Reconsidering Twitter for Small Business

Posted by mhurston on September 08, 2009
Creative Corner / No Comments

In the past I’ve talked often about Twitter and its usefulness as both a marketing resource as well as sales tool for online businesses. While I still feel that Twitter is suitable for both of these, I want to make it a point to say, like many online tools, it has its flaws, a serious one at that, and should not be the only form of social media involvement you have, in fact, it might not even be the one you want to rely on the most if you’re an online retailer.

In July over 100,000 users of the popular service Tweetlater were suspended without warning by Twitter, with a simple reply of “Spam cloud hit, we’re working on restoring accounts” While most users had their accounts reinstated within a couple weeks, which may not seem much of an issue to those who post updates of their current habits, for online retailers this was a significant chunk of revenue.

Next came the DDoS attacks in August against Twitter and the site was down for some time. These two events seemed to have caused Twitter to take a new stance on user policies, some good and some not so good. The not so good, being that since the middle of August many online retailers have found their accounts suspended. While larger companies like Amazon and Dell have gone without incidence the suspensions seemed to be more aimed at the small retailers with fewer than 10,000 users.

Take retailers like @moderncourtesan, who sell lingerie on their storefronts and post sales and product specials on their Twitter accounts. Modern Courtesan was someone who had more followers than people she was following, and while she posted often, she did interact with her community of followers, even the popular lingerie site Guilty Pleasures named her as one of the top 25 lingerie Twitter accounts to follow. However, September 1st, her account was suspended without warning for “Suspicious activity” and after sending in a ticket to Twitter’s online submission form as well as sending in a follow up email days later she has not received anything other than an automatically generated response from Twitter and the account is still currently suspended.

In fact, looking through the recent activity of users from Get Satisfaction, many other online retailers and users, such as @mgemporium (a pdf book store) among others have received the same notification within the last two weeks and have yet to receive any type of response from Twitter. While some users admit to breaking Twitter’s ToS, the vast majority of suspension inquiries on Get Satisfaction have all been asking the question of “Why?” with no definite answer.

While a personal account may be easily recreated and have your friends re-added, for businesses such as @moderncourtesan and @mgemporium who have spent both time, and in some cases money on printed materials with their Twitter accounts listed on them, there is a lot of reluctance to start all over and rebrand oneself. For these companies and others, the only real option is to wait and see what Twitter will do and in the meantime look for an alternative service for marketing and sales.

– Michael G. Hurston

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