Twitter users to all businesses ever: Stop selling and just talk to me

Twitter is all about community engagement. (Get it?)

I hate “being sold.” If I feel like someone is trying to sell me something, I get irrationally angry and start making vows to never buy their product again. I dislike all but only the extra clever television commercials (always ones that aren’t directly trying to sell me something), and pop-up and peel-back online ads make me want to pull my hair out.

So I was not at all surprised this week to read multiple articles saying if you want to sell something using Twitter, don’t make it so freaking obvious. Twitter is not about the sale; Twitter is about the people. So you’ve got to take your time building your community on the network and engage each follower, as Aaron Lee says he would do early on if he could start over with his account. If every company utilized “pull” marketing — attracting potential customers through interaction and excitement — rather than trying to push their products into people’s arms, I would probably be making a lot fewer of those never-buy-that-again vows.

Has a brand’s performance on Twitter ever convinced you to buy — or not buy — a product?

An easy way to get your brand away from that pushy approach on Twitter is to take the conversation from one-way to two-way. Instead of using Twitter as a tool for broadcasting your brand’s message, use it to talk to your community. Ask questions, answer questions, solve problems and even request retweets. (Interesting tidbit: Spelling out the word retweet instead of using abbreviation RT gets you 23 times more retweets, according to Ask Aaron Lee.) Look for people who are talking about you, even if they don’t directly mention you. At, we set up search streams in Hootsuite to find conversations taking place about our brand or topics that we cover so we can get involved in the conversation.

Do you or your company search for any hashtags or key words as entry points into Twitter conversations? If so, what are they?

The most engaged brand on Twitter, @Notebook, told Forbes that they answer every single tweet that comes their way. Their content might not be for everyone (ahem, me); but never having spent a dollar on advertising, Notebook of Love is certainly a brand to examine for best practices. @Notebook creator Branden Hampton says brands should focus on the message of their companies, not the product they’re trying to sell. When instead of cramming a car down your followers’ throats, you tweet about your car’s safety features, fuel economy and even a story about someone who did something cool with the car (all the while, of course, answering customers tweeting at you), you’ll attract more customers. Because having a car crammed down your throat would probably hurt.


8 thoughts on “Twitter users to all businesses ever: Stop selling and just talk to me”

  1. Julie,

    Good point about the issue with direct selling. It may be a remainder from when there was no real possibility for pull marketing and the media channels were a lot more restricted. Social media has really allowed us to expand the concept of pull marketing, and as you mention Twitter is an excellent tool to do this. I believe that the reason why Twitter is such an excellent platform for conversation is because of the 140 character restriction. There is no possibility to go on a long rant on Twitter (I mean you can if you try) but have to get straight to the point. This allows for companies/individuals to respond to a lot more consumers in a short and concise way. A Tweet takes less time than writing back a full letter that a company may have received otherwise.


    1. Hi Janis! I, too, love the absolute stopping point that Twitter imposes. It makes even the wordiest folks get to the point more quickly. 🙂 And great comparison to the letter. Tweeting back to someone takes a lot less time, while still getting your message across. Plus, it’s instantaneous; the customer knows very quickly whether that company is going to respond to their comment or complaint. That’s a lot different from waiting for a letter to land in your mailbox.

  2. Julie,
    I have been influenced to buy from a brand because of their Twitter feeds. I like to get updates on new products as well as discounted ones. Whenever I see some sort of “sale” item that might interest me I check it out. It’s a really good technique, because I usually need a code for the discount which you can only get from their Twitter feed or website.
    I do search for hashtags, not usually for my business though. I like to look at the trending topics and read/tweet about those. My favorite hashtags are those that are specific, not general. For example, I love watching soccer, but I don’t want to #soccer because it’s to general. I will usually #TeamvTeam during a game because it directly affects a certain thing, and I know anyone posting on this is watching/following similar things that I am.
    Great blog post!

    1. I do love a coupon code. If I was already considering the product and just hadn’t acted yet, a coupon code shared on Twitter could certainly make me decide to make the leap.

      I agree with you on hashtags. I hate when brands or people just throw a hashtag in front of random words they’re using. I’m in the camp of don’t hashtag unless you have a reason to. Your #TeamvTeam example is definitely a good one, because a game is something that would require multiple tweets as it moves along, and a specific hashtag would allow an easy way to follow those updates.

  3. Julie, because I wasn’t a big Twitter user before this program I have never looked up a hashtag to see if it was popular or performing well. When it was just me saying personal things I didn’t see much of a point. However, now that I have more knowledge on the subject and it is my goal to create more engaging content, I will be more conscious of my hashtags in the future. With regard to your first question, I have been influenced to click on links from a brand, but never to buy a product because of that brand’s Twitter performance. A Facebook ad or (call me old-fashioned) a television ad are usually the only things that drive me to buy a product, not how many followers it has on Twitter.

    1. That’s totally understandable — and a perfect example of why a company has to focus their efforts on more than one thing at a time. Your entire customer base may not use Twitter, so you have to be present elsewhere, too, whether that’s Facebook or TV. My mother always told me to not put all my eggs in one basket.

  4. Julie, I have to say, I am quite a fan of the tweets associated with live television. I enjoy reading some of the conversation going on during some of my favorite TV shows and the engagement during the live show allows me to feel like I am getting even more out of the experience. However, I also have to be careful because sometimes I will wait to watch a show and Twitter will accidentally spoil it for me! (I watch Breaking Bad live to avoid this exact problem! haha)

    1. It’s like having a show-watching party with friends across the world! I actually have a friend who’s doing research on that very thing right now — entertainment communications and why people feel the need to share their entertainment experiences with people they do and don’t know on social media. It’s all about the shared experience, even if you’re not actually sharing the experience in the same room.

      I know what you mean about the spoilers! I have to remind myself to stay off Twitter and Facebook if I’m going to be watching Breaking Bad or any other of my shows after the live broadcast. And speaking of Breaking Bad, I’m having such an internal battle right now, where part of me really wants to see the rest of the season, and part of me doesn’t because that means it’s over. 😦

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