The New York Times Bits blog outlines twitter’s plan to link shopping advice with purchasing. If you are a consumer looking for the best value, this news ranks high on the “how cool is that? I can’t wait!” chart. If you run a company providing goods and service, you better start getting ready. Now. Your world is about to change.
According to the post, “twitter would couple e-commerce with advice from other shoppers.” This combination should strike fear in every ecommerce company whose service is less than five stars. And, if you provide five star service, you should be a little nervous because advice is very different from reviews. Advice is personal.
Reviews are already available on consumer sites and at ecommerce companies for a wide range of products and services. They typically include a rating and commentary. Shoppers have to filter through the messages to see which ones apply to their concerns.
Twitter offers a dialogue.
Instead of reading static copy and trying to determine if the information is accurate, shoppers will be able to ask the reviewer questions. The direct contact provides consumers the ability to measure credibility. They can find out if the reviewer is your mother, an alienated ex-employee, or a legitimate customer providing the commentary.
This direct communication with people who have purchased your products or services provides an inside look into your operations. Any question you can imagine (and some you can’t) will be asked. And, it will be answered by someone unaffiliated with your company. You will have very little control over your brand’s service image.
Join in before you’re left out.
While you can’t control your image, you can manage it if you are an active participant in the social media world. Your first step is to establish a presence. Start with twitter and other popular platforms. Watch the horizon for emerging sites so you can stay ahead of your competition.
Once you’ve chosen your platforms of choice, start a dialogue. Let people get to know you and your brand. Respond to every mention of your company or products. Be appreciative of positive comments, correct erroneous ones, and resolve any issues.
The second step (to be completed simultaneously with the first one) is to get your operational house in order. If you have any issues that you don’t want in the public domain, resolve them. Ship orders in a timely manner, Insure high quality products. Serve your customers well. Keeping your customers happy reduces negative comments.
Think of the online world as your hometown community (just a lot bigger.) You’ll see trendsetters, followers, and gossipers. Make all of them your friends. They control your revenue.
How do you think twitter’s business model will affect your business?