Twitter Drives Traffic, Sales: A Case Study

Back in December, Dell reported that offers from its Dell Outlet Twitter account had led to more than $1 million in revenue. A small percentage for a company that books $16B in revenue annually–but a nice number nonetheless, particularly in a dreary economy.

Question is: are they the only ones?

I haven’t yet found anyone else claiming to have micromessaged their way to a number with six zeroes. But I did have an interesting conversation recently with a company that used Twitter to drive a 20 percent increase in sales in December, and additional growth in February. Here’s the story.

Namecheap, a 70-person company headquartered in LA, is a domain name registrar that’s been in business for nine years. They rely mostly on word-of-mouth advertising and have just two people who do marketing (one of whom is devoted to SEO); almost everyone else provides customer service.

Michelle Greer, their sole marketing specialist, has been on Twitter personally since 2007, and she thought the service might be a good fit for Namecheap. To convince the CEO, she showed him what Tony Hsieh, the Zappos CEO, was doing on Twitter, including promotions. He gave her the go-ahead to experiment.

Michelle set up a Namecheap Twitter account, and in December, to launch it, she ran a contest: once an hour, she posted a Christmas-related trivia question (she’s used TweetLater to preschedule the posts and a book to help her come up with the 600+ trivia questions). To win, you had to be one of the first three @replies with the correct answer. The prize was credit a for one-year domain registration; to receive it, you needed a Namecheap account.

The company considers the contest a success. People got addicted to it, battling to get in the first replies. And they Twittered and blogged about it, too, helping Namecheap’s follower count jump from 200 to over 4,000 in the one month and bumping the company’s PageRank, too.

So what about the actual business numbers? Namecheap’s site traffic increased more than 10 percent in December, driving a 20 percent increase in domain registrations. In addition, Michelle says, “The increase in Twitter followers allowed us to see a 30 percent increase in traffic when we ran a Super Bowl promo on Twitter [in February].”

The contest had costs: primarily Michelle’s time and intense attention for the whole month of December. Still, it’s no surprise that Namecheap is trying more contests. And they’re not the only ones. This week, our friends at Boing Boing launched a Tweet Week contest, giving away cool stuff to help build their Twitter followerships–which can, in turn, help drive blog traffic. Meanwhile, a consortium of four dog-focused businesses–Paw Luxury, Best Bully Sticks, Ask Spike Online and Four Legged Media–are starting the Barkhunt tonight, a scavenger hunt that will last for just one hour, with clues going up on Twitter every five minutes. (I swear, I didn’t pick that one because I’m a dog person; if you know of a cat-related Twitter contest, add a comment or @reply me, and I’ll update the post.)

Likely, it’ll be a while before a contest drives $1 million in revenue through Twitter. But they’re not the only way to make non-spam money through the service, and it’s interesting to see companies experimenting with the medium.

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  • http://www.michellesblog.net Michelle Greer

    Thanks for the post, Sarah. NameCheap used the search.twitter.com API to automate winners and the Twitter API to automate the questions. For others wanting to run contests, I’d suggest going this route to avoid going insane. In this case, our CTO Mohan was a life saver.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahm Sarah Milstein

    That’s great info, Michelle. Thanks so much for adding it.

  • http://cnet.com/openroad Matt Asay

    At Alfresco we’ve absolutely used Twitter to help drive sales. I can’t point to a six-figure deal closed via Twitter yet, but we’ve used it for prospecting, support, and more, and it has proved to be an exceptionally useful medium for reaching prospects *and* existing customers.

  • http://roi.mediatwo.net Ellie Johnson

    Twitter absolutely can drive sales. It is quickly climbing the ranks of best performing traffic driver for our agency’s website @mediatwo and our lead gen clients love how we weave Twitter into their media strategy.

    This is a great piece – thank you! I know a few clients who will be receiving it as a must read shortly.

  • http://www.eric-gehler.com/blog Eric Gehler

    Sarah excellent post and just shows some of the fascinating ways people can use twitter effectively for their business. In 140 Characters you can reach out to like mined individuals and when done properly expand your Brand Name, Marketing Message and effectiveness.

    Most companies and webmasters don’t get twitter, nor understand it’s usefulness. Twitter is basically a passive traffic sales force to your website when you provide interesting information, connect with your core audience, and communicate.

