In my experience you either love it or you hate it.
Personally, I hate it.
Just putting that out there.
As a social media platform I find it lacking. I always feel like I’m missing out if I’m not constantly monitoring my feed’s every move.
I don’t even know what to post on Twitter...
Do I take a leaf out of Kanye’s Twitter account and upload posts of crudely sketch beds?
I’m not convinced that I will ever use Twitter for pleasure, it’s just not my thing.
For my working life however, and for many digital marketing professionals - Twitter is a place to be.
I can follow and engage influencers in digital marketing, I can find and carefully curate the best resources, and I can start a conversation with fellow marketing pro’s.
I'm going to explain how 9 innovative ecommerce brands use Twitter to improve their customer experience and generate deeper relationships with their audience.
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The Twitter Ecommerce Marketing Warning
If you want to use Twitter to help your ecommerce marketing, I’d like to warn you first.
Make sure your audience are using the platform before you even think about creating an account. Twitter may have over 320 million active users, but your target customers may not be among them.
If your potential customers don’t use Twitter, there’s no point trying to start a conversation. You’ll have better luck talking to a brick wall (and less chance of perpetrating a monumental Twitter marketing fail).
Even if your target audience are passionate members of the Twitterati, you need to make sure you’re using the platform in the right context. Otherwise, your efforts might fall flat (or worse – irritate people).
Lee Rainie, writing for Pew Research, cites their 2014 report “Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters” that analyzed thousands of conversations on Twitter, and found they tended to fall into one of six key “archetypes”.
- #1. Polarized Crowds, where opposed groups talk about the same topic but mostly just to other group members
- #2. Tight Crowds, made up of people bound together by some common interest (such as hobbies or professional pursuits)
- #3. Brand Clusters, large groups that form around particular products, events or celebrities
- #4. Community Clusters, multiple small to medium-sized groups that typically form around big news events
- #5. Broadcast Networks, where many people follow and retweet a particular news source or commentator but don’t interact much with each other
- #6. Support Networks, usually created when companies, agencies and other organizations respond to customer inquiries and complaints.
Find out how your target audience uses Twitter, and play into the rules of their community.
You can get your message out there with only 140 characters.
You can add links.
You can add pictures.
And you can use Twitter to do some really great things for your ecommerce business.
Lessons from 9 ecommerce Twitter marketing success stories
We’ve trawled through the Twittersphere to find of the best ecommerce success stories, and we’ve dissected each brand’s approach to help you learn how to generate real business results with the platform.
Some, are just using the platform to entertain their audience.
For others, they’re using Twitter to stay in touch with their nearest and dearest.
Another fascinating collection of ecommerce brands are just using the platform to have a laugh, and earn some brand brownie points along the way.
Twitter could work for you too, as long as you can find and help your customers there.
If you just use Twitter because you can, as a mindless marketing afterthought – you might do more harm than good.
So take five, grab a coffee and learn how to use Twitter effectively to attract, nurture and retain online customer relationships.
#1. Warby Parker - the embodiment of cool.
A suave character.
The well-dressed, Ivy League educated, socially conscious, 21st century version of that old rocker dude Ray Ban.
Warby Parker is famous for one thing: eyewear.
But it wasn’t just the Clark Kent specs that had us swooning.
Their Twitter account is pretty sexy too.
Warby Parker’s Co-Founder Dave Gilboa defines their target audience as “young, educated and socially conscious”.
Where are a huge crew of these people hanging out?
Twitter (and if you don't believe, hop on over to thisPew Research study).
Warby Parker are adventurous with their Twitter content, allowing their customers to get involved in real life.
Their content ranges from pictures to updates and product promotion, but it’s all following the same aesthetic - hipster cool.
So how does Warby Parker's Tweet game make every ecommerce marketer a little bit jealous?
Clever customer service.
WP answers common questions on Twitter by posting short video answers on their account, averaging 120 views per video. WB knows their audience doesn’t have time to slog through FAQ pages, so why not bring the helpful content to the audience in an entertaining and engaging from.
Social media strategist Meighan O'Toole penned an excellent analysis of WP's social media customer service, dedicated to one specific encounter she had with the brand back in 2013. Follow the thread below to see how the brand encourages users to engage and generate subsequent content creation ideas.
"When WP announced their collaboration with Beck on a limited edition pair of frames to celebrate his latest album, Song Reader, I was intrigued. The clear Carmichael frames were right up my alley.
However, there was no try on option, and no images of models wearing them online. Naturally, I did what any social media strategist would do — I tweeted at WarbyParkerHelp wondering if they had images they could share. I had already engaged with them a few times on Twitter around my first pair, so I was pretty sure I would get a response.
