Twitter for Online Retailers with Dustin Stout
WP eCommerce Show

00:00 / 32:15

In Episode 91, we have invited back digital media consultant Dustin Stout, to help us explore how online retailers can get the most out of Twitter. Dustin was on an earlier show where we talked more about the broad picture of social and eCommerce. This time, we are focusing on the world of tweets.

Most online retailers think more of Facebook and Pinterest when looking at what resources will help them on social. But I encourage you to listen to Dustin’s insights on Twitter. You may just find that you were missing out on something.

We chatted about:

  • How Twitter can overall be a great choice for an online retailer
  • The strategies of tweeting without it looking like just another big advertisement
  • What products might work or not work on Twitter
  • How to place your social share buttons strategically on your product pages
  • Dustin’s thoughts on Twitter etiquette and those auto direct messages

Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost


Bob Dunn: Hey everyone and welcome back to the WP eCommerce Show. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today we start our series, How to Use Social to Grow Your Online Store Sales. To kick it off, we are going to explore Twitter and discover some ways it can benefit the online retailer. To help us with this, I have invited digital media consultant Dustin Stout for a second guest spot. In his first appearance, he gave us an overview of social and eCommerce. Today, he will be sharing great insights on the power of Twitter and how to get customers to share your products.

Hey, Dustin. Welcome to the show.

Dustin Stout: Hey, Bob. Woo-hoo.

Bob: Okay, well Patrick was just on again. He’s at number four…

Dustin: Oh, man.

Bob: So we’re pretty good. We’re going to do this Saturday Night Live thing.

Dustin: Do I get a special jacket if I come on five times?

Bob: Yeah. I’m going to think of something unique. We’ll have to find a place where we can all sit around and pretend we’re important.

Dustin: Awesome. Well, I’ll work on being cooler so I can get invited back for the third, fourth, and fifth time.

Bob: All right. Well, before we get into these questions, I know there are probably some people that missed the previous show, maybe some people who don’t really know who you are. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Meet Dustin Stout, digital media consultant

Dustin: Sure. I’m a humble little blogger. I started a blog about social media and creativity a while back. It was really just an outlet for me to share and teach what I was discovering in the world of social media. This was back in 2011, when Facebook was at its peak of coolness and not overrun with marketers. I started writing about Twitter and different social networks, Google Plus and eventually Pinterest and some of the other networks that interested me. At the time, I was a youth leader. My objective with social media was to build a platform for myself. I had the privilege of sitting in on a session with Michael Hyde at a conference. He was talking about how social media and blogging are a great way to build a platform for yourself as a personal brand. As a youth leader, I needed to grow my youth group and reach my target audience. My target audience was, guess what? On social media.

I discovered ways to reach that audience. Eventually, due to some unfortunate budget cuts, I had to leave the youth ministry. That led me to a career of consulting. People started reading what I was blogging about and liked it enough to hire me. Before too long, I owned by own digital agency and had consulted with some of the biggest corporations in the world and I learned a lot of things. Now I’ve retired from the world of consulting and just enjoy speaking and teaching. I also co-created a little WordPress plugin called Social Warfare, which was built on the principles that I used in my work with clients: how to get more shares and how to create more inbound traffic via social media. That’s where I’m at right now. Just blogging away, speaking and running a WordPress plugin company.

Bob: I know we will touch on that plugin in one of the questions here. But for the first question, I’m going to keep it really broad. As we go through these questions, we’ll narrow it down and get a little bit more specific.

Now when online retailers think of social, I’m kind of guessing, they think first of Facebook. Because they think there’s gazillion people on Facebook. That’s where everyone is at so I need to be on there, right? Then they might think about Pinterest or Instagram, only because of the visuals you can use there. Now with that said, in a nutshell, what the heck does Twitter have to offer?

What does Twitter have to offer to online retailers?

