August 26th, 2007 | 4 MIN READ

Ecommerce Microblogging: More Reasons To Use Twitter

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

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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