But what I got back knocked my socks off, and as someone who works in social media it made me irrationally excited. It’s such a great example of using social to drive home great customer service, sell a product, and engage with your community. I thought it was important to share it with you:
Very cool right? Just to give you an idea of the timeline; I asked this question late in the evening and received the tweet and video the following day, early afternoon."
Here's the Carmichael customer support video in all its helpful glory...
Helpful Q andA style content isn't the only way Warby Parker encourages users to share the brand with their following.
Seasonal marketing campaigns are designed to integrate new product launces into entertaining content their loyal customers can help to promote through social media.
The hashtag campaign #WarbySnowman engaged customers from all over the US - giving customers an adorable DIY snowman building kit. By providing a cheap DIY kit, WP encouraged their audience to show the fun, youthful side of Warby Parker’s branding.
WP are exposing their brand to new swathes of their target audience, through the following of their current customers. It’s a cheap, efficient way to engage like-minded folk, without the need to pay for advertising reach.
The hashtag was used on Twitter and Instagram, encouraging the customer driven content to lead the strategy, and their customers loved it.
More recently, the bespectacled style icons are working with a new #seesummerbetter hashtag to encourage their fans to spread the Warby Parker word (and the new seasonal range).
A few beautifully photographed product shots, mixed in with some entertaining content around one themed hashtag can help you spark a series of customer generated tweets, grams or posts.
What follows these gorgeous Warby Parker tweets is a miniature groundswell of user generated content.
Influencers and bloggers jump on the hashtag bandwagon;
Customers and followers start to engage directly with the brand - starting conversations around the #seesummerbetter hashtag theme;
And customers even start generating priceless content to share the Warby Parker love with their followers;
Seasonal campaigns are working for Warby Parker - and their marketing team is on point – they’re making no mistakes.
WP makes the social media best dressed list. And on this list they shall stay.
Having a Twitter account is a serious investment. Your customers will treat it like a service desk, whether you want them to or not. And like any customer information centre - it needs to be constantly manned to avoid disaster.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it, as Warby Parker has proved.
Not only can you run campaigns to engage the crucial first time customer, you can improve on the relationships you hold with your long-term customers.
#2. Home Depot - why a picture is worth more than 140 characters.
For all the home reno heart throbs out there, Home Depot is the account to follow.
How could a Block junkie resist DIY projects like this?
Home Depot’s Twitter account is all about cross-platform content.
Their aim isn’t to woo their loyal followers using Twitter. It’s not a means to an end. It’s just a part of a broader content ecosystem designed to add value to customer’s at every stage of the purchase journey.
Not all content can be used across all platforms.
Brands with an ecommerce site and a bricks and mortar store need to balance their social media content. Home Depot has found the sweet spot between promo’s about in-store workshops and programs, as well as integrating info about online sales. They know that bricks and mortar provides an enhanced customer experience, so they emphasise the benefits of their multi-channel customer experience.
Highlighting the benefits of visiting the bricks and mortar is a smart idea, especially when your bricks and mortar stores offer pick-up location for many of the online shoppers.
“About 40% of our orders leverage our existing physical assets,” said Kevin Hofmann, Home Depot senior vice president.
Using Twitter as another building block to support online and bricks and mortar stores means that you’re enhancing your customer’s overall experience.
Home Depot’s Twitter account doesn’t just refer to their online store, it's all about enticing their audience to engage with every aspect of the shopping experience.
And the approach seems to be working. NYU Stern Professor and L2 Research retail marketing maven Scott Galloway, outlines the dominant 2015 performance of Home Depot in an otherwise struggling sector in this edition of his fantastic 'Winners and Losers' series (you really should subscribe if you haven't already).
#3. Arena Flowers - Flowers, flowers everywhere… except on Twitter.
Arena Flowers are not unfamiliar with using Twitter for different reasons.
In fact, after a spectacular fail one Valentines day, they dropped their strategy that was working so well.
Now why on earth would you do that?
Because you can’t pretend that everything’s okay when it’s not.
Adapting your content strategy is literally the best thing you can do in a time of crisis.
When you’re trending worldwide for negative reasons - tweeting false facts about the Queen of England will not help your business.
David Moth, writing for Econsultancy, interviewed Arena Flowers’ managing director Will Wynne about the brand’s Twitter strategy in the aftermath of the St Valentines day disaster. Will explains the benefits of the platform in the time of crisis;
“Twitter was really helpful at providing direct personalised responses to disappointed customers, as well as broadcasting updates.”