Dustin: Twitter is an interesting beast. For a long time, it’s gotten some bad press about whether or not it’s going to live. The CEO has changed more frequently then I change my socks. The company has been under a lot of press around whether or not it’s going to be around for awhile. As a company, it’s very volatile. But if you look at the penetration as far as media coverage goes,Twitter is everywhere. Twitter is a media person’s favorite social network.

The reason for that I think is several-fold. It’s easy: a high-volume network with a low barrier to entry. Unlike Facebook, people can say a lot of things and not feel like they’re overwhelming their followers. Though it’s gotten higher over the years, it’s still a relatively low- volume network whereas if you’re posting too much, people get tired of you and they tune you out. But with Twitter it’s meant to be high-volume. It’s meant to be fast-paced.

It’s a platform that allows for news, hence media outlets love it. Breaking news spreads faster and easier. There are a number of things that Twitter’s done to attract businesses and advertisers. They have their own advertising platform, regardless of the opinions about how good or bad it is. But I think it does have a lot to offer most businesses. I won’t say every business, because not every business needs to be on every social network, which is contrary to what a lot of marketers and colleagues might say.

But Twitter is a great listening tool. You can find what your audience is saying, tune into the frequency of things they’re chatting about and the things they’re excited about. One of the biggest uses of Twitter—I’m sure you know this, Bob— is for people to go on and just rant. Usually when you come across a product that has broken, or wronged you, or a company has done something wrong, where do people go first to complain? They go to Twitter. It seems that Twitter is probably one of the best platforms for customer support. I know this as a business owner myself. Usually when users are unhappy or confused or looking for support, the first social network they’ll go to is Twitter. It’s very important from a brand standpoint to address that narrative that’s going on about your brand on a social network like Twitter. Because it’s so public,  it allows a lot of opportunity to do the right thing: to serve your customers where they’re at.

Bob: Yeah. It’s interesting because it’s so easy to Tweet and it’s so in the moment. You get upset about something. You’re grr, grr, grr. You don’t even think about it. “You suck! Why did you do this?”

Dustin: Yeah. Emotions are more elevated on Twitter. From a few studies we’ve done, people tend to be a lot more unfiltered. Compared to Facebook, where some people have a little bit of a filter because there’s a self-awareness there of how they will look in front of their family and friends. Whereas on Twitter, people tend to be a bit more unhinged, a bit more uninhibited and a bit more emotional because, again, it’s a high- volume network Tweets fly by and there’s not as much longevity in these Tweets. People know that these Tweets aren’t going to be around forever. Or if they are around forever it’s not going to be easy to find them after the first 20 minutes or so.

Bob: Now, let’s dive into this a bit deeper as far as online retailers sharing their content. Twitter is great for seeing what’s going on, addressing concerns, responding to people who are upset about products—maybe even people who are saying good things about your product. What a concept. Go on Twitter and thank them. But when a retailer is thinking of sharing content on Twitter, how can they do it without it looking like nothing but a stream of ads?

How can an online retailer share content on Twitter without it looking like a stream of ads?

Dustin: That’s a tricky concept and one that is very difficult for a lot of brands to comprehend. The thing that most brands have to understand about the economy of Twitter is, again, high-volume, high-emotion. It’s a place where people go to get news, information, entertainment. They want to do it in a quick and easily consumable way. One of the things that I always encourage brands to do is to put yourself in the shoes of your target customer. Think about why they are on Twitter in the first place. Are they there to consume entertainment? Are they there to consume news? To interact with people? To say hello and be social? Once you start to dive into the personas of your target audience you can better start to figure out the  kinds of content to provide that is specifically designed for this channel, that our audience will love consuming and that will not be a blatant “buy our product” type of thing.

Twitter also offers brands the ability to be a bit more whimsical, a bit more personable.You can share things like company photos: “Here we are packaging up some products for customers.” Or “here’s a behind-the-scenes snapshot of the manufacturing line.” Anything that’s sort of behind the scene, in the moment for the business, is a great way to build that rapport and that credibility, that human connection to your brand. Or you might tap into live events that are going on. But there have been plenty of controversies, if you’re going to tap into live events, please stay on the safe side. You might also live trends or breaking news. Just remember to be smart, considerate and compassionate about these kinds of things.

