RSR Research: A Twitter Manifesto

Mar 29, 2010
Nikki Baird

By Nikki Baird, Managing Partner

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary
of an article from Retail Paradox, Retail Systems Research’s weekly analysis
on emerging issues facing retailers.

I have struggled with social media. Am
I not a social creature? I guess not. But like it or not, I have a social job.

I heard once that Twitter is about discovery and Facebook about connections.
I think, sort of. Twitter is conversations too.

I like Twitter because the conversation is vibrant and it’s easy to use.

I still can’t figure out how to use Facebook, or where all the “stuff” is
that makes FB fun.

I have a hard time separating business & personal on FB. The issue is not
business – my friends just don’t get my job.

It is easy to separate business & personal on Twitter. Hello, two accounts.
Thank you lists!

I don’t like just reporting what other people say, unless I find it really
pithy, or I have a take to add.

I prefer quality, rather than quantity, tweets – which is why there is often
a long lag between my tweets. Sort of, Nikki’s Deep Thoughts.

I hate status updates like “I am at the airport now.” Tell me something
interesting, actionable.

I have found more good content coming through Twitter in the last week than
I have seen from email newsletters in the last year. That’s scary.

Twitter combines the power of curated content by people you trust or like,
with an opportunity to skim whatever you want.

Tweeting is a great way to add life to events – make it interactive. As long
as there are enough people there to interact.

Twitter provides a back-channel to reality – real-time reactions, a virtual
link to additional info about something you see live.

We used to joke at FORR (Forrester Research) that that phone meetings were
better than F2F (face-to-face) because you could IM back-channel running commentary.

Twitter has taken the place of IM tools in my portfolio for productivity.

If someone is txting (texting) on their phone while you’re talking, they may
be tweeting their reactions to what you say. Also scary.

I’m not comfortable tweeting about meetings, even vendor briefings.
Some conversations need to remain off the grid.

Every time I tweet something that someone says at a conference, I worry that
presos (presentations) will become even blander as people fear the real time.

My Twitter challenge: how do conversations change when anyone could be listening?
Or the other person is broadcasting their opinions real-time?

I don’t know how to manage the real-time & reality consequences of a Twitter
world. So far, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

But I suspect it will be. Soon.

Discussion Questions: What do you see as
the benefits as well as the shortcomings of Twitter for retailers and related

[Author’s commentary] The article was published via Twitter
originally, which is why each thought is only 140 characters long.

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "RSR Research: A Twitter Manifesto"

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Joel Warady
Joel Warady
11 years 1 month ago

Retailers should look at Twitter as if it is a megaphone. They build followers, and when they have something to say, they are able to broadcast their comments to the people who follow the retailer. It is a personalized broadcast channel. Twitter is less about having a conversation, and more about sharing information and messaging.

Retailers are able to use Twitter to broadcast certain “specials” that might be occurring only that day. Or it can be used to share information about new inventory that might have just arrived. It is a way to share targeted information, to people who are anticipating your message, with information that is meaningful to them.

What better way to pull traffic into a retailer’s store?

Max Goldberg
11 years 1 month ago

Twitter is a great tool for retailers to monitor conversations and trends. It can be used to engage consumers and help them solve problems pertaining to your store. It’s also a good promotional vehicle. Most of all, it is a tool to begin a dialogue, not just something to broadcast promotional offers.

While Twitter is a good tool to include in a marketing/customer service toolbox, it is not a panacea. The overwhelming majority of Twitter accounts are inactive. And the people using Twitter are not a representative sample of anything other then themselves.

Twitter, like Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla and other social media services, require time and effort to engage. Is it worth it? Yes. Every retailer should have a social media strategy that is customized to its goals and fits its personality.

Carol Spieckerman
11 years 1 month ago

I like Nikki’s “off the grid” observation and her comment on reporting versus adding something to the conversation. I’m not only not comfortable tweeting about client meetings, I don’t do it as a matter of policy as an extension of our values around discretion and confidentiality.

On the second point, Twitter is a great news resource for me, however, when every non-news source is tweeting the same news story without an any added insight, it simply becomes noise.

Bob Phibbs
11 years 1 month ago

As one who tweets, updates, posts and speaks on social media, Twitter is not the begin all and end all. I have close to 2000 “followers,” most of whom I never hear from but they do occasionally retweet my blog posts. For a speaker or analyst, that’s great. For a gift store in Ohio? Not so much.

Twitter is really not for anyone unless they have an iPhone or other PDA or are in front of their computer all day. Most retailers – not behemoths like Macy’s who do and should use Twitter – should make it the LAST concern of their day, if at all.

