Ecommerce Microblogging: More Reasons To Use Twitter

Twitter is a social networking site that has been described as “microblogging” as it’s essentially a way to post really brief content. I believe the original concept was to create a way for people to let others know what they were doing at any given moment (like Facebook status updates) “I’m watching football,” “I’m going out for sushi,” “the cat is driving me crazy” sort of thing. But users have found bigger and better applications for Twitter. Not long ago I reported on Amazon and Woot’s use of Twitter as a way to broadcast short news bytes and deals of the day to customers. Today I’m going to expand on Twitter’s ecommerce marketing potential for one-to-one customer service, reputation management, affiliate management and a free alternative to mcommerce marketing.

Free Mobile Marketing Campaigns

Twitter can be useful for posting notifications for special deals, storewide sales, new stock arrivals and alerts when a popular or rare item is almost sold out. I’ve created a sample account for a fictitious shoe store called “Sole Survivors.”

Users can choose to receive their Twitter notifications by email, web (via their Twitter home page when logged in) or cellphone. Not only the messaging service free for you the merchant (incoming SMS fees may very for your Twitter “Followers”), you also have a web-archive of customer communications for all to see (plus you have control to delete Tweets if users post offensive content). You can A) show off your great customer service track record and B) it serves as a dynamic FAQ page where customers can perhaps answer their own question by reading past conversations. You also have the ability to private message users if anything is not appropriate for public viewing.

But are people actually using this thing? There was a time when only a handful of people were using email, search engines, eBay or MySpace. If there’s a utility to something, it has the potential to really take off. For now it may just be a handful of your customers who use Twitter, but posting information on your website’s customer service section explaining how easy it is to sign up for Twitter and why someone would benefit from getting your “Tweets” can help boost your subscriber base.

One-to-One Customer Service

I sat in on an excellent presentation by Todd Sieling, Product Manager of the social bookmarking service Ma.gnolia last weekend at BarCamp Vancouver. Todd shared how Ma.gnolia began using Twitter as a response to customer support requests during service interruptions. By linking to their Twitter page from their error message pages, Ma.gnolia enabled users of their service to sign up for real-time status updates on their system which they could receive by email, text message or Web. Users can also “Tweet” back with bug reports, so Ma.gnolia can take action as soon as possible.

Ecommerce websites can use Twitter to answer customer service and general inquiries or offer Twitter-subscribers-only deals and freebies publicly or privately through private messaging. It would be nice to have the ability to group your followers into categories (demographics like gender, age and location) and tailor “Tweets” to these groups, but so far it’s still limited.

Reputation Management

Twitter pages also have the potential to rank highly for your name or your company name. For example, my Twitter page ranks top ten for “Linda Bustos” even though my username is Roxyyo. Twitter pages also rank top ten for bigger names like Jason Calacanis (formerly of AOL), BBC News and Amazon deals. The benefits are twofold:

1. If you have negative press or bad reviews about your products that you would like to push down in search results, you need to actively use social media to create references to your company that will outrank other pages. Twitter’s a great example.

2. When people search for your company name, your Twitter page is highly relevant, as it’s an extension of your customer service department. You want people to find your Twitter page to see your current updates and one-to-one conversations.

A couple tips for raising your Twitter page’s ranking ability is to link to it from your websites, blogs and other social media profiles and build your follower network.

Affiliate Management

Setting up a separate Twitter account for affiliates (example: allows you to add another mode of communication above and beyond email, IM, blog and snail mail to broadcast your promotions, contests and new products to your sales partners. Since ecommerce affiliates are generally more web-savvy than the public, this may be a welcomed mode of connecting. It’s best to keep your affiliates separate from your customer-targeted account, as you don’t want to mix signals. It also simplifies account maintenance – your affiliate manager can cover the affiliate Twitter account, and the customer service can handle their section.

Next post, we’ll cover Todd Sieling’s Twitter best practices based on Ma.gnolia’s experience with microblogging so stay tuned.

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16 Responses to “Ecommerce Microblogging: More Reasons To Use Twitter”

  1. BeachBum says:

    The idea sounds great in theory. I wrote about this 2 weeks ago. The only flaw is that spammers will overpower the system very quickly. Or more likely users will stop using the cell phone option because they are getting too many messages from their 100′s of subscriptions.


  2. @BeachBum – just hang on for part 2, we’re gonna cover the Twitter best practices including dealing with spam followers and how not to spam your subscribers…(stay tuned!)

  3. Very creative ways to use Twitter. Impressed!

  4. [...] Twitter, a commerce engine? Interesting. My fear is that ideas like this reflect a return to interruption marketing, devaluing what Twitter (and its ilk) provide. Admittedly, folks would have to opt to “follow” your offers. But, are you prepared to make it worth their while? [...]

