January 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

A party on Twitter brings customers to Organize.com

Organize.com invited 800 close friends to its latest social marketing event–a two-hour Twitter party–and came away with 323 orders and $15,000 in incremental sales as a result.

Organize.com Inc. invited 800 close friends to its latest social marketing event–a two-hour Twitter party–and came away with 323 orders and $15,000 in incremental sales as a result.

In the fall, Organize.com, No. 475 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name), began looking at new social marketing initiatives to drive web site traffic and sales and decided that hosting a Twitter get-together was worth a try.

A Twitter party consists of constant tweeting between Twitter members on a passionate topic and giveaways such as door prizes, a grand prize, and coupons. The host creates an interactive chat in a party atmosphere and keeps the Twitter conversations–and giveaways–flowing on a frequent basis. Organize.com, which sells organizational products, housewares and related merchandise, held its first-ever Twitter party in December, right before the holidays, to generate sales from its most loyal customers: women with families and an avid interest in organizational products for the home and office.

Organize.com, which launched a social marketing program two years ago, initiated its Twitter party after reading blog accounts and articles about successful events staged in other industries. To plan its own party, Organize.com scheduled the event for Dec. 9 and marketed the occasion to Organize.com customers and others through e-mail blasts and Twitter messages. Organize.com also promoted the party on its Facebook page and on Mrs. Organized, the company blog.

To register for the party, interested customers were directed to a special sign-up page on Organize.com. Once on the page, the customer filled in her Twitter account information and received a hash tag that enabled her to log in and attend the event. Prior to the party, Organize.com also spent several weeks planning a number of giveaways, which included a grand prize of a holiday table setting for 12, and $500 worth of door prizes. It also developed a series of questions related to tips and techniques for organizing the home and office, and favorite products.

Organize.com only expected 100 Twitter users to access the event, but ultimately 800 participated. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we had about 320 guests sign up on the day of the party,” says Organize.com vice president of marketing and merchandising Deborah Shearer. “We were pretty blown away.”

Once the party was under way, Organize.com marketing managers took turns as the host to send out new questions and announce door prize winners every 15 minutes. Organize.com sent out new tweets every few minutes and monitored the responding tweet messaging among partygoers in real-time. “A Twitter party is like a live chat, but social media allows much more interaction between the participants,” says Shearer. “You have to know how to really use Twitter to stage an event like this.”

Organize.com carefully chose a window from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to hold its Twitter party, and the timing paid dividends. During and just after the party, about 150 customers placed an order on Organize.com and another 173 redeemed a coupon worth $5 off a purchase of $25 or more during the rest of December, the company says. “We chose to hold the event during the evening when our core customer has some quality time and she could relax with a glass of wine and tweet with friends and others who are passionate about our products and the content we post in our blog,” says Shearer.

Organize.com was an early adopter of social marketing and the blog and special events, such as the Twitter party, helped Organize.com hold sales steady at $11.5 million in 2009, up 8.5% from $10.6 million in 2008, says CEO Terry Shearer. “We discovered a strong new marketing tool that just delivered unprecedented results for a two-hour event,” he says. “Innovations like the Twitter party helped us get through a very challenging year.”

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