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Delivering Call-to-Action Discounts on Twitter

Photography: russelldavies

Twitter’s launch of @earlybird at the beginning of July, an official timeline channeling discounts to followers, suggests that the company sees a future in tweet-delivered marketing offers. Despite the name of their new timeline though, the company’s a bit late. Businesses have long been using their Twitter accounts to do more than build a community, broadcast their brand and deal with customer relations. They’re also selling their goods with mini discount coupons. So what makes for an effective Twitter-based offer?

The format is important. In 140 characters, you’re not going to have a lot of space to deal with objects, build desire or even write headlines, the key ingredients of successful copywriting. One @earlybird tweet reveals just about all that can be squeezed into a sales tweet:

Great deal from our friends @moxsie– Their best in shoes, headphones, apparel & more, for 30% off. Today only! http://t.co/NGizKAe

It’s brief, of course, but still long enough to include the items on offer, the size of the offer, the duration of the offer and a link that allows followers to make the most of that offer.

Repeat Your Sales Message… In a Fun Way

It’s also repeated, an important consideration for followers who follow lots of timelines. If you have hundreds of tweets flowing through your Twitter page, many are likely to be missed so sending the same message multiple times is an essential element of Twitter-based marketing.

The risk though is that followers who do see the same tweet repeated will want to unsubscribe, something that @earlybird has been bright enough to recognize. Although @moxsie’s offer was mentioned five times, twice as a retweet of the offer that appeared in the advertiser’s own timeline, each appearance was phrased differently, an easy way of avoiding reader boredom.

But the ads aren’t targeted – at least, not yet. Twitter has stated that it’s considering making offers location-based (they’re currently only available to US buyers), and also category-based so that followers will only see offers for certain kinds of products. While they’re testing the idea though (and building advertisers) the timeline is going to be filled with all sorts of products that the followers won’t want to buy.

Other sellers are already ahead of Twitter there. Amazon has an “official Twitter feed” but also runs several other timelines, including the general @amazondeals, which lists all sorts of quick bargains marked as “Lightning Deals!”, and specific category timelines such as @amazongames. That timeline contains a number of different kinds of tweets. The account’s 20,000-plus followers can read specific game-related “lightning deals,” news about product releases, and of course, cash in on offers that are time-limited, supply-limited or both:

Limited Time: Assassin’s Creed II for PC is $14.99 while supplies last. http://amzn.to/bH9Ac7

Tweets that are that specific might reach fewer followers than @earlybird’s 100,000-plus readers but the clickthrough rate will be higher.

The Relationship is as Important as the Offer

Creating multiple Twitter accounts to manage different product categories is an important solution for large retailers but it’s not one that’s going to bother smaller firms who sell only one type of product. For those businesses, the nature of the relationship is as important as the ability to squeeze in all the offer details and repeat them without boring readers. Twitter is a personal place and businesses do best when they can create real relationships with their followers.

Dell, for example, has become one of the leading commercial users of Twitter with a reported $6.5 million-worth of sales through the site. Even though its main sales timeline, @DellOutlet, is part of a large corporation, it still includes the name of the person who writes the tweets and provides a picture of her. The timeline also combines sales work with customer service representation by replying to followers’ questions, and most intriguingly, is sometimes able to direct followers to specific coupons. In reply to one request for M15x coupons, for example, Stefanie Nelson, who writes the tweets, tweeted:

@auzzebear There is a 15% coupon here that would work: http://del.ly/6016E6I

That kind of personal service helps followers to see that the company genuinely wants to assist them. Stefanie also noted that coupons are distributed by email as well, a reminder that while Twitter is a valuable way to distribute time-limited offers, it’s not the only method.

Building that personal relationship is a bigger challenge for large faceless corporations than it is for small businesses though. Coupa Café is a family-owned chain of café and restaurants with branches in Beverly Hills, Palo Alto, Stanford and Caracas. Their timeline consists mostly of conversations with regular customers, giving it a friendly, homely feel but some of the offers it scatters throughout the timeline are carefully targeted. Like many bricks-and-mortar businesses that can’t take online orders, Coupa Café provides a “whisper word” that followers can use when they visit the café to receive a discount. That word may be incorporated into a regular, limited offer:

Did you use the whisper word today? Tell your friends, first 25 to say “Bourbon” to our baristas get a free drip coffee!

Or the bargain may be aimed at a specific group of people:

Hi #sas10 attendees, walk over to Green Library’s Coupa Cafe for lunch and say “Bourbon” to our baristas to get a free drip

By using a hashtag rather than aiming at regular readers, the café is even able to reach people who aren’t following its timeline and who aren’t yet customers.

Creating and delivering effective limited offers on Twitter then isn’t difficult. You’ll need to squeeze in all of the offer’s details, including a short URL if you’re selling online, and a “whisper word” if you’re not. You’ll need to repeat it to make sure it’s seen (but do it in a way that doesn’t become boring) and target it to ensure a high clickthrough rate. And you’ll need to keep your timeline personal so that you can build a relationship with your customers and keep them engaged.

And, of course, you’ll need to have products that people want to buy!

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