Dan Gilmore
Dan Gilmore
11 years 1 month ago
I believe Twitter is vastly over-rated. Interestingly, high school kids mostly think its goofy, saying something about how long the trend will last – but the model does provide some view of where things are going. Twitter is just like a better RSS feed, which itself is or could be better than email — far better than “Google alerts” or others that come via email. I am totally dubious of this often repeated idea that there are these millions of consumers out there that want some kind of social media “relationship” with a retailer or manufacturer. As I’ve said before here, every time I hear someone promote that notion I ask them if they themselves are so inclined, following a tooth paste brand or whatever, and the answer of course is always “no.” “It’s not for me, but I think lots of others out there somewhere will be into it.” So, Twitter or its successors will be effective models for distributing information that consumers (that’s the context of my response here, there are other uses… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
11 years 1 month ago

I doubt that Twitter is a Home Run hitter — except, maybe, for the younger crowd. There is so much clutter fighting other clutter on Twitter today that it can be difficult to get a key message through to the intended. Have we oversaturtated the saturated?

Doug Fleener
11 years 1 month ago

Too many companies are using Twitter to speak but not listen. I like to compare it to a bad Chamber of Commerce meeting where it feels like everyone is selling but nobody is buying.

I think Twitter, along with Facebook is a way to engage customers in a medium they like. I don’t pick one over another, but I do believe most companies should actively participate.

By the way, I’m not at the airport. Figure I would save a tweet.

Bill Hanifin
11 years 1 month ago

I agree with Dan Gilmore’s take to a large extent and to others who mention that while large retailers should have a social strategy, it should not be of highest priority.

Whether Twitter will become a more effective business tool depends on the size and scale of the retail operation. For the larger retailers, there is brand building and longer term value creation to be achieved. For local retailers, Twitter can be blended with Foursquare, Yelp, and Facebook to constitute a highly cost effective sales channel.

Smaller retailers with the right audience have to carefully allocate marketing spend. The enormous expense of the Yellow Pages could be the first to go if a carefully crafted social strategy is in place.

Derek Rodner
Derek Rodner
11 years 1 month ago
Twitter changes the dynamic of communication altogether. In the analog world (before the internet), getting your finger on the pulse of your customer required a significant amount of work. And, most of the time, your communication effort was a monologue, a one-way conversation via your weekly circular, ad, press release, whatever. There was no response from the customer except what could be measured by sales. Twitter, and other social media tools, create a dialogue. They enable you to communicate on a more personal level (believe it or not) with your followers. And, better yet, it allows them to communicate back. If there is a problem in your store, how do you find out? Take poor customer service for example. In the old days, you didn’t know you had an issue until someone complained to an employee that could affect change. Sometimes you never found out at all, you just saw the results with decreased sales. With social media, people complain in a public way – in a way that you can see. It also works… Read more »
Brian Anderson
11 years 1 month ago

Social media tools are worthwhile when used effectively. Twitter’s value is review to learn; learn what your customers and fans want and are tweeting. The down side — it’s in the moment. You have to have someone reviewing the tweets in real time or at least review the thread consistently.

Doron Levy
Doron Levy
11 years 1 month ago

I think Twitter is a great way for retailers to stay connected with their customers. Obviously you want to generate followers at the store level. Those that actually ‘opt-in’ will be worth more to the merchant.

Ralph Jacobson
11 years 1 month ago

So, what does Whole Foods get for their 1M+ followers? There are some metrics out there. It must be a real commitment for the retailer or it will be worthless. There are too many tools to use to not take advantage of the analytics capabilities out there. HOWEVER, will twitter be around a year from now? Who knows? There will be social media for the foreseeable future. I believe that. I believe it will grow to be as key a piece of history as the internet itself has become. There are no social media experts out there. How can there be? Just ride the current wave and be ready for the next evolution.

Doug Stephens
Doug Stephens
11 years 1 month ago
Too many discussions on social media focus on the medium as a means of broadcast. And if a retailer can’t benefit directly from it through broadcast, we dismiss it entirely – which really demonstrates a lack of understanding about the value of social media in general. And in doing so, we totally neglect the power of a service like Twitter as a listening tool. Forget about Tweeting…just listen! Businesses have the ability not only to monitor their own social echo but also that of their competitors. Twenty years ago, you would have had to pay a PR firm to do this for you – not anymore. A never ending stream of free information is at their disposal and can be fine tuned to supply them with whatever they feel will make them better retailers. This may simply be a feed set up around the key-word of their product category, to see what consumers are talking about. For example, maybe I want to see all tweets that mention bicycles or pets or a particular service. Using… Read more »
Tom Redd
11 years 1 month ago

The excitement with Twitter to me seems like what was generated when they announced that modems were going to reach a 1200 baud rate! Hype was everywhere among the trend watchers and then it fluttered away into an expected standard.

Twitter is similar, yet it is a vertical trend. This means there is hype all around Twitter and that it becomes an expected standard method of communication for a select type of trend-focused individual. It will not be a common communication standard.

Down the road Twitter will “integrate” with other social comm tools and the Twitter silo will have more reach. Still, it will not be the standard.

Tweet away and make the most of it, but do think about the value of a phone call as your fingers type away at the keys. Phones and talking will re-surface soon. They will be the standard.


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