Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Did You Get a Twitter Wake-Up Call?

Black Friday has been a retail shopping phenomenon, probably ever since shopping malls were invented. A few years ago, Cyber Monday joined the retail scene as an important online shopping day, although last year December 9 was actually the heaviest online shopping day of the year. This year, the lines seem to have blurred as the amount of online shopping continues to increase, stimulated by social media. Marketers are using social media to get shoppers revved up earlier, both in the stores and especially online.

I’ve written before about the importance of Twitter and Facebook to consumers who are looking for bargains. This year marketers took advantage of that to promote deals—sometimes on an hourly basis—on both days. The New York Times called it the "first Twitter Christmas” and has links to more examples of corporate marketing efforts. The Motley Fool has more.

Two examples:

• Penney is the one with the wake-up call—take your pick of a message from Cindy Crawford, Kimora Lee Simmons or Rascal Flatts. A wake-up call was needed; they started Tweeting special deals and coupons at 4 a.m. Black Friday morning. That’s good, but why do they have a Facebook link on their site but not a Twitter link? Worse, their Black Friday press release gave a twitter account link that doesn’t work. This annoying one does.

• Best Buy has been pushing their TwelpForce since last summer, complete with television ads. I took a quick look around the blogosphere and there are some positive, some negative posts about its effectiveness, but Best Buy is clearly putting effort into it. It’s easy to find other customer service options from the Best Buy home page, but not TwelpForce.

Do you see a pattern here? The Twitter initiatives, especially for Christmas shopping, are important. Why are they so hard to find???

With apologies to an article I read over the Thanksgiving weekend and promptly lost, there’s a point beyond successfully integrating these social media efforts into the overall communications program. I’m not sure how Penney’s got the word out except for the zillions of Black Friday/Cyber Monday, coupons, and deals sites and blogs. Did they do some ads that included the Twitter deals? Perhaps; I didn’t see any. Best Buy used a significant amount of television to support the TwelpForce launch. These two firms are a small sample, but the skew is heavy in favor of Twitter and Facebook—non-paid media.

The article I read pointed out that newspapers stood to lose even more revenue as businesses come to understand effective uses of social media. Good for business, bad for newspapers. Today’s eMarketer newsletter quotes a study from The Center for Marketing Research at UMass Dartmouth that pointed out that “the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the US, is outpacing the larger, more traditional companies in the Fortune 500 in many social media activities.” (“Social Media Marketers Declare Success” December 2, 2009)

Could that be the biggest impact of social media on retailing in the long term? As small businesses wake up to social media like Twitter they will be able to reach their customers-- directly and in a timely fashion--with relevant information. The impact could be huge. Again, bad for newspapers and perhaps other local media, but very, very good for small businesses – and for all organizations that want direct, authentic communication with their target audiences.

That said, remember that I wasn’t signed up for Twitter from either Best Buy or Penney. One reason is that they never asked. Retailers have to aggressively build their networks—opt-in email lists, Facebook Friends, Twitter Followers and maybe others. Then they can, indeed, reach customers with timely, relevant information—information customers have chosen to receive!

No comments: