How To Sell On Twitter Without Pissing Off Your Followers

There's a fine line between offering deals to your Twitter followers and being too self-promotional. Here's how to make sure you don't cross it.
June 17, 2011

Now five years old, Twitter attracts nearly 200 million monthly visitors—grandmothers, teens, CEOs—and many of them are your customers.

So how do you craft tweets that will turn into sales?

First, remember not to get drunk on self-promotion.

“Twitter is like a cocktail party; it is a place to build relationships, not just talk about yourself,” says Christy Cook, founder of Teach My, a Toronto-based company that sells learning kits for children.

Alex Levine, a social media strategist at Paco Communications, a multi-cultural marketing agency in Chicago, recommends balancing your regular tweets with your sales-driven tweets.

“I recommend tweeting at least three times a day and limiting your direct sale tweets to one in four,” she says.

What should you tweet when not selling?

Try responding to customers every time they mention your product, offering helpful information and tweet positive product reviews and testimonials, Levine advises.

In practice

Use Twitter correctly and it may turn into your biggest costumer attractor—just ask Tiffany Aliche.

“The majority of my business—about 70 percent—is acquired via social media,” says Aliche, a.k.a. “The Budgetnista,” a financial literacy consultant based in Newark, New Jersey.

She does this by staying away from hard selling, and instead offers freebies that could lead to later sales. For example, she may give away the first chapter of her book, The One Week Budget, for free on Twitter. The link will take visitors back to her page where they can purchase the entire book if they choose.

Aliche also holds weekly Q&A sessions with Twitter followers—something she says her costumers love.

“I will take money questions from them, re-tweet them, and answer them—often referring my product or service as a solution and providing a link,” she says.

She also recommends using Twitter bios to offer free products or services with a link that includes items for purchase.

Exclusive coupons can also entice consumers to buy, says Marie Rotter, social media practice director at Metzger Associates, a public relations and digital marketing firm in Boulder, Colorado.

“Depending on your point-of-sale, you can add specific codes to your coupons, enter them at the cash register and measure how many customers are coming in from Twitter,” she says.

Customers will often work for coupons. Rotter recounts a restaurant client that hired models for a day during an outdoor festival and required people to take photos with models and post them on Twitter in order to get a coupon. The plan worked, and the restaurant saw a nice spike in foot traffic.

If your business is having a slow day, Rotter recommends encouraging your Twitter followers to stop by within an hour for a free item (for example, restaurant: soft drink; boutique: coupon).

Levine says general sale tweets can also work.

Tell people that you have a sale going on that day—ask them to come in and say hi,” she advises.

Twitter’s search site can help business owners zero in on a target audience, even by geographic region.

“If you are a candle maker, for example, search for anyone who is tweeting about gifts within a 15-mile radius of your store—then get in touch with them and ask them to stop by,” Levine says.

Most of all, she says it’s important to communicate in casual language on Twitter and have fun.

“Talk to your customers as though they were in your store, and relax—there is a lot of room for error and learning on Twitter,” she says.