September 24, 2010, 10:00 AM

Giving voice in 140 characters or less

Twitter enables retailers to interact with consumers on a human level.

I was talking recently with Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research Inc. senior vice president, idea development, when I asked him to describe the most effective ways retailers are using Twitter.

Twitter is good at just about everything,” he said, before pointing to retailers using the microblogging site as a tool for customer engagement, promotions, customer service, and even, on occasion, direct sales.

Among those potential benefits, there’s one thing that the site does as good, if not better, than just about any other marketing platform—giving voice to an otherwise anonymous company or individual.

Take for instance, online-only U.K. retailer Appliances Online, which, in addition to its own site, operates white-label sites for a number of retailers. The retailer has been using Twitter for more than a year to build brand awareness.

It does so by using its employees’ own voices as they engage consumers with questions, such as “How do you pronounce ‘scone’” which is a word that is a key giveaway as to where a U.K. resident was raised, says Ben Fox, content editor.

Because they’re not pushing a hard sell on Twitter, which causes me and countless others to click Unfollow, they’re building a solid audience.

“We want to engage consumers in conversation because that puts a human face on who we are,” he says.

Given the option between buying from a faceless retailer and one that I feel like I know, I know which one I’ll choose.  I suspect I’m not alone.  

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