November 8, 2013, 2:59 PM

Twitter’s Top 10 retailers

Internet Retailer reveals which online merchants get the most from the social network.

Lead Photo

ThinkGeek Inc. couldn’t care less that Twitter went public last week. In fact, the merchant hasn’t invested a penny in Sponsored Tweets, Promoted Tweets or any of the mobile ad options available to retailers, says head of public relations Steve Zimmerman.

But ThinkGeek is expert at using the social network to engage its customers, respond to service issues and to create a sense of community among its followers—and these efforts often lead to more traffic and sales on ThinkGeek.com, according to an analysis of data on Top500Guide.com, Internet Retailer’s online subscription database of global e-commerce metrics.

The fact that last week Twitter pulled off a successful IPO, with shares quickly shooting up to nearly double the original price, proves that investors view the social network as a potential moneymaker. With ThinkGeek leading the pack, here is a list of the top 10 online retailers that are most effective on Twitter. All 10 are apparel and accessories retailers except for ThinkGeek, which Internet Retailer classifies as a mass merchant because it sells goods in a variety of categories including apparel, though it’s best known for its selection of electronic gadgets.

For the purposes of this analysis, Internet Retailers measures effectiveness by the percentage of web site traffic, often called referral traffic, that comes from Twitter.

There are a number of metrics that point to ThinkGeek’s effectiveness on Twitter—the e-retailer has more than 750,000 followers, and it gets around 1.5% of its site traffic from Twitter, according to Top500Guide.com. While 1.5% may seem like a small number, it’s the highest of all retailers ranked in the Internet Retailer Social Media 300, which profiles the leaders in social commerce based on their percentage of traffic from social networks.

Moreover, each one of ThinkGeek’s Tweets is shared or retweeted 18 times on average, and the @ThinkGeek Twitter handle, or user account name, is mentioned more than 188,000 times per year—equivalent to 515 times per day.

ThinkGeek is tireless in its efforts to keep in touch with customers, the e-retailer says. In fact, ThinkGeek’s new social media specialist Lily Chau spends about 30% or 35% of her day tweeting, she says. She tweets around four times per day often something random and funny like the below, which juxtaposes literary and television sensations Harry Potter and Honey Boo Boo. 

ThinkGeek followers love these types of Tweets, as evidenced by the fact that within 12 hours, more than 160 Twitter users shared this post and 100 “favorited it,” the equivalent to a Like on Facebook.

Chau spends much of her time, however, replying to Tweets from ThinkGeek followers reaching out directly to the retailer, or from other users that mention ThinkGeek in any way on Twitter. “I try to respond to almost every tweet when they mention us,” she says. “If it’s their birthday and they want us to wish them happy birthday, we do it. Last week, a bunch of people shared their Halloween costumes with us, and that was great.”

This type of give and take relationship with customers on Twitter bodes well for ThinkGeek when it moves beyond the silly and random, and shares an image of a new product embedded with a link back to its site. “Our followers see us more of a friend than they do a retailer,” Zimmerman says. “So when they see a cool new product from us on Twitter, they click on it because they want to, and not because it’s forced on them.”

ThinkGeek brought in $1.7 million in direct social commerce sales in 2012, or around 1.4% of its total e-commerce sales of $118.9 million. The merchant says it uses several tools to track social commerce sales figures, though it would not disclose details, as many of the tools are custom-built and proprietary.

In January, 2013 social commerce sales numbers will be released on Top500Guide.com for the 500 retailers ranked in the much-expanded 2014 edition of the Social Media 500.

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