It's been quite some time since we felt the need to introduce, explain and justify the microblogging site Twitter. It's clear now that everyone knows such a thing exists, even if they don't exactly know why or how to use it themselves.
Sure, some folks are still making fun of the site, and belittling the purpose of the 140 characters that tell the world exactly what you're doing right now. But those are the folks who are also missing out on the incredible marketing power behind those 140 characters.
We spoke with eBay sellers and marketing specialists to help you see exactly how tweeting about your business, your listings and your daily activities can help boost your branding, your traffic, and your bottom line.
David Yaskulka, long-time eBay success story and eBay Giving Works guru, is currently the head of marketing communications at Halo, Purely for Pets, a holistic pet care company. He's responsible for the company's public relations efforts and all of its online promotions. That includes its Web site and blog, of course, but also all of the social media marketing efforts, from Facebook to MySpace to Twitter.
"Think of social media as word-of-mouth marketing on steroids," Yaskulka says.
Using Twitter, "gives regular people the opportunity to tell people things very quickly and efficiently," he explains. "If we see 30 or 40 people per day talking about us on Twitter, this is incredibly valuable. Those 30 or 40 people may in turn reach a hundred or more people each."
Your marketing efforts must come behind the great business you already have in place
Tailor the message
Now you're beginning to see the power behind the tweet. But, crafting effective messages to use as your own tweets will take some time and effort. Your first step is to sell a product you truly believe in, and have your business practices in place so that your company is serving its customers with pride and efficiency. Your marketing efforts must come behind the great business you already have in place.
Yaskulka recounts an exchange overheard at a recent conference he attended on social-media marketing: An attendee expressed concerns that people would go onto Twitter and say horrible things about his company. The speaker advised him to fix whatever horrible things might possibly be said about his company and product, and then proceed with his social media campaign! It sounds like common sense, but what's so common about sense, anyway?
Halo has been easy for Yaskulka to promote, because the company has been providing pet care products and food made from human-grade ingredients since 1986. It's the "quality leader in holistic pet care," he says.
Recently, Ellen DeGeneres acquired a stake in the company, after having been a dedicated customer for many years. That, of course, has been a huge boost to the company's ability to attract interest on Twitter. DeGeneres currently has about 3 million people following her on Twitter. Ellen's fans and thousands of other animal lovers flock to Halo's animal rescue activity on Twitter.
That's all very well and good, you might think, but how on earth will you use the site when DeGeneres is unlikely to take a personal interest in your own social media efforts? The first thing for you to do is determine where your customers are most likely to be gathering and then tailor your social media efforts to those sites.
For Halo, it all starts with the company's blog, the hub of its social media efforts. When a new article gets posted to that blog, the company sends a tweet with a link to the new information. If the content of the blog posting is complex, it may send out multiple tweets to get full coverage. Such blog entries include articles written by veterinarians about current health concerns or other issues pertinent to pet owners.
The links and content of your tweets are vitally important to successfully branding your business
Practical information is power
The links and content of your tweets are vitally important to successfully branding your business and building word-of-mouth buzz about your product.
"There are people who don't know how to use Twitter," Yaskulka says. "They'll tweet about what they had for breakfast. This is a mistake. People will un-follow you if you're not doing something of interest to them."
For eBay sellers, it's important to gauge your audience. "Is your audience excited to know about every item you post?" he asks. "Are they interested in specific categories? To build an audience, don't be explicitly promotional. Find the aspect of your business your customers are passionate about, and remember, practical information is what's valuable."
eBay PowerSeller and Educational Instructor Stephanie Inge agrees.
"I absolutely love Twitter and Facebook, and use them daily for branding and to drive traffic to my eBay store," she says. "There's a very fine line that one must walk when trying to promote a product or business, because in-your-face advertising is really frowned upon by the Twitter community and people will un-follow you if you do it too often," she notes.
Inge was kind enough to give us a very subtle example of a tweet that worked well for her specific product line.
"I had a couple of Fossil handbags that had collegiate logos on the front and neither one of them had any bids or watchers," she explains. "I posted a tweet that said something to the effect of 'University of Florida Gator Fans + Fossil Brand = [blank],' and I inserted a Tiny URL in the blank. Those keywords brought me a lot of traffic! It's fun, effective and free, and it doesn't get much better than that."
Ultimately, you are the only one who can know where your potential customers might be gathering online, and what features of your products and services might be most likely to attract them. Perhaps the best thing about social media marketing is that you don't have to spend money to educate yourself. If your first few efforts don't bring results, you can easily re-evaluate your strategy and try again.
Keep at it until you find success, because whether you currently see the value of those 140 characters or not, the fact is, millions of other people do. You don't want to miss the chance to potentially reach those millions, do you? Nah, we didn't think so.