Back on 9/29, Scott Pooler did a blog post on his eBay Trading Assistant Journal about Twibler. As anyone who follows Scott’s Twitter feed knows, he really hates very obvious shameless self-promotion so, as you might expect, he feels that a service like Twibler is a waste of time and is more damaging to your business than helpful.
Before we continue, let’s do a quick recap of what all these services mean. Twitter is a microblogging platform. Put another way, it’s like a blog where each entry cannot be longer than 160 characters. It is also a powerful marketing tool because it also operates like a public instant messaging program, letting you touch base with other people in your area of interest. For an example, my Twitter feed is http://www.twitter.com/HillaryDePiano. If you follow me, you can not only see what I am talking about off of the blog, but you can also see what I am saying to others and what others are saying to me.
Twibler is a free program that automatically imports your eBay listings to Twitter. In other words, each time you list a new item, Twibler creates a tweet (Twitter post) with the title of the item and then a link to the item.
When I first started out on Twitter, I had a similar service to Twibler set up for about 24 hours before it irritated me so much that I disabled it. If I was annoyed by seeing my own listings, I could only imagine how annoyed other people would be.
Unless you are selling 5 or less items a week on eBay, you should not be importing your listings into your Twitter feed. It will irritate your followers and will likely cause you to lose them pretty quickly. If people aren’t following you, they aren’t reading what you say so they aren’t a lot of good to you. Shameless automated self-promotion just interrupts the flow of conversation on Twitter.
So you may be tempted to think that I agree with Scott on this. But, I actually don’t.
The Twibler website claims opening a new or second account on Twitter will solve all the problems above. Please explain to me the purpose, if no one was following the new account? Unless you sell something extremely rare on eBay, I doubt any eBay seller would collect many Twitter followers with an account that simply posted eBay listings to Twitter.
Rather than being argumentative, I actually can provide a different perspective on this because, while Scott is speculating, I have actually done this and have some data to share. When I first started on Twitter, I noticed that many of the most followed “people” on Twitter were not people at all. Organizations and news sources like CNN, FoxNews, political candidates, celebrities, dotcoms etc all have Twitter feeds. These feeds are not a dialogue like a normal Twitter feed. You do not follow CNN or FoxNews because you hope to start a conversation and network with them. You start to follow them simply because Twitter is where you spend most of your time and it allows you to get updates on your favorite sites without opening a new program.
Put another way, for many companies, Twitter is just another RSS feed, another way for you to subscribe to their updates.
When I started to use Twitter, I immediately encouraged Priced Nostalgia to set up a Twitter feed, which we did. You can view it at http://www.twitter.com/PricedNostalgia. This Twitter feed is automated in the truest sense of the word. Every new blog post or new announcement to the PN site is automatically tweeted into Twitter as are every new eBay listing. We never touch it. There is no content on this feed that doesn’t pull from somewhere else.
You will also notice that it only has 14 followers (which is actually relatively impressive considering PN has never even advertised this feed and doesn’t link to it on their homepage). So, you may argue that it isn’t doing PN’s business any good. But, keep reading.
A few weeks ago, we came to the same conclusion and disabled the automatic eBay importation. Much to our surprise, when we looked at our traffic stats a few days later, our eBay store traffic had taken a hit.
We reactivated the automatic eBay importation to see if that was it. Now, instead of Twibler, we use TwitterFeed to import our eBay listings. This is another free service but, unlike Twibler, it gives you more control over your listings. Specifically, we are having it import not just the RSS of our eBay Store listings but the RSS of our store with our eBay affiliate ID embedded (also earmarked with a channel we set up called Twitter). We did this so that we could track hits and conversions on this feed and see if this automated Twitter feed was actually doing us any good.
Here is the data you will be interested in. Since we started this Twitter account with eBay affiliates on 8/11/08, the number of hits per day has been steadily increasing. Even taking into account the week we disabled this automatic feed as a test, we average 50 to 60 hits a day to our store directly from our Twitter feed alone. Now 50 to 60 hits a day alone does not a business make but it certainly doesn’t hurt and that additional traffic and sales are coming to us completely free and with no work on our part whatsoever. Also, the number of hits a day keeps increasing so the benefit of this set-up increases ever day we have it running.
Some of these convert, some don’t but it brings us to an interesting point.
Your followers are not the only people seeing your feed on Twitter. People all over the web are following keyword results for whatever they are passionate about. Need an example? Want to see what people are saying about eBay right now in real time? Check out this link. As long as your java settings are new enough, it will update in real time (new tweets sliding in as they are posted) or you can subscribe to it via RSS. They have an official one set up for the election but you can set one up easily for whatever you are into. Priced Nostalgia is subscribed to everyone who is tweeting about My Little Pony to hear about trends and to see what people are saying.
What are we saying? Well, even if you aren’t following us, you may have seen Priced Nostalgia’s recent blog post about the Obama Jack-in-the-Box if you are following the main election feed. If you are following Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a keyword, even if you don’t follow us, you saw our listing for the Night Ninja Michelangelo a few weeks ago and may have decided to check it out.
So, in conclusion, there are two benefits to setting up an automated Twitter promotion account for your company, provided you keep it separate from your main account.
The first benefits is that it allows your readers and subscribers another convenient way to follow the updates for your business and stay aware of what your company does. If Twitter is where they spend the most time, it makes it easier for them to see your updates on their terms.
The second benefit is that it helps new customers who are watching certain trends or keywords to discover your items even if they are not following you and brings you the potential for more customers and more sales.
If anyone else has managed to set up a successful automatically imported Twitter feed (or if you just want to rant about how much you hate those) please join the discussion below.