Tweeting Their Way Into Your Wallet

As companies use social networks to reach customers, they aren't always successful.

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When companies have Twitter and Facebook pages, are you more likely to buy their products? Or does it feel fake and turn you off the brand? I've heard a range of reactions to socially-networked corporations, and many of them have been negative. "It's almost obnoxious to me," says one 27-year-old insurance broker. He thinks it's annoying when companies pretend to be his friend.

Of course, not all Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are created equal. Some read more like press releases, while others, such as those belonging to the Gap and Starbucks, announce new products, contests, and deals. Zappos' head Tony Hsieh strikes a much more personal tone. He tweets about everything from his recent wine tasting adventures to business philosophies.

Hsieh says he thinks Tweeting does, ultimately, improve the company's sales. "In the long run, yes. We don't think of Twitter as marketing channel, though. We look at it as a way of improving our relationship and connection with our customers," he says. It seems to be working—he has almost 1.5 million followers. At the very least, those followers must be aware of the online shoe company. (Zappos also encourages employees to Tweet and posts the thoughts of the over 400 employees who do so.) So, what makes Hsieh's Twitter feed such a success while others turn off potential customers? Bruce Temkin, vice president of customer experience at Forrester Research, says the key is making the communication seem real—not like advertising. "Tony Hsieh is an avid social media user so he can communicate in a way that’s authentic. It’s a different story when other executives start using social media just because they’ve been told that they need to do it," he says.

What do you think—are you drawn to companies with active Twitter feeds? Do you find yourself any more likely to make purchases after seeing posts about products on Twitter or Facebook? Or do they ever turn you off a brand?

For more, see: "Want the Best Deals? Check Twitter, Facebook."