    People follow and click through to sites or links of others they find intriguing or like minded. Simple fact. Twitter Selling is about providing interest, and not Pushing or Selling, rather providing the user a LINK they could find out more information about the Twitter’r in a passive manner.

    A Used Car Salesman or Door-to-door in you face sales approach on Twitter is a waste of time and effort.

    Show answer the Twitter question “What are you doing Now?” but communicate with people and seek out those that have like niches, hobbies and activities that you share. Those are the Gold in the twitter mines.

    @bigebiz

  • http://www.seonlinemagazine.com Phil

    That’s a really good post, Sarah!
    I’m a PR officer myself and am (above all) working on a brand new internet marketing strategy for my company right now. I’ve included all sorts of social websites, including Twitter, but it’s been a little too hard to convince the CEO why would we benefit from it. Well, your article did a great job as a support material! :)

    Thanks again!

    You won me as a reader, I’ll bookmark your blog and add you in Twitter!

    Best regards,
    Phil

  • http://twitter.com/sarahm Sarah Milstein

    Thanks for all the great comments, folks. If anyone out there has a tried a Twitter strategy that didn’t work, I’d be interested to learn about that, too.

  • http://www.bidmycleaning.com Candice @ bidmycleaning.com

    The twitter people love a good contest, coupon or festival.

    We recently ran a twitter-based contest to give away a year of free maid service. We didn’t gain all that many new followers but that wasn’t really our goal. We used the #maidforme and drove people to the contest pages on our website http://www.bidmycleaning.com and the entry location at http://blog.bidmycleaning.com. Our goals were to increase traffic and gain new inbound links to our site both of which we achieved.

    We’ve been following Michelle for quite a while now and she has been a twitter innovator since we’ve known her. Previously she used her twitter talents for non- profits and had a successful twitter blood drive!

  • http://www.buzzcal.com Jeff

    Sarah,

    Great article. I am the Co-Founder of BuzzCal.com…a 5 week old Sport’s calendaring website. Twitter has been a very useful tool to not just get the word out but to openly communicate with Fans who are using BuzzCal. I come from a Radio background and cannot believe how quickly the Media landscape is evolving.

    I look forward to more great articles.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Mello

  • http://twittermaven.com Warren Sukernek

    Definitely interesting to see companies experiment with Twitter. Twitter obviously thrives on engagement with customers. As a sales channel, I think its capabilities are limited. In fact, in a survey of 240 Twitter users on brand perception this past fall, 45% of the respondents disagreed with using Twitter for promotions and coupons. This was in sharp contrast to the overwhelming interest (about 90%) in having direct conversations with brands.

  • http://julies-journeys.blogspot.com/ Julie M

    This is interesting. I am wondering about what promotions Zappo’s had on Twitter? Did sales increase from Twitter promotion?

    I have a friend who is an event planner for a local minor league baseball stadium. Do you think there would Twitter would work for that niche? Curious.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahm Sarah Milstein

    Warren, do you have a link for that survey?

    Julie, Zappos has had a lot. Here’s a description of an early one: http://tangerinetoad.blogspot.com/2008/04/zappos-and-great-twitter-give-away.html. Google can help you find more.

    In terms of the minor league stadium, Twitter tends to work well for niches, and as more people join, it’s a growing tool for local businesses, too. So I’m guessing that a thoughtful Twitter account could be a great fit.

  • http://www.bookmarket.com John Kremer

    Just before reading your post, I posted this tweet: BookMarket.com’s Alexa rank is now 141,985. 5 weeks ago it was 169,421. That’s a big jump. Twitter made a difference.

    The biggest change I’d made in my web promotions during those five weeks was to become active again on Twitter.

  • http://sunrainor.blogspot.com Finola Prescott

    thanks for this post with actual sales info – i’m in the Caribbean where twitter is very far from being commonplace and I only started – skeptically – a couple months ago: I’m already a big fan, convinced that this could be fantastic for artists and businesses here in the islands.

    Normal ‘old school’ methods of marketing are so difficult (expensive)for us to afford, twitter seems to offer the possibility for good sales and customer communication ops with a cost that can be handled.

    Great post!