The difference between success and failure in the competitive ecommerce industry is often dictated by your business' ability to deal with change and contingency.
But enough crisis management bring down.
Let’s talk about this.
Adapting your Twitter strategy in desperate times is impressive.
But engaging tens of thousands of worldwide Twitter followers with the resources of a suburban Florist – that’s enough to bring a tear to any marketing pro’s eye.
These guys don’t really care much for product promotion on social media.
They don’t seem to care about key messages, brand beliefs or social conversion rates.
Arena just care about the giggles.
They know – on Twitter, funny works.
Arena Flowers has a killer Twitter team of internet comedians, who manage witty and hilarity in regular 140 character chunks.
I’m a bit jealous to be honest.
How is it that a company that literally sells flowers can have 28 thousand followers on Twitter?
It’s weird, and wonderful, and it worked for Arena Flowers.
CEO Will Wynne says sales increased by 30% since changing his Twitter strategy, and the number of mentions the business has received on Twitter doubled.
If your business happens to dabble in the lighter, fun side of ecommerce (and you have a team of witty employees), consider going completely crazy and just using your Twitter account to have some fun.
Who knows, if you’re clever enough it could mean serious exposure online.
Just remember though, in times of need, don’t try and be funny. Deal with the issue at hand before engaging in witty repartee.
If Arena Flowers had continued posting hilarious content when their customers are complaining, it could have lead to a #twitterfail.
You don’t want to be this brand.
Don't ever be that brand on Twitter.
#4. Beardbrand - turning followers into bro’s.
If there’s anything the internet has taught us – if the hipsters are happy, everyone’s happy.
Beardbrand keep the hipsters happy.
They’re all about living the bearded man’s dream.
They’re also all about developing genuine relationships with their customers to turn them into a tribe of bearded warriors.
Beardbrand are a relatively new ecommerce brand, having only joined Twitter in 2012. They’re a smaller, niche market business and they know how important their customers are.
We Gorillas understand the value of quality grooming. Managing significant hair growth is not without its challenges.
As such, we’re unabashed fans of the beard-wielding businessmen.
Since beardception, the brand has understood the importance of their customers, their pals, their bearded bro’s.
Marketing wizard Don Schultz's quote has become an ethos for customer-first Social Media Managers, and we reckon Don's hit the nail on the head:
“Social media creates communities, not markets”.
Beardbrand went to Marketing 101.
It’s the community that makes Beardbrand amazing.
Just under 10000 followers, may not seem like much.
However, for the niche business owner, it’s the quality of the followers, not the quantity that matters. And for Beardbrand, 10000 followers is plenty enough to develop an engaged clan of repeat customers.
Influencers have played a part in Beardbrand’s success on Twitter, and like all good bro’s, these guys have shared the beard man love around their followers to cross promote their shared beliefs.
Take Twitter bro Cinderella Beard. He’s a new Beardbrand bro, and with over 12 thousand followers you can only imagine the reach a post like this has.
There’s a few Beardbrand bro’s in the Twittersphere who are spreading the beardy goodness, and it’s all in the name of being a great dude. These influencers are the embodiment of everything Beardbrand is, and wants to be. By aligning Beardbrand with these bearded babes (*cough*, sorry - bro’s), they are reaching out to new customers who share similar interests with the influencers.
It’s target marketing on steroids.
If you’re a smaller business, or brand spanking new, Twitter can be a great way to speed up the growth of your business. You can piggyback off the work others have done to develop large following, and building a target audience of potential customers fast.
#5. Jet Blue - Hi, nice to tweet you!
They say it takes seven seconds to judge a person.
I wonder how long it takes to judge a brand?
In less than ten seconds, I fell in love with jetBlue airways.
With over 2 million followers, it seems I’m not the only one in love with the airline.
It’s not just the fact that they’re constantly tweeting, or their charming infographics.
It’s how simple they talk to their customers.
In the days where we are skeptical of large corporations, it’s almost refreshing when you see big businesses treat their customers with respect.
You don’t need a fancy formula to treat your first time and long-term customers with respect.
It’s not hard.
It doesn’t require experts from around the globe.
And that’s what’s great about Jetblue. Their Twitter feed is a mix of content: from promotional to inspirational, but it’s their interaction with their customers that is the shining star atop the Jetblue tree.
If you really want to win the love of your customers, keeping them informed and feeling important is the best way to do it. And for jetBlue, the best way they can do this is on Twitter.
If your customers need time-sensitive info - Twitter should be your best friend. Clearly, airlines fit this category. Flight updates, delays, and flash sales are often best delivered on the ever reliable real-time Twitter stream.