Don’t tap into tragedies or disasters unless you have something that can fulfill needs at that time. But things like baseball games, or SNL, or there’s always a weekly hashtag or daily hashtag roundup. There’s a profile called @midnight and they do regular hashtag roundups. They’ll do something funny where they’ll give a theme for the hashtag and everybody’s supposed to come up with themed hashtags. For brands, I mean, it can be super relevant just to play the game. To jump into the party and add their voice into the mix without being a blatant ad. Just be a participant. That can be a very effective way to gain followers, to gain exposure and even to get you highlighted because these roundups tend to get shared as Twitter Moments. If your Tweet is picked to be a part of the moment, you get a great reach because Twitter tends to feature these moments inside it’s Moments tab. That gives a great deal of exposure in a very small amount of time.

Bob: Keeping with that same train of thought, especially as far as a retailer putting content on there, this is probably a loaded question and I don’t know if anybody has a direct answer for it. But from your experience, have you seen that there are certain products that seem to work more successfully on Twitter than other products? Or is it really just the method of delivery which has nothing to do with the product itself. It’s more like the timing, and where and how you are tweeting?

Do some products work better on Twitter than others?

Dustin: Absolutely. I would say that there are some products that do better than others. There are some products that are less publicly acceptable to share and engage with. Birth control probably wouldn’t be the best vertical to promote. Not that it’s impossible it just wouldn’t be as successful as say Pepsi or Coke on social media, something that’s a little less taboo.

You have to understand what would the motivation be of someone sharing your brand’s content or sharing your products on social. Understanding the psychology of why people share. There’s a great book out there. It’s by Jonah Berger. I’m blanking on the title right now, but it’s a fantastic book. Look for Jonah Berger and you’ll find this book. It’s about the psychology of why people share andhe motivations behind that. Essentially it comes down to this: people want to share things that make them look funny, because they’re aware of the audience. What they share is going to reflect back on them.

They want to look funny to their audience, family, and friends. They want to look intelligent. They want to look in the know. A lot of the motivation behind why people share things on social is very much about how it makes them look to others. You have to sort of think about does your product or do your services or do what you have to offer, are they conducive to making somebody else look good? If so, then you have a prime candidate for a shareable, potentially viral, brand on social media. Twitter in particular where people share much faster, and at a much higher volume.

Bob: It’s interesting because when you mentioned the birth control, when you think about it, you almost have to also think whether your product is, I don’t want to say taboo, but is a controversial product because of how certain people feel about it. Do you need to think, hey, by putting my brand out there, I might cause more conversations that I don’t want to be a part of on Twitter then I had anticipated.

How do we decide if your product is one that people would want to share on Twitter?

Dustin: It takes an intentional, strategic sit-down with the founders or the marketing team and talking about, “Look. If our brand were to be on Twitter, can we offer something in such a way that people feel good about sharing it? We want people to look good when they share it. We want them to be motivated to actually spread that message for us.” Because you’re going to waste a lot of resources and time if you’re not getting your audience to amplify your message.

I can sit here and I can pound out Facebook and Google Plus and Pinterest and Twitter posts all day long. But if my audience is not sharing it for me, if my audience isn’t extending my reach for me, all my effort is worth nothing. Because the minute I stop, all the effort stops. Whereas, if your audience is sharing it for you or amplifying your message, then your reach grows exponentially. It goes beyond your individual efforts. That’s how you get the real bang for your buck when it comes for social media.