  5. [...] 2007 by Linda Bustos var addthis_pub = ‘hotwheel’; Last post I covered some ways you can use Twitter for ecommerce marketing. (Remember that Twitter can be an inexpensive form of mcommerce as users can subscribe to mobile [...]

  6. [...] Rohit gives us 8 Unique Reasons People Like Twitter – Get Elastic offers Ecommerce Microblogging: More Reasons To Use Twitter – Aaron gives Using Twitter for Ministry, Church and Missions – Melatone Music spells out The 3 [...]

  7. [...] – To a degree. Linda Bustos had some great points on how to use twitter to drive e-ecommerce. I’ve grown more enlightened since first worrying that twitter might equate to interruption [...]

  8. [...] Microblogging et e-commerce. [...]

  9. [...] Ecommerce Microblogging: More Reasons to Twitter [...]

  10. Fantastic article, sound advice.

  11. MP3 Music says:

    I use propeller for submit my articles

  12. peter parker says:

    Dave Winer, father of RSS says “Twitter, as it was conceived, was never meant to live.”

    “It’s very possible with better engineering its architecture might have gone on for a few more years, but eventually it would have hit this wall, where there were too many people posting too many twits to too many followers. The scale of the system as conceived rises exponentially.”

    So is the end of Twitter getting near? I hope not. Twitter I hope that you are listening and you better start taking things more seriously.

    Here’s my two cents.

    For instance there are about 100m users of yahoo messenger and usually 2-3 of them talk at a time that means scalability of 300m conversations. On the other hand with 100m twitter users who usually send messages to 100-10,000 other users the scalability required is 10,000m to 10^6m I have never known any current architecture based on webservers to handle such a scale. So according to me Twitter was never meant to live. It is like a concept car that will never see production. Users of twitter don’t understand this and they don’t care.
    They don’t know whats happening when the website is down. The sad part is that the best analysts claim that Twitter is a billion dollar company in one year of operations. There is an old saying before the days of when people understood permutation combinations. One peasant asked a king to give him rice equal to the total amount gotten by placing double the number of rice grains on a chess square than the previous square, starting with one rice grain. There are 8×8=64 squares. We seriously need to visit grade 7 mathematics.

    I know of only one News/Messaging system that supports around 1 billion users sending messages to all 1 billion users each. Thats a scalability of 10^12m. It is not Web based but rather on a massively scalable serverless P2P architecture based. The team is soft spoken and when I last talked to them I was told that they don’t care about money or hype or fame but rather for just the passion of next generation global systems that will stand the test of worldwide use. Its called Mermaid News Mermaid

    They have other softwares too but this post is about Twitter and Messaging. Once everyone comprehends basic mathematics that goes behind scalable algorithms they would go past the flashy screen and hype to actually want a system they can trust. To the analysts I would say it is easy to create a business plan, create a hype and raise $20m funding it is far more difficult to create something of use.

  13. Hi Peter,

    Wow, what a thorough, thoughtful comment! I agree, Twitter is getting more difficult to use the more followers / followed you have. If you’re not continually in the conversation, you miss a lot, and if your network is not online within reasonable time from your Tweet, they will not see it. So maybe Twitter-ers will start removing followed friends to make it more manageable, or Twitter somehow revolutionizes the usability / feed management tools.

    All in all, I’m still glad I’m on Twitter. I’ve been able to put a face (or avatar), town and website to many Get Elastic readers, and have fun little banter too.

  14. us says:

    So according to me Twitter was never meant to live. It is like a concept car that will never see production.

  15. The basic problem with e-commerce on Twitter is striking the right balance between being “commercial” (mentioning promotions, etc) and being social and responsive to people. Twitter is a social medium so sounding too commercial or not participating (by following users and @ replying) can hurt your chances of being heard. Linda’s tips about using it for one-to-one service are absolutely correct and a major requirement for success on Twitter.

    One thing not covered in the post is how easily tweets can be remixed by 3rd party services. As Peter comments above, the Twitter concept is really a vast messaging system, not just a website. Twitter has stabilized itself since Peter said that and now much of the Twitter communication happens via 3rd party applications built using their system. This means your tweets can be put to new uses that add value without you having to do a thing.

    Keeping the commercial and social spheres separate and adding value using Twitter’s “remixability” are why we built (mentioned on GetElastic a few days ago). It collects deals, specials and coupon codes that users tweet about all in one place that’s searchable, rateable and generally more usable than following lots of ecommerce shops all putting deals in your Twitter stream. We hope it can provide an outlet for commercial activity on Twitter as well as a useful money-saving resource for everyone.


  16. Hallo everybody.

    Very creative ways to use Twitter.
    I´ll do it also.

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