How to use Twitter for e-commerce: five step guide

Twitter is trialling a new “buy” button, which allows users in the US to buy goods or services directly from selected brands within the platform. We find out what this means for e-commerce businesses and how companies can harness Twitter for online marketing.

Businesses big and small have embraced the micro blogging platform Twitter as a marketing and customer service tool. When you consider Twitter’s enormous popularity, it’s easy to see why.

Launched in 2006 – just eight years ago – Twitter now has 271 million monthly active users, sending 500 million tweets per day. Of this, 78 per cent of active Twitter account holders use mobile and 77 per cent of accounts are outside the US.

For the uninitiated, tweets are brief messages (limited to 140 characters) that are sent by Twitter users. These users can follow each other and create lists of those who tweet on specific topics.

Demographically, Twitter is one of the social media platforms most used by adults – according to comScore, only 11 per cent of Twitter’s users are aged 12 to 17 – so it’s a great way to reach an adult audience of both women and men.

Twitter adds e-commerce element with “buy” button

More and more businesses have added Twitter to their marketing strategy, and the platform is currently trialling an e-commerce “buy button” in the US. This will allow companies to embed the button into tweets, allowing followers to make a purchase without leaving the Twitter platform.

“Twitter is trialling the buy button with a very small rollout so far, including retailer Burberry, musician Eminem and charity Red,” says Steve Crough, founder and Managing Director of digital agency Dando.

Crough believes the buy button could be a useful tool for businesses if it is used sparingly. He says it has the potential to create a sense of exclusivity among followers. “Imagine if a company like Converse offered limited-release stock through the buy button or if Qantas released a limited number of last-minute tickets at a heavily reduced price. Everyone would want access to those accounts,” he says.

How to use Twitter for marketing

Crough says all marketing through Twitter should be balanced with other types of tweets that build the brand. “Tweet daily – up to five times a day – but you don’t want your account to just be a form of interruption marketing. We know that people are less responsive to that,” he says. “Using Twitter well is about building trust, making people interested, giving them information and getting them to your website.”

This might include tweets about new stock, exclusive sales, engaging photos of your stock, asking people for their opinion or providing more broad information and links to interesting news within your area of business.

Crough notes that this is a great way to build credibility and become somewhat of an authority within your niche. “Try to include tweets that are insightful, humorous, thought-provoking, on topic, off topic, controversial … mix it up,” he advises.

How e-commerce businesses can get started with Twitter

1. Be strategic

Adopt a strategic approach and design a content schedule for Twitter. “For example, you might start the week off with more serious tweets and have more light-hearted ones on Fridays,” suggests Crough. “Have a meeting on Monday about what you want to say throughout the week. Try a social media management tool like Hootsuite that allows you to schedule your tweets so they are automatically sent out through the week.”

2. Follow your competitors

Crough suggests e-commerce businesses follow other companies, including their competitors. “You want to know what they’re doing, what they’re talking about – Twitter’s perfect for that.”

3. Follow the “right” celebrities

To grow your reach and draw in followers, Crough recommends following other individuals, especially people who hold influence. For example, if you’re selling sports gear, follow sporting heroes. “You can tap into their followers, too.”

4. Use hashtags

Try to use a trending hashtag in some of your tweets. For example, if you’re a fashion label, you might want to tweet about #melbournecup or #MSFW when these events are on. “Not all tweets have a hashtag,” says Crough, “but it can be good to put one in there, especially on something topical. It will help your tweet come up in a search.”

5. Retweet and interact

Retweet the best messages. Not only can you send out your best tweets several times, but if someone posts something positive about your product / company, retweet it (and tweet back to the sender with a thank you, too).

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