A recent study called "Tweets in Action: Retail" by Compete, a media data analyzing company, discovered that Twitter users who see a retailer's tweet are more likely to visit their retail websites and make online purchases. This article made me consider the impact of a tweet on online retailers.

I feel very strongly about online retailers using various social media outlets to build awareness around their business and boost sales. Without using this readily available tool, retailers online and off are missing out on a key audience that are constantly consuming information. This is the first in a series where I will examine social media tools and how they can work for online retailers.

I want to focus on the power of a social media tool based on a particularly recognizable mountain bluebird: Twitter. This "Twitter Bird" has been tweeting since July 2006 and has become increasingly busier since then with now over 200-million active users.

The first commercial account to be ever created was that of Ernest Sewn (@ernestsewn), a clothing brand known mainly for its denim. Don't believe me? Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, confirmed this true on none other than his Twitter account. It wasn't long until other retailers and companies followed, realizing the power of the little bluebird.


So why should any retailer, big or small, use Twitter? It's affordable. Signing up for an account is free and the only real investment is time, but as with anything the more time you put into developing a strategy and focusing on execution, the greater your return on investment.

Another perk is that Twitter makes it easy to track conversations. You can easily search what users are saying about your brand using hashtags, tagged conversations, and just the basic search tool. There have also been a slew of apps and tools that make it even easier to track and watch the progress and interactions of your account. Tools include Tweetdeck and HootSuite that allow professionals to run more than one account and monitor progression. There are online tools such as, to help determine how many people your tweets have reached and tweetbeep, to check your account for you and send emails with all the mentions of your brand.

Your potential customers are already users. With 200-million users tweeting 400-million tweets a day, the possibilities are endless. When your audience is on twitter, they are engaged and looking for new content to take in, this makes it even easier to engage your demographic. They are waiting to be engaged. This goes for online shoppers as well, they are looking to be engaged by brands and follow their favorites to see news updates and potential deals.

Another plus: Twitter gives your brand a voice. Instead of just a company, your company is humanized and engages you in conversation. Interacting with your potential customers with generic, emotionless answers a computer generated is so passé. Have fun, be creative and choose an authentic voice that works for your brand!

Examples and usage

The usage of Twitter seems to be endless. Here are some great ways online retailers use Twitter:

(1) Zappos (@Zappos)
What's interesting about Zappos' Twitter page is that account is under their CEO, Tony Hsieh's name. This is a great strategy as it allows for direct communication between users and the CEO. Also, Zappos has another account, @ZapposInsights, where users can get a "sneak peek" to learn about the company's culture.

(2) Target (@Target)
As soon as you land on the page, the graphics and colours are clearly branded: "Target!" This is a good example of how you can use the avatar and background to brand your page. Target also manages another account, @TargetStyle to feature their fashion and beauty items and daily deals.

(3) Kohl's (@Kohls)
Kohl's Twitter account is a great example of how online retailers can actively interact with their users. Kohl's makes sure they respond to every tweet they are mentioned in, in a fun and casual way.

Keep in mind that Twitter accounts can also be used as a means for customer support. We are in the year 2013, call centres are a thing of the past. The much-dreaded classical music does not help with angry customers, and 17 options in an automated system that will inevitably lead you to the wrong place doesn't help improve customer relations. Successful Twitter customer service can turn the customer's experience into a positive one and hopefully lead them into becoming brand enthusiasts, plus it looks good to other twitter users.

The most important thing is, regular updates are key. And remember that the lifespan of online conversations are short -- so make sure you reply to tweets and mentions soon as possible. Now go ahead and tweet away!