3 things to know about using Twitter for e-commerce [End of “social media is free”]

Lux Narayanan, CEO & Co-Founder, Unmetric Inc

Last week Twitter came out with a study titled “Tweets in Action: Retail,” which said that nearly all of the Twitter users go to retail websites and that people who have seen tweets from a retailer are more likely to buy than people who haven’t. The microblogging site was clearly making a case for advertisers to spend more on Twitter. We got in touch with Lakshmanan (Lux) Narayanan, the CEO & Co- Founder of UnMetric Inc, the Social Media benchmarking company to get some more insights.  “We’re seeing the end of the phrase ‘social media is free’ which is sure to send shivers down the spines of social media managers in India where this belief is still widely held,” Narayanan told NBW in an e-mail interview. Edited Excerpts:

E-commerce companies mostly use Twitter as support channel (and Facebook as marketing) – will they change their outlook [after reading such Twitter oriented report] towards this?

Just looking at the top 5 Indian e-commerce brands (Flipkart, Jabong, Junglee, Myntra & Yebhi), we can see that 24% of the tweets have been pro-active and 71% have been replies. Looking at raw numbers, this means that on average, these brands are sending around 3 pro-active tweets per day. What we might see is that e-commerce brands follow the US convention of starting a dedicated Twitter support account while keeping the main account for marketing and campaign purposes. That said, at the current rate of pro-active tweets, the Indian e-commerce brands are about on par with their US peers.

To what extent can Twitter be used as effective marketing tool and how do you see the present Twitter campaigns used by e-commerce players in India?

Some brands are being really innovative with their use of Twitter, for example, Homeshop18 is constantly running successful hashtag campaigns and getting people involved. Myntra also did something interesting where they combined Twitter with Pinterest to get people uploading pictures to win prizes. Of course, you are talking to a smaller subset of socially engaged people when compared to Facebook, but as the Compete report illustrates, these people seem to be more targeted.

What’s your take on Twitter’s growing ambition to become more of a marketing tool?

I think we’re seeing the end of the phrase “social media is free” which is sure to send shivers down the spines of social media managers in India where this belief is still widely held. These platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and soon, Pinterest) all need to have a revenue stream and since they are not going to charge their users, they need to make money from brands. Facebook has started it by asking brands to pay to reach more fans via sponsored posts and Twitter is continuing it with their Sponsored Tweets and Sponsored Hashtags.

Just like any other mass media, TV, print, radio etc. Social Media is the the new mass media, and if brands want to reach an audience, they’ll have to pay for it. Twitter is well placed to enable brands to literally buy extended visibility on these platforms – and if the brands don’t, they risk being lost in all the noise.

Recommended read

Nearly all Twitter users visit retail websites, it helps retailers to optimize purchase rate by 39%: Study

How Indian ecommerce companies are performing in social media [Hint: Junglee is better than Flipkart]

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