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Target leads mass merchants in driving holiday strategy via Twitter

Target is pushing the envelope with Twitter this holiday season with a strategy that revolves around the retailer’s Cartwheel deal application.

Twitter has made several changes in the past few months that will help retailers drive quick holiday sales this year. A quick comparison between Target and Walmart’s social strategies highlight the growing role that mobile is playing in building long-term relationships this year.

“Retailers will utilize trending tweets and hashtags such as #blackfriday #cybermonday #deals and #earlybirdspecials to incorporate in their social media posts to reach a broader engaged audience beyond their followers,” said Walter Delph, CEO of Adly, Los Angeles.

“In addition, retailers could further amplify traditional TV ads/conversations with social media posts to reinforce and continue the conversation in social,” he said.

Big box battle?
Leading up to Black Friday, Adly compared the Twitter strategies between Walmart and Target.

Target has roughly twice the number of followers of Walmart. Target has about 986,000 followers, and Walmart has slightly more than 429,000 followers.

Despite the significantly larger number of followers, Target pushes out an average of seven posts per day compared to Walmart’s 281 posts, according to Adly.

According to Adly, Target’s less aggressive posting strategy is paying off with more engaged audiences than Walmart.

For example, before Black Friday, there were 304 mentions of Walmart with the hashtag #BlackFriday compared to Target’s 10 mentions.

With the majority of social media activity happening via smartphones and tablets nowadays, Target is promoting its deal program Cartwheel significantly via Twitter. Cartwheel is a Facebook and mobile app that lets consumers find and redeem coupons in-store.

Walmart is also pushing holiday offers and deals via Twitter. However, the retailer is only linking the posts to Walmart’s mobile and Web sites whereas Target’s strategy is more geared at building long-term loyalty through an app download.

Targeted tweets
Twitter has taken a few steps leading up to the holiday season to build the company into a mobile commerce powerhouse.

For example, Starbucks recently kicked off what Twitter claims will be a new focus on mobile commerce with a tweet-to-buy program that lets consumers send gift cards via Twitter that can then be redeemed in-store (see story).

Starbucks’ program is one of the first efforts from Twitter in helping retailers drive commerce since the social media site hired a head of commerce in August.

Additionally, Twitter has rolled out a new advertising tool called “TV conversation targeting” that lets marketers target tweets to consumers who are tweeting about a television show.

The tool has been in place for quite some time, but up until now it was focused on marketers that were using a TV ad and social media in conjunction. Now the tool has been expanded to any marketer that wants to target consumers tuned in to TV.

Additionally, the app now lets consumers refine search results to only show local content.

Both of these new features push Twitter towards playing a stronger role in driving in-store traffic and valuable holiday sales.

“These two new features empower retailers to be more relevant at both the local and national ends of the digital marketing spectrum, and results improve alongside relevance,” said Josh Dreller, Chicago-based director of marketing research at Kenshoo.

“Twitter’s making it much more turnkey to target ads based on TV conversations, and retailers spending on TV will no doubt be receptive to being able to simply and effectively deliver complementary messages through Twitter,” he said.

Local intent?
Retailers also have a bigger opportunity to leverage Twitter’s DMA-level targeting this holiday season compared to past years.

For instance, a new targeting tool lets marketers narrow promotions to only hit Twitter users in specific demographics based on a ZIP code.

Additionally, Twitter Cards – which shows a photo embedded in a tweet – is a feature that is already commonly used by retailers.

For the holidays specifically, Twitter Cards can be a big opportunity to show off specific products that drive either online or bricks-and-mortar traffic.

“People complain about being marketed to on social, when what they’re really complaining about is being marketed to badly,” said Mark Pinsent, social and content lead at Metia, Seattle, WA.

“The more a retailer can understand the audience, the more chance they have of creating useful marketing messages,” he said. “Twitter’s newish inline photos could be really useful for retailers, but again, care must be taken if they’re not going to be seen as intrusive by the consumer.”

Since Twitter is more geared towards instant content than other social media networks, retailers should also tap into this year with location targeting to drive sales.

There is also an opportunity for real-time holiday engagement for retailers this year via Twitter, according to Lisa Cucinotta, associate director of social media at Resolution Media, New York.

“Mobile shoppers are often using their device while in store to do everything from comparison shop to texting friends for opinions to kill time while on line,” she said.

“Imagine your consumer waiting on a long line to buy something and seeing a tweet, whether promoted or organic, that features exclusive coupons – [that] could trigger them to make an impulse purchase online while they wait in line.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York