December 2008
Copywriting Curiosities
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Twitter & eCommerce: Like Peanut Butter & Jelly
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On My Book Shelf


Web Analytics for Dummies
by Pedro Sostre &
Jennifer LeClair

by Sara Gruen  

Pilate's Wife
by Antoinette May
One of
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Full disclosure: I do a lot of work for this fabulous marketing company, but please don't allow this info to taint its fabulousness. PMG is a full-service outsourced marketing and PR firm for entrepreneurial, B2B organizations.
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Dear Robyn,

Jury's still out as to whether all the Twitter hype is just that--hype--or a trend that's here to stay. Only time will tell.

I've been twittering now for a couple of months, and I can definitely see its charm (I love the challenge of saying something interesting in 140 characters). I'm seeing great networking possibilities. When I joined, I did a search on "copywriters" and then "novelists" (which is what I am in my night life) and was able to "follow" all sorts of interesting people with similar interests, many of whom are now following me (I was very excited when I discovered one of my favorite writers--Susan Orlean--was on Twitter). 

But enough of that. Let's get focused and think about eCommerce sites. Imagine having 10,000 or even 1,000 "followers" (customers or potential customers) to whom you instantly and unobtrusively can tweet about a product. And this contact with your customers is FREE? Methinks you're starting to see the benefit.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me first provide some guidance in the main article below on what Twitter is and how it works. Then we'll get to the good stuff: how to use it with your eCommerce site.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

Robyn Bradley
Twitter Primer

What is Twitter? Basically, it's a tool that allows you to broadcast 140-character updates (called "tweets") about you, your life, your business, etc. to anyone who has decided to follow you. Obviously, the more followers you have, the wider your reach. You have the tweets delivered to your IM client or--as many people do--their iPhones or Blackberries via text messages.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Twitter, so I'm not going to go on and on about how to use it or what the different symbols, such as @ and #, mean. Instead, I'm going to link you to Jennifer Laycock's brilliant three-part series on Twitter: what it is, how to set it up, how to use it, etc. If you're not familiar with Twitter at all, read Jen's articles and then come back to this newsletter. (Or if you're a visual person, here's a great video called "Twitter in Plain English.")

Why Twitter and eCommerce Were Made for Each Other
Email marketing is a common way for eCommerce sites to stay in front of customers. But what if you had an "instantaneous" way to stay in front of customers--something that didn't require overly done marketing copy, or image layout, or the need for three+ layers of approval?

That's what Twitter offers. Unlike email newsletters, which can be sent to anyone with an email account (e.g. like my mother, who still doesn't know how to send or open attachments), people who embrace Twitter already "get" the Internet. They more than likely understand texting and IMing. If the person agrees to "follow" you, they're already a "qualified" prospect or a loyal repeat customer (and marketing studies say time and time again that it costs more money to get new customers than it does to keep existing ones). So if you can directly reach a loyal following of 10,000, 1000, even 100 people--for free--wouldn't you do it? Of course you would.

Here's how to get started:
  Create a Twitter account. It's free.

2.  Have a clear call-out on your website that you're now on Twitter and invite people to follow you.

3.  Follow those who follow you. (I was all kinds of excited when DunkinDonuts started following me after I followed it.)

4.  For any registration forms on your site, always ask if the person has a Twitter account, and if yes, include a link so the person can follow you.

5.  In all electronic communications (e.g. order confirmations), include a link to your Twitter page.
Learn proper Tweetiquette (again, refer to the article link at the beginning of this article).

6.  For eCommerce sites, only tweet when you have something worthwhile to say (i.e. to promote or sell--companies like Woot! do this well), but try to get out at least one tweet a day (I reserve the right to change this recommendation once I've experienced Twitter longer). However, if you position yourself as a real person (like a customer care rep) from your eCommerce company, make sure you interact with customers, answer their questions, comment on their tweets. See my example about ComcastCares below.

Here are Some Ways eCommerce Sites Could Use Twitter.

Perfect for pushing lingering inventory. Let's say your online store sells cool, funky baby clothes. Instead of having to create an email blast to "push" inventory at the end of the season with a special sale, all you have to do is tweet about it. You'll save time and money on things like copywriting and layout and design, plus you reach a dedicated audience of followers AND you avoid the whole spam issue since people just ignore tweets that don't interest them.

Perfect for marketing pushes. Maybe your busiest season is Christmas. Imagine creating a three-month marketing strategy where you tweet daily (three months out) about different products that make the perfect gift. The only cost? The time it takes to create your three-month plan and the time it takes to write the 140-character tweets.

Get instant survey results. Maybe you're considering a new line of products, but you don't know if the product line will resonate with customers. Or maybe you're wondering which color pallette your customers prefer when it comes to a particular product (info that would help guide you on what to order). Tweet about it and ask for feedback from your customers. (Motrin should have considered this.) I'm finding that people are much more likely to answer a straightforward poll question delivered via Twitter because it's a low-time investment to respond. Your customers can only respond with 140 characters (which means your poll question should just focus on one question). Customers tend to appreciate companies that value their opinions.

Improve your customer service. One model to follow is ComcastCares: I don't know if Frank Eliason sleeps. But I do know that he's put a human face on a company that often (and perhaps rightly so at times) gets a bad rap when it comes to customer service.

Perfect for recruiting people to sign up for your e-newsletter. Talk about "reverse" marketing. The day before you send out an e-newsletter, tweet about it and include a link where people can sign up. What a great way to easily increase your distribution list numbers.

Find like-minded vendors, suppliers, etc. Again, Twitter is a great networking tool. Do you need a new distributor/warehouse in the Northeast? If you tweet about your needs, you'll get qualified leads/ideas. Keep in mind that--like all social media--it can be a time suck. Either dedicate certain times of the day to things like Twitter or have someone on your staff whose job it is to monitor things like Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc.

I welcome you to follow me on Twitter:

Happy tweeting!

Do you have any other ideas on how to use Twitter? Email me:

**Parts of this article appeared on a post I wrote for Blue Acorn's blog. Blue Acorn is an eCommerce development firm based out of South Carolina.
Happy Holidays!
Robyn Bradley
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