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Dec 19, 2011 | 4 minute read

17 Styles of Twitter Updates for Online Retailers

written by Linda Bustos

What makes a good tweet?

That's the million-follower question. It's tough to know exactly what your Twitter audience wants to hear from you, what will make them unfollow, what will make them retweet or @reply, and what will make them buy.

The answer is "it depends," but you can fill in that blank by testing a variety of tweet-styles and measuring engagement. Here's 17 to get your creative juices flowing.

Transactional tweets

1. Deals and promotions

Like retail email campaigns, Twitter is a great way to broadcast your current specials. @amazondeals is a deals-only stream, and maintains a consistent format - price, product name, link.

Threadless uses a more conversational tone to romance the offer.

2. Product announcements and promos

Launching a new product? Twitter's a great way to spread the word. If you're as huge as Amazon, you may want to have product-specific streams, like for the Kindle.

Customer Service

3. Reputation management / social "listenting"

When things go wrong, customers want fast answers, and many have been turning to Twitter to work it out. The infamous @comcastcares is dedicated to customer service resolution.

4. Product usage tips

Helping customers get more mileage out of your products by offering 140-character-or-less tips provides value, and a reason to become and stay a follower.


5. Business info

Folks follow brands because they're interested in them, so don't be shy to share stories about your company -- just make sure they're interesting. For example, give them a peek into your corporate culture, like Dell.

6. Philanthropy

When it comes to charity, it's good to "not tell your left hand what your right hand is doing" -- in other words, don't be a brag about it. However, inviting followers to join you in charitable efforts is a way to mention it without the "hey, look at us, aren't we great" vibe.

7. Social responsibility

Ditto for social responsibility. American Apparel gets it's green on without green-washing itself, giving kudos to a socially responsible organization it's involved with.

8. News of the weird, human interest

If you're fortunate enough to have passionate fans who do crazy things like tie the knot in your donut shop, shout it, and shout it out loud.

9. Name dropping

Celebrity endorsement is a form of social proof, so if you get some, flaunt it. Using "Thanks @celebrity" is a humble way to boast about it.

10. Events

Spread the word about local events through Twitter, it's a no-brainer.

American Apparel doesn't waste the tweet -- even if you're not a local, this tweet evokes curiosity. How happy is this guy?

11. Human face

It can be tough to humanize your online presence, but giving your staff or executives a public face can help your overall branding. Examples are @BestBuyCMO...

...and Dell, who puts faces and initials of all the contributors to the account.

Engaging tweets

12. Entertainment

To avoid being a talking head about just your company, products or promotions, inject some fun by linking to content in line with your audiences interests. Sell cookware? Link to great recipes, apps or cooking videos. Have a lifestyle/apparel brand? There's plenty of music and websites that will appeal. Measure engagement by retweets.

13. Engaging questions

Twitter is supposed to be about conversations, but engaging with fans can be a challenge. Bait your customers with a question that screams to be answered. You may even sweeten the deal with an incentive:

Urban Outfitters' secret incentive is all the more intriguing. Wouldn't you like to know what was the prize?

14. Contests

Announcing contests may not get @replies, but they are a way to get followers to engage with your company, even if they're directed to your website.

15. Share with your network

Remember calls-to-action? You will get more shares if you ask for them.

16. RT fan tweets

Give your @mentions wider exposure and acknowledge tweeters who mention you by retweeting them.

17. Promote other content

Twitter's a great place to point followers to content they may have missed on your other social networks like Tumblr, Youtube or your blog.

How to measure engagement

Most of us don't have access yet to Twitter's own analytics, I'm hoping it will give a unified view of which tweets were the most engaging. For now, there are a few rudimentary ways you can measure success.

1. Manually count @replies for each tweet. Yes, this is a pain. If anyone has found an efficient system or tool to do this effectively, please share in the comments!
2. Add query strings to your shared links so you can track them in your regular web analytics, similar to affiliate or email campaigns.
3. Use a link shortener like that allows you to track clicks and shares of your tiny URLs.

Finally, consider your Twitter strategy. Having a little variety keeps your stream interesting, you don't have to be everything to everyone. If you have a tight focus on what you tweet about (e.g. just deals, just new products, just customer service), look for ways to optimize engagement through tone of tweet (good ol' copywriting), or time of day that you tweet or frequency.

Looking for help with mobile commerce strategy? Contact the Elastic Path consulting team to learn how our ecommerce strategy and mobile strategy services can improve your business results.