  • http://www.snee.com/bobdc.blog Bob DuCharme

    On the other hand, sometimes traffic drives Twitter: http://mydailyprogress.com/index.php/traffic

  • http://www.buzzcal.com Jeff Mello

    Sarah,

    Is there a way to do a follow up to this article in a couple of months? I would be interested to hear some more success stories like John Kremer’s above. I know we at BuzzCal.com are going to continue to explore the effectiveness of Twitter to grow our Fan base. I would volunteer BuzzCal.com to be one of the guinea pigs for a follow up if needed.

    Much Appreciated!!!

    Jeff Mello
    BuzzCal Co-Founder

  • http://www.candlesoffmain.com Dave Adams

    Sarah,

    This was a great article. My wife and I own a boutique candle shop and are wondering how best to use Twitter and really get people to our site.

    We have just started videos, would love any feed back on those, and are looking for more ways to get more people to follow us.

    Thank you very much for the article.

    Dave

  • http://www.dancingbison.com Vasudev Ram

    Useful article … thanks.
    - Vasudev

  • http://www.joreteg.com Henrik Joreteg

    Thanks! The company I work for has been starting to experiment with social media. It’s nice to hear about some financial success related to Twitter.

  • http://twitter-1.blogspot.com Jack

    Here is another efforts to harvest the ‘thought stream’ on the most popular topics per hour – thought stream:
    http://twitter-1.blogspot.com

  • http://www.e-tail.be Dave

    “…and bumping the company’s PageRank”

    Sarah, can you explain the relation between this twitter case and a better pagerank of the company in person ? Thxs

    Dave

  • http://blog.adaptivesoftware.biz Parag Shah

    Nice post Sarah.

    I am a software developer and coach. I use Twitter to share things I learn while programming.

    I also Tweet when I update my blog.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahm Sarah Milstein

    Thanks for the continued great comments, everyone.

    Dave (of the candle shop), this free webcast I did for O’Reilly might help you guys think about your Twitter strategy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUR2E8l3bi8&fmt=18

    Dave (of the PageRank question), PageRank is part of Google’s formula for determining the quality of web pages and thus how high they appear in search results. Inbound links to a page are one of the things that can improve PageRank, and in this case, Namecheap gained a lot of inbound links as people blogged and twittered about the contest–thus boosting the company’s PageRank.

    Jeff, I’m sure we’ll do follow-ups of various kinds. I’ll take a look at the BuzzCal stuff.

  • http://www.primeheritage.com A.J Kotto

    Thanks for the outstanding article and webcast.
    Twitter is powerful and organically viral.
    With a little bit of creativity, one can create contests that will grow viral and explode one’s business. Keep sharing the case studies and hopefully will share mine after my niche’s peak season.

  • http://www.e-tail.be Dave

    @ Sarah..was just checking if you were talking about direct or indirect links from twittering :o

    Thxs!

    Dave

  • http://Http://www.mdurwin.com Michael Durwin

    I’ve run SoMe programs for several big name and not-so-big name clients, while few get SoMe, especially Twitter, the ones that trusted my advice saw great returns in terms of awareness, buzz, and sales. I’m just now waiting for sales figures for my latest Twitter campaign and I’ll have a case study up soon.

  • http://www.dbmnutrition.com/ Darin Booton

    That is a great article. Our company manufactures Kona Endurance supplements aimed at professional and amateur endurance athletes. Twitter has turned out to be a very valuable tool for us, it has worked out fantastic. We have not duplicated Dell’s million dollars in sales…yet!

  • http://www.buzzcal.com Jeff Mello

    Michael,

    I for one would like to hear about your follow up sales figures from using Twitter. Please follow me here: http://www.twitter.com/jeffmello

  • http://www.gutzmarketingblog.com Holly Powell

    This is a nice post.. I must say that Twitter truly drives traffic and sells.. I have read so many stories, studies and testimonials that their business improved with the use of Twitter. Truly a great site and a powerful tool, Twitter rocks.. Thanks for sharing.. Looking forward to reading other great posts.

  • http://twitter.com/maikeru76 Maikeru76

    Kudos to Sarah! The most relevant site/blog on my RSS feed aggregator, bar none

  • http://www.dynamicalsoftware.com Avery Otto

    Thanks, Sarah, for a great article. We use Twitter to promote our collaborative software development project lifecycle management solution http://www.code-roller.com

    If you follow http://www.Twitter.com/code_roller then you will see what we do now. I would love for your readers to provide feedback to what we can be doing better.