You can get your message out there quicker than the time it takes for your customer to order an espresso after check-in.
If you’re not an airline, here’s a few other examples of how to be a Twitter customer service pro:
- British delivery Courier Yodel stay on top of the customer service game by being speedy when dealing with enquiries.
- Dell’s support Twitter Handle is a pro when it comes to being exactly what it’s meant to be; supportive. It may seem like a redundant post, but to the many customers out there with a Dell monitor, this post could mean the difference between a meltdown on Twitter and a happy Dell-lover.
- And finally, Birchbox. These personalized box of goodies are a personal favourite here at Gorilla, and it’s not just the fact that you get a box of goodies every month. It’s that they treat you like the babe you are.
When your potential customers fall in love with your Twitter account, sometimes they need communication before purchase. It doesn’t need to be a lot, but a bit of encouragement and pre-purchase communication can be a $$$ earner.
Just remember – opening the floodgates to your passengers comes with serious ramifications.
You need pragmatism, procedure and patience to make two way Twitter communication work.
Developing a social media policy and procedure guideline document can help your marketing team become more cohesive when it comes to navigating the tricky waters of social media. If this is something you need to develop, try here first to get an understanding of what’s required.
#6. Amazon - Customized Twitter account, anybody?
When you’re running a multibillion dollar business - sometimes it pays to have some people manning the customer service desk.
Amazon has a few customers. They expect best-in-class service.
You know when a business has a dedicated customer service Twitter handle, they are making a commitment to the after-sale experience.
Amazon answers customer tweets directly, to diagnose, triage, and resolve issues quickly. Not many ecommerce brands afford customers this outlet. Amazon’s Twitter use exceeds customer expectations - maintaining the trust of their customers, and paving the way for repeat purchase.
Amazon is the Goliath of the ecommerce world, there’s no denying it.
Their business dwarfs the economies of some first world nations - but you can still thieve a few moves from their coveted social media playbook.
Play One - Integrate your Twitter account with the customer’s shopping experience.
In 2014, Amazon launched a feature allowing customers to add items to their online cart - directly via Twitter.
Amazon often runs promotions to add value for their loyal Twitter followers. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, you can reply to a product image with “#amazoncart” and you can receive an exclusive reward.
(A few of us here at Gorilla HQ wouldn’t mind giving this bad boy a burl)
Your ecommerce brand might not have the resources to afford such technology, but you can keep the concept close. Just find a way to bridge the gap between social and shopping.
Don’t just share helpful valuable content. Don’t just promote and sell. Find the middle ground. Instead of direct integration, you can reward your Twitter followers with a coupon code to be entered during the checkout process for an added freebie.
You might even like to make a game of it. Keep your Twitter followers on their online toes, and commit to an exclusive flash sale once per month. Just don’t tell your fans what time or day to expect it. This will create a little sub community of your most loyal – and encourage sharing and conversation around the event.
If you know your audience is using Twitter prolifically, consider integrating this feature into your account. If you can make shopping easier for your customers – go ahead.
It’s worked on Facebook.
It’s working on Instagram.
It could work for you on Twitter too.
***One word of caution before you turn your Twitter feed into an online pop-up store.
Test this Twitter shopping feature first before you start ruining your customer relationships by shouting unwanted sales messages in their social space.
#7. Paddy Power - winning their fans, one punt pun at a time.
We Gorillas don’t encourage gambling.
We do encourage ecommerce brands who make their customers laugh.
Paddy Power’s Twitter account does exactly that.
Just a bit of fun on the job.
Paddy Power may be a betting agency. On Twitter they are having an each way punt.
Inform, and entertain.
Update, and piss-take.
Give followers the inside knowledge and the latest odds – but have a laugh and crack some funnies.
Paddy Power understands their customers.
That’s why they have over half a million Twitter followers. Paddy’s target market are young men, who want news on sports, without the serious middle aged has been arguing over refereeing decisions.
They’re that cheeky lad you love hanging around when the footy is on. Their comments may be stupid, irreverent, and borderline inappropriate. But they’re audience doesn’t care for political correctness, and Paddy Power stay on the hilarious side of the offensive line.
Paddy Power manage that elusive intangible – their marketing team is able to inject a genuine brand personality into their Twitter feed. Paddy is that loveable larrikin knocking about at your local pub and this allows the brand to convince their followers to stay loyal amidst the hectic online betting industry competition.
It also makes selling their services easier. As long as Paddy doesn’t break his Twitter character, he can encourage users to bet while he’s cracking a joke.