Bob: Okay. Now let’s move away from actually being on Twitter, but keeping Twitter in mind. We know we want to get people on Twitter to share our stuff. But also we want them to be on our online store, on our eCommerce site, sharing products over to Twitter. As far as putting those sharing buttons on product pages, I mean, we’ve got all sorts of plugins to help us. There’s Blue Commerce from WordPress, there’s Shopify, all these different ways. Do you have a couple of tips on how to strategically place those share buttons, or how to encourage people to share your product?

How best do we place our share buttons to encourage more people to share our products?

Dustin: Absolutely. Because I co-founded a social sharing plugin company, I did a lot of research into this, this very idea of what are some strategies that we can use to actually help site owners get more shares. Because we didn’t want to create a product that just allows people to share. There are already tons of those.

We created our product because all the other ones sucked. We wanted one that actually worked. We did a lot of research. What we found, Bob, was that many people have the wrong idea of social sharing plug-ins. They think, okay, I just need to put buttons on my page, as many buttons as possible, and people will share. “The more buttons I have, the more people will share it”, that kind of thing. That is actually 100% wrong. What you want to do instead is figure out where your traffic is coming from. What social network is bringing you the most traffic? Which social network’s traffic is actually converting into sales or leads for sales?

There’s an easy way to do this if you have Google Analytics set up. We wrote an article about it. How do you find your most valuable social networks through Google Analytics? It’s as simple as looking at your traffic sources and seeing how many visits you’re getting from them, how much time-on-page, how many sessions per visit. You need to dig into the data to identify which social networks are giving you the best and most traffic. Once you analyze that, I recommend that you pick the two social networks, maybe three, that are driving the best traffic and use only those sharing buttons on your product pages, even on content pages.

Some people look at that and go, “Are you kidding me? I can only choose three? But what about StumbleUpon? Or what about Reddit? Yeah, Facebook, and Pinterest, and Twitter are sending me a lot of traffic, but what about Google Plus? What about this one?”

I say, listen, people like Neil Patel have done study on this themselves. It’s not just our data. It has been proven time and time again that when you minimize or limit the number of sharing buttons to three or less you actually get an increase in the number of social shares. The inbound traffic from those social shares is actually greater.

I’ll give you a real-life example. We had someone using Social Warfare and they wanted to split test this. They had two websites. They were news sites. One of them was getting anywhere between 40 and 50 million unique visitors per month. The other one was getting up to 60 million unique visitors per month. That’s a lot of data, right? A lot of stats to dig into. They experimented with five social sharing buttons. They benchmarked it to see how many shares, how much traffic they got. Then they reduced it to only two social sharing buttons. Twitter and Facebook which were there two top traffic sources. Do you know what happened when they reduced from five to two sharing buttons?

Bob: Not at all.

Dustin: The number of shares that they got per article actually increased by an average of 30%.

Bob: Wow.

Dustin: 30% more shares, which led to between 15% and 20% more traffic per post. Now on a site with up to 60 million unique session, that’s a huge increase. My  biggest tip is to strategically choose which social sharing buttons you offer your audience on your product pages, and on your blog posts, and other pages on your site that you want to be shared.

Bob: It’s interesting. It makes sense. It’s like the more choices people have, the more they have to think through that process.

Dustin: It’s called the Paradox of Choice. It’s actually a psychological principle that’s been studied again and again. I won’t ruin it for you but it’s a great study. Go search for the Paradox of Choice. You’ll be amazed at what the findings were. More options equal less actions.

Bob: On that same question. I’m curious. Let’s take a WooCommerce product page. When you’re on a product page, you might be saying, okay. I’m going to buy this or I’m not going to buy it. Is there any use of putting a share button on it? Are they really going to take the time to say, “Well, I’m not going to buy it but I’m going to share it.” Or, “I’m going to buy it and then come back and share.”

Dustin: Absolutely.Two examples of why someone would want to share something before they bought it. Number one, for me, is if they want to send it to a friend directly. My wife, for example, finds a pair of shoes that might be a good idea for a gift. My mother-in-law’s birthday is coming up. My wife might find a pair of shoes that she thinks her mother might like and she wants to send them to me and say, “Hey, what do you think of these shoes?” I’ll say, “I have no idea. I suck at shoes.”

