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March 26, 2009

From Twitterholic to Shopaholic

In this post: Nine tips on using Twitter within the retail industry …

Jaimy SzymanskiYou heard that Twitter is the next big thing for retail companies in self-promotion and customer service. You created an account. You tweeted, “Learning about Twitter!”.

So, now what?

It’s no secret at this point that Twitter holds huge potential for businesses in connecting with customers and promoting brands, products and services. This is especially true in the retail industry, as everyone on Twitter is a consumer of products and services in one way or another.

If you’re in retail and have created an account on Twitter, but are unsure of how to best spend your time on the micro-blogging network, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways for retail companies to utilize Twitter both easily and effectively.

And by “plenty,” I of course mean “nine.” Kidding. But, here are nine anyway (an even 10 is too predictable):

  1. Monitor buzz. Using Twitter’s search function, regularly search your company’s name (all versions of it). Respond to comments as often as possible – good or bad. It’s a great way to give real-time feedback to disgruntled shoppers or those singing your praises.
  2. Talk trends. Customers love to feel like they have the inside scoop, so who better to turn to for the latest or up-and-coming retail trends than you? Keep trend talk related to your business, and link to articles whenever possible for more information. Also consider posting pictures of new, unrelease products before they hit the shelves using Twtpic or Flickr.
  3. Deal out discounts. Especially in a less-than-stellar economy, everyone can use a leg up here and there. Offer Twitter-follower-only discount codes and specials that are different than those offered to the public through other mediums. Again, customers will feel like they are part of a special “insiders club”!
  4. Promote blog posts. Although you don’t want to overdo it, everytime you post a new entry to your blog, notify your followers with ONE (again, I repeat – ONE) tweet that links to it. Too much self-promotion can result in swift un-follows, even when it is from a brand or company account.
  5. Provide advice. Tips, tricks and expert advice that deals with your products or services are surefire ways to establish yourself as a trusted retailer. From creative product use ideas to how-to tips on making products last longer, spread the word!
  6. Share company news. Something new going on in-store or online? Share exciting company news – either internal releases or public news stories – with your followers. Tweet a “teaser” message and link to the full post at the end.
  7. Come to the rescue. Similar to searching your own brand or company name, search out competitor names, brand names of products you carry, or services you provide. If you find unhappy customer tweets, reply with recommendations on similar products you carry or services you provide that may be closer to what they’re looking for. This can serve as a great way to gain competitive advantage and entice customers to shop your store.
  8. Help build follower networks. Show your followers you care just as much about their Twitter network as your own. Retweet (“RT,” or basically “forward”) messages of your fans that you think other followers may benefit from. Often times, this results in the original tweeter’s follower count elevating – a definite plus for those trying to build their network.
  9. Broadcast event play-by-play. Holding a special in-store event? Attending a retail conference? Holding a customer-focused workshop? Tweet about it! Think of a short hash tag (the “#” sign, followed by a word – i.e. #LOST … Yes, I love the show. And, yes, that is a real hash tag.). Then, with every tweet about the event, include the hash tag as well so that your followers can simply search it to see what’s going on if they’re not around. Or, they can also tweet from your event using the hash tag, too!

The bottom line? Whether in retail or another idustry, it’s all about what your followers want.

What would they benefit from in your Twitter stream? What do they see as valuable tweets?