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As Christmas is just around the corner, the opportunity to boost online sales and generate more revenue for e-commerce businesses is almost here. We did an exclusive interview with Mike McGrail; Founder and Marketing Director of Velocity Digital Ltd, one of the UK's leading social media management companies. We found out the best advice on how you can use Twitter to generate more revenue for your e-commerce business over the Christmas period.
PSWD: Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I'm sure many of our readers will very much appreciate your input on this subject. So first question then... What do you think are the key advantages of using Twitter over another social media platform this Christmas?
MM: Twitter offers you a brilliant opportunity in general for being very outbound, whereas Facebook is very much an inbound platform. People come to you or you get to them through advertising - that’s really the only way.
Twitter allows you to do great outreach and that’s fantastic around Christmas. So there will be a ton of conversations going on like..."I need a present for X... I need a present for my Dad... what’s your advice for the man who has everything?" So there’s a massive opportunity there to be actively listening and then going and participating with people. That's not necessarily saying ram a sales message down their throat immediately, it's more about softening them and bringing them into the brand little by little. That’s a massive advantage.
With Twitter you can be quite clever with the use of imagery and be very reactive with things that are happening in the real world around the lead up to Christmas... you’ve got the opportunity to get a lot more attention than you might get via the likes of Facebook. And as long as you’re selling something that is a gift, there can be an opportunity for everybody.
PSWD: As you know, a lot of companies start advertising for Christmas as early on as October. What's your opinion about the ideal time to start a Christmas campaign on Twitter? What would you say are the 3 main points people need to focus on?
MM: I think now is probably a bit early. I think you should probably be putting a plan in place and getting all your content gathered, and setting up all of your listings around this time. I would really say it’s best to leave it probably until the last week of November. You don’t want to peak too early. Make sure you stay still really relevant right up to the last shopping days.
I think the three key parts are outreach, great content and good analytical insight. Having a real bank of of great content, imagery videos and infographics are all excellent things you can use as ammo to get people through to your site. It's massively important - you don’t want to be doing that at the last minute. You want to be able really focus on interacting and engaging with people.
You need to obviously be able to look back at the previous Christmas and have a real assessment of what worked and what didn’t. This will give you a great starting point for what you should be focused on this year. If it’s a company’s first kind of Twitter Campaign for Christmas then they’re going to have to test and learn a lot with a view in the following year to improve. I think that said, the preparation of content, looking at the previous available data (making sure that you can make informed decisions) and then just ensuring you’ve got time to focus on the delivery of your campaign are all key to the lead up.
PSWD: What would you say would be the number one mistake that people make when people are sending a Tweet out at Christmas time, particularly for e-commerce businesses?
MM: I think the hard sales approach and not being analytical enough about things are major mistakes that you see happening. If you’re going to succeed as a brand or an e-commerce business you have to take that soft approach that I mentioned earlier. Whilst people might be asking “oh gosh what should I get my dad for Christmas?”, they aren’t necessarily asking brands or e-commerce companies - they’re probably looking more for recommendations from their peers and the people that follow them.
I also see a lot of businesses that are sending out links back to their site that clearly aren’t tracked. So you know, if you’re looking at your Google Analytics, you should be looking to track every link with a specific URL. That way, you can really test which campaign is performing successfully. Each Tweet and any bit of content should have a specific URL for that platform.
PSWD: What would you say would be the essential components of a Tweet for an e-commerce business? What would you focus on in order to stand out from the vast other companies that are Tweeting around Christmas time?
MM: I think you’ve really got to have your own angle on it. A Tweet still has to be appropriate for your brand but you need to try and establish something that makes you stand out. So whether that’s being funny, quirky, a bit cheeky or using a tone of voice that’s perhaps a little bit different; all of these will help to make you stand out from everyone else.
I think a huge opportunity to stand out is making sure you use images that are optimised for the Twitter newsfeed. An image at 1024 by 512 pixels will fully load in people’s news feeds - and that’s a great bit of real estate to catch your eye.
Above: an example of a 1024 x 512 pixel image ready to share on Twitter.
Also make sure you do some really great curation. It’s not just about your content, it’s also about taking great content that suits your audience from other sources on the web and tweeting it out (just so that you’re feed is really interesting for people). Obviously we don’t want to lead visitors to other people's sites all the time, but that gives it another angle and another voice.
PSWD: I know we’ve touched on this previously but can you tell us about some of the typical mistakes companies make when using Twitter over Christmas?
MM: I think that a lot of companies don’t understand that they are going to have to create their resource. With it being a massively busy time on social networks, for them to really make a massive impact they’re going to have to have people in place to run it for them... and they need to know what they are doing.
You can see a brand that’s just persistent with the same stuff a mile off. By looking at the amount of engagement a post receives, you can see evidence that it might not be working for them - often you can see it's a problem that's consistently occurring.
I think losing momentum is another factor. You don’t want to have a big blast of Tweets and then let everything go quiet. Also, people who do not constantly look at their analytics don't learn what’s working for them and won't apply this to their strategy. This can be another great mistake.
PSWD: How often would you check your analytics?
MM: In the Christmas period I'd say definitely on a daily basis - it’s really important to have a regular insight. Have a snapshot report that you can send around your company which says 'this is how we’re doing', 'maybe we should think of some new ideas', or 'this is really working so let’s focus on that'. You should always be analysing as much as you can. If you only analyse your campaign weekly over Christmas, then you’re only going to do 3 or 4 reports and this might not be enough to establish a successful campaign.
PSWD: Using three words and one hashtag, what should e-commerce businesses be thinking about with their Twitter accounts this Christmas?
MM: Creative, measured, thoughtful, #curation
PSWD: And finally... using 140 characters (standard Twitter length) can you tell us your top tip to improve retail sales over the Christmas Period?
MM: To maximise the Christmas social media opportunity, you need to be planned, resourced, creative and highly targeted.
Wow, some excellent points raised there. With 284 million monthly active users and 500 million Tweets sent per day, if you run an e-commerce business it's vital that you work on your company's Twitter marketing strategy over the Christmas period.
If you have any questions about this article, or you would like to share your thoughts, Tweet Mike @VelocityDigi.
Mike started Velocity Digital Ltd about 2 years ago after spending many years working in digital agencies managing social media accounts for clients. After being involved in social media for well over 8 years, Mike has helped a wide range of clients with their social media strategy.
"I set up Velocity because I wanted to offer a service to brands and companies that was hugely impactful but also very measurable. A lot of agencies will tell you social media is not often easy to measure and implement. But with Velocity, I've ensured that I've been able to do that".
The team offer a full social media management and delivery service - covering social media strategy and planning, and also delivery. The team have a specialist knowledge in content creation and community management. This has not gone unnoticed within the social media world. Mike has recently ranked 58th in The Drum 2014 Digerati which showcases the top 100 most influential people within the UK's digital marketing industries.