The smartest part of this approach?
18-35 year old males are like a particularly fast winger. They are exceedingly hard to catch, but they can be really lazy.
In the advertising world, this demographic is watching less television, reading less print, listening to less radio – they almost only consume online. And of course, when they bet – they use their mobile.
So Paddy are playing where their target hangs out, instead of just outlaying massive amounts on traditional advertising in the hope of finding some offcuts. Even better, the Paddy Power betting experience is just one click of a link away for each and every Twitter user.
Paddy Power can stay at the top of their user’s feeds in the crucial moments of sporting events spending a fraction of a percentage that other sports betting sites plunge into concurrent TVC slots.
It’s working for them, according to the following statistics.
“Just under half (47%) of its (Paddy Powers’) revenues come from mobile and 63% of customers transact via mobile.”
Imagine your brand as the window to the business’ soul.
It’s real. It has a personality. It has emotions.
Engaging with this human aspect of branding will allow your audience to experience a real connection. If they like what they feel, they’ll come back to your brand for more.
#8. Toms – appealing to the socially conscious Twitterati.
It’s not often you get to feel guiltless about buying a pair of shoes.
With Toms, you can.
Because for every pair of Toms you buy, they give a pair to someone in need.
Shoe shopping spree, anyone?
Toms are another brand dedicated to spreading a message.
Toms message is changing the lives of people in need – there’s no need for flatlays or burly men.
If your brand can help out those in need, integrate your social beliefs and values into your brand’s content.
Actually do it though, and genuinely care.
Don’t dare lie about it.
Cause bandwagoners are just about the most hated type of Tweeter.
Toms earn their social kudos, and they earn the right to share the good news stories of their charitable work. They continually remind their audience of the great things they’ve done for the wider community.
The power of social change is compelling to Toms’ socially conscious target audience, and Twitter is the social media platform where this community converge. If your brand can harness such goodwill – you should consider sharing the stories of your generosity. Trust, and loyalty will follow.
#9. REI - sharing the adventure.
For outdoor adventure retailer REI, the message is simple.
“We believe a life outdoors is a life well lived. #OptOutside”
Hard to argue.
I’m on board.
Their products aren’t glamorous.
Their Twitter feed isn’t filled with inspirational quotes and pretty pictures.
Yet their account lives and breathes this message.
We've written at length before about REI's fantastic ecommerce content marketing program that weaves the brand's belief in 'a life better lived outdoors' through every contact point with the customer.
True to form, REI’s theme of outdoor adventure is plunged into each and every Tweet.
From Tweets on interesting outdoor products, to adventurers stepping outside the boundries, or informational videos to help DIY trekkers - the REI message is always clearer than an Alaskan lake; a life outdoors is a life well lived.
REI treats their Twitter as a shorthand blog. They share beautiful, inspirational content with shortened URL’s, they dare their followers to dream with breathtaking images, and they collaborate with affiliated brands and influencers to add more value for their users.
It’s a simple and effective approach, encouraging social sharing and cross pollination of audiences. REI build a larger following, and nurture existing relationships at the same time.
There’s no tacky sales techniques – REI are completely focussed on educating and informing their audience to help share their message. And when you’re investing in costly camping gear, a trusted, expert advisor like REI is a welcome source of information.
You know when it comes to buy – you’re in safe and knowladgable hands.
Contextualised, personalised content wins on Twitter – just as it does in any ecommerce customer experience. REI manages to match the location of their audience, with a collection of different handles sharing geographically relevant content.
“The thinking behind the move is that customer needs vary depending upon the market; the tent and sleeping bag required for a frigid mountain climb in Washington State isn't the same as the one a customer would be seeking for a weekend music festival in Austin, Texas”
I’ve said it too many times already.
Content that is relevant + interesting =
Content that is boring + irrelevant =
If your brand has a message to spread, you don’t need some fancy 'social media strategy'.
Just focus on using your content to prove your brand cares about the same thing as your followers, one Tweet at a time.
Make the most of Twitter's unique social marketing benefits
Twitter can seem intimidating, I understand.
It’s a platform many ecommerce businesses often struggle with, and others just immediately disregard.
But for those brands prepared to invest in building relationships with their target audience, the unique interactivity of the platform can present some otherwise elusive benefits.
It’s a tool that enables you to genuinely understand your customers.
You can converse and interact 24/7. You can deal with complaints, questions, and crisis. You can even enjoy a bit of banter with those you value most.
I’m still stumped over Arena Flowers’ success on Twitter.
If it can work for a florist, it can work for anyone. You just have to know how to use it.
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