So you turn to getting approval or affirmation from other people, on social. I’ve done it before where I’ve shared a product on a page and sent it out to my audience, said, “What do you guys think? Blue or red?” I use those social sharing buttons to crowdsource my audience. How many eyeballs does that product now get because I wanted to get some opinions?

Here’s another scenario. It has to do with one of my favorite social networks, which is technically not a social network, Pinterest. Pinterest is for eCommerce shops and online business owners. I think it’s the most underrated social media network, even though it’s not technically a social network; it’s a bookmarking site. That’s what people use it for. People use Pinterest to save things that they want to keep and be able to come back to. It’s becoming very, very popular with people who are shopping for products. Pinterest is becoming a search engine. It’s actually the fastest growing search engine in the world right now. People are taking products that they want to buy and they’re pinging them to a board like “Products I Want to Buy” or “Things for My Home” or “Ideas for My Home” or “Ideas for My Baby that’s On the Way.” Things like that.

They’re saving products that they at one point want to buy and they want somewhere to put them so they can come back to them easily and quickly. That’s just another example of social media buttons being hugely valuable. Not only helping to get more visibility, but also to have return visitors for those who may not buy right then and there.

Bob: That’s interesting when you were taking about actually looking at a product, deciding whether you want to buy it or not, and sharing it with your Twitter audience. Because it could be that you’re looking at it and you’re thinking, okay there are five reviews here. They all look kind of sketchy. I’m not sure. But maybe I can get a short review from somebody I know online who comes back and says, “Hey. I’ve had that. I’ve worn those shoes. Those are the most comfortable shoes in the world.”

Dustin: Right. Exactly.

Bob: That’s interesting because it is crowdsourcing and getting people to help you make that decision on a product that you may still be on the fence about.

Dustin: Absolutely.

Bob: I love that. For the last question, what we’ve talked about as far as Twitter, is there anything else that you want to add that our listeners should know? Some tips, or something they should stay away from on Twitter?Anything that pops into your head?

Anything other tips on effective Twitter use you want to add?

Dustin: Yeah. Obviously, there’s a lot of nuances, a lot of different etiquette for different social networks. Twitter has some things that will definitely make a poor impression of your brand. One of those things in particular, that I advise no brand to do ever, even though it is a prolific menace in the world of Twitter: auto DM’s, those automatic DM’s for when people follow you, or have favorited a post. Do not do the auto DM, spammy thing where you’re basically soliciting people right off the bat for following you. It’s going to put a bad taste in people’s mouth.

People are going to unfollow you faster than you can even imagine. It’s going to give you a reputationon Twitter as a spammer. Avoid at all costs the automatic DM. There are apps out there that tell you that you’re going to get more business, you’re going to get more clicks, you’re going to get more impressions if you use these auto DM’s. I can tell you firsthand, secondhand, and thirdhand— all the hands— that that is not a great decision for your brand in the long term.

Bob: Amen to that. Words of wisdom. Yeah. I know that I unfollow a lot of people, and brands, just for that particular reason.

Dustin: Yeah.

Bob: Well, this has been great. You opened my eyes with some of these great strategies and ideas on how to use Twitter. Because I know it is one of those platforms that some people struggle with a bit, as far as how can they sell their products. Before where you hang out on the web and how people can connect with you?

Where can we connect with Dustin on the web?

Dustin: Well, my blog is the central hub for everything that I do: So Dustn.TV. There’s no “I” in Dustn because the guy who owns that version of the domain will not give it up. No matter how many emails, and begging, and pleading that I send him. So is my personal blog. That’s the best place to connect to me.

Bob: Perfect. Well, another wrap of the show. I just want to thank you, Dustin, for coming back a second time around.

Dustin: You’re very welcome, Bob. It’s been an honor.

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