says the vast majority of the room is of the opinion that “it’s completely irrelevant to my business.”

In this “eCommerce Know-How” I’ll tell you why Cramer believes ecommerce merchants should care about Twitter and Facebook. I’ll also share Cramer’s four keys to social media success.

Why You Should Care

When Cramer speaks to skeptical business owners he conveys the following points about social media.

  • It’s No Longer Just for Geeks

    Social media has followed an evolutionary path from newsgroups to forums to Microsoft Web 2.0 to MySpace to Facebook and Twitter. The difference, says Cramer, between Facebook and Twitter and their predecessors is their broad acceptance. Social media started out as a “foggy vision of geeks” but spread to encompass teens and college students. Approximately two years ago, social media experienced “a tectonic shift which tipped into Baby Boomers.” Cramer says Baby Boomers, which are middle-aged adults born in the 20 or so years immediately after World War II, are now the biggest adopters of social media.

  • You Can Play With the Big Boys

    Social media offers small businesses the same opportunity as large businesses and at the same price: free. Cramer says that major companies are aware of the droves of customers they can reach via social media. “Small businesses can play in the same arena,” says Cramer.

  • It Can Boost Sales

    The opportunity to increase brand recognition is often heralded as one of the primary reasons a company should be active on Twitter and Facebook. But while branding is valuable, it is difficult to measure. And without a direct correlation between social media activity and sales, a business owner may remain skeptical about the practice.

    Cramer says, however, that you can frequently draw a direct connection between Twitter and Facebook activity and increased sales—branding aside. He points to the wine industry (Cramer is a wine connoisseur), and two particular companies, as an example.

    Grapekillers is a group of wineries in Washington state, some of which sell online as well as at retail locations. Grapekillers has a Facebook page, of which nearly 1,500 people are fans.

    “They’ll post, ‘We’re releasing the 2007 Chardonnay.’ and the next weekend their showroom is full. They simply sell out events on Facebook, without [other] advertising. Direct to consumer.” The William Church Winery, says Cramer, has utilized its Twitter account in much the same way with similar results.

Four Keys to Social Media Success

Many small businesses use Twitter and Facebook to no advantage. That’s because Twitter and Facebook—like their newsgroup and forum predecessors—are communities in which etiquette must be followed. If a merchant breaches that unwritten code of conduct, the opportunity will be lost. If the proper conduct is followed, much can be gained.

With that in mind, here are four keys to social media success.

  1. Avoid Running Ads

    A merchant that posts excessively promotional content, as opposed to legitimate comments, is “like an Amway salesman at a family reunion,” says Cramer. Not only will the merchant be likely shunned and mocked by self-appointed “list cleansers,” the “ads” will cost him or her business.

  2. Care About Others

    Members of a community demonstrate an interest in each other. The best way to do that is by becoming involved in the conversations.

  3. Establish Your Expertise

    As a merchant becomes involved in conversations, there will be opportunities to share insights and experiences. A business owner can point to his or her blog or website to expound on given points.

  4. Promote Your Brand

    Promoting your brand, unlike outright selling, can be a relevant part of a conversation. If a fellow wine-lover (to use the above example) tweets “I love a good Chardonnay,” it’s an opportunity to share “We’re releasing the 2007 Chardonnay this weekend. You’re welcome to stop by.”

Summing Up

Regardless of whether Twitter and Facebook survive long-term, they currently represent a cost-efficient means to reach a merchant’s customers. If that merchant utilizes Twitter and Facebook properly, he or she can realize potentially significant benefits.

Kevin Patrick Allen

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  1. stafke November 9, 2009 Reply

    4 good tips / keys

    and what about: Step 0 – start your own account

  2. LikeSoup November 9, 2009 Reply

    The four keys to social media success are especially helpful. I learned a couple of them the hard (expensive) way. Notice how the keys resonate with you personally. Most people, me included, don’t care for the hard sell (excessive or aggressive advertising), we expect to be treated courteously and we want to understand how the purchasing experience would be if it were to occur.

  3. marsattacks November 9, 2009 Reply

    Interesting post Kevin, and I like the four keys to success – although overt commercial messaging in FB and TW can and does work (e.g. Dell’s and Amazon’s Deal Feeds). Surely the key is to give people a compelling reason to add you their newsfeed and twitter feeds. I’ve posted a reply to your post over at Social Commerce Today

  4. Armando Roggio November 9, 2009 Reply

    Great article. Thanks.

  5. Michael Vorel November 10, 2009 Reply

    Excellent article and very true that small business (ecommerce or not) can compete with large business via social media. Embrace Twitter and Facebook fan clubs, build your brand (w/o ads) and you will discover it was the best low cost marketing decision you made all year.

  6. Lawrence Cramer November 10, 2009 Reply

    Twitter and Facebook are not fads really, they are tools. A couple years from now the "tools" may be different, but the platform – direct to consumer communication via the internet – will not only still be here but will still be evolving and fundamentally changing the way mankind communicates. The business that gets that, now, and continues to evolve with it will win. Those that don’t… wont.

  7. LexiConn November 10, 2009 Reply

    For merchants new to Twitter/Facebook, setup an account, then listen and follow other companies you admire. See how they use the medium, how they interact, and learn from their mistakes.

    Then, you can start participating actively. I suggest a 3-1 ratio. Three "tweets" or updates to a fan page that are not about you, but bring value to your customers and followers. Then you can intersperse a little self promotion, but keep it subtle. Show your community you’re more than a walking billboard, and you’ll grow the base in no time.

    Rob – LexiConn

  8. Elizabeth Bighorse November 10, 2009 Reply

    We have been on Facebook for a while however recently revamped a bunch and added a fan page and integrated the sortprice store store application. The sortprice application hasn’t been worth the expense thus far, but we only have around 100 fans in the first week of revamping the page from a more personal to a fan page. One must really resist the urge to blast fans everyday with an ad and create more of blogging and discussion page…that has paid off in the past and continues to as the fan page grows. Our fan page is at if anyone wants to check out the shopping tab for the sortprice application.

    Elizabeth Bighorse
    Moodswings Inc