Most people shop online for convenience rather than customer service. And while inroads have been made into providing better customer service online, the personal aspect is often still missing.
Enter Twitter, a social networking and micro-blogging tool that allows you to send 140 character updates to whoever is following your profile and to the public Twitter stream. Although 140 characters may not seem like enough for meaningful information, you’d be surprised by how much you can fit into such little space. But, it’s the ability to have conversations with customers that makes Twitter extremely valuable to any ecommerce site.
Listen to Your Customers
Brick-and-mortar retailers have the benefit of being in the physical presence of their customers when they are making purchases. But, ecommerce merchants may be unaware of customer problems or questions unless they are contacted directly–or worse, if the customer publishes a complaint online. With Twitter, an ecommerce business can monitor what people are saying about its brand and products and respond with assistance. As an example, the cable provider Comcast uses Twitter to monitor when people are talking about the company, and to quickly respond to people’s concerns and provide assistance, which has improved Comcast’s reputation.
Internet shopping is usually impersonal. Ecommerce sites often try to connect with customers via blogs or comments, but Twitter makes it much easier to have direct conversations with customers and also show a bit of personality. Zappos, the popular online shoe store, has embraced the use of Twitter company-wide, supporting and encouraging its employees to use Twitter to connect with customers. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is so enthusiastic about Twitter that he has dedicated an entire portion of his website to it, including a Twitter quick start guide, a list of employees who use Twitter, employee tweets, and mentions of Zappos on Twitter.
A Bit of PR Is Fine, Too
Sometimes customers just want to know when you have a sale. It’s okay to use Twitter to provide useful information to your customers as long as you are clear about your intentions and can do a bit of listening as well. In fact, Dell was so successful in using Twitter to alert followers about sale items that it has now set up a separate Dell Outlet Twitter account that offers discounts exclusively to followers on Twitter.
The best way to get started on Twitter is to learn as much about it as possible. Sign up for an account, listen to what people are saying and find interesting people and companies to follow.
Using Twitter for Your Site
Once you’ve decided to use Twitter to promote your online business, it’s important to fill out your company profile and upload an image that your customers will recognize. Make sure to identify the people within your company who will be monitoring and using the account, and the more people tweeting the better. Unless you already have a very reputable and popular brand, your company will probably need to use your Twitter account for a while before people will want to follow it. Encourage your customers to follow you on Twitter by adding a link to your website, your emails, business cards and any other place with company contact information.
There are some tools to make Twitter easier to use. For example, Twitter offers widgets on its settings page which you can use to put your Twitter updates right on your website. You can automatically send updates to Twitter by using twitterfeed to import items from any RSS feeds you have, a good way to let customers know about updates from your blog or featured items on your site. Monitor what people are saying about your company and products by using tools like Twitter’s search or Tweet Scan. You might also try applications such as TweetDeck, twhirl, or Twitterific to post updates and have conversations on Twitter.