  • http://askspikeonline.com Spike from Ask Spike Online

    Sarah,

    As the creator and one of the sponsors of #barkhunt, I can tell you that the event was truly successful. On a Thursday night, we engaged a very diverse audience, from other dog-related tweeters to curious passersby, while effectively growing each of our brands in the Twitter community. The involvement went beyond the “hunters,” as we had many users re-tweeting clues and promoting the scavenger hunt that did not even participate. During the hunt, @bestbullysticks, @PawLuxury, @FourLeggedMedia, and I were on a conference call to direct the activities (since it was our first collaborative event like this), and we may have been having more fun and been more excited than the people who were actively “hunting.” Even having a strong following among the dog Twitter communities already, we were able to grow each of our communities as each other’s followers became followers of us all.

    We also started a #woofwednesday hashtag to introduce and share contacts on Twitter to our respective communities. Yesterday, it trended twice with only “same day” notice that it was happening.

    Thanks for giving us some great publicity about the hunt, and we look forward to our next #barkhunt.

  • http://agitationist.com Agitationist

    Another (very short) take on Twitter:
    http://agitationist.com/twitter-in-140-characters

  • http://twitter.com/sarahm Sarah Milstein

    Spike, thanks for letting us know what happened with the Barkhunt–and glad to hear it was a success!

  • http://askspikeonline.com Spike from Ask Spike Online

    Sarah, You’re very welcome. Anything I can do to make the community better and stronger. Glad to see so much interest in the medium of communication.

  • http://twittermaven.com Warren Sukernek

    Sarah, here is the link to the survey that I had mentioned last week (sorry I was travelling).

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/7926212/Twitter-Brand-Perception-Survey-WS

  • http://twitter.com/sarahm Sarah Milstein

    Thanks for following up, Warren. I thought those stats sounded familiar, and now that I’ve looked at the charts, I remember seeing that report a few months ago. Given how fast Twitter is growing, I wonder if the responses would be significantly different now or in a few months.

  • http://twitter.com/iwmn Paul Spence

    Just catching up with this discussion. We’ve been making use of Twitter since we launched our domain management site and iPhone App around Christmas. Rather than indulge in gratuitous, spammy self-promotion we’ve simply been sharing advice and chatting about what’s happening in the domain industry.

    Tweeple seem to have warmed to this approach and it’s consistent with our philosophy of differentiating our product through offering a friendly and user-centric service. It’s a bonus that Tweeting is fun too!

  • Saeed Khan

    Thank you Sarah for sharing such a useful information, I am working for Vopium.com (VoIP) service as Lead Online Marketing and i believe twitter will help me to find new ventures and ways to promote & hit right target audience.

  • http://www.miravalarizonaresort.com Kate Talbot

    Hi Sarah,

    We are looking at hosting a Twitter contest soon so your article was particularly helpful. Do the companies you mentioned register in all 50 states to host a contest. Are there fees associated with hosting Twitter contests as with “traditional” contests?

    Thank you,

    Kate Talbot

  • http://twitter.com/sarahm Sarah Milstein

    Glad to hear you’ve been inspired to try a contest, Kate. In terms of legal requirements, I would recommend that you contact a lawyer; these things are always specific to your own situation, location, etc. As far as fees go, Twitter is free to use, and there are no fees associated with it. Good luck with your contest!

  • http://www.doruman-business.com doruman

    Thank you Sarah for your so informative and advertent article done. It`s known thing as a contest well thoughts bring a lot of benefits in Twitter (and not only there). I think each of us already saw at least one until now.

    I remember another type of contest how was that when Ashton Kutcher challenges CNN to Twitter popularity contest at a middle of the April month, as it can be seen in this video clip from CNN.

    Definitely, by using Twitter properly, with some work and a great idea – by posting 140-character messages – anyone can succeed, not only the big companies or celebrities.

    Thank you,
    Doru

  • http://www.tweetswin.com Justin

    Lots of people are listing contests and giveaways on tweetswin.com, it’s an easy to use and free service that makes creating twitter giveaways so easy.

    They show you who your new followers were, and some other stats, as the contest is in progress.

    Some folks gain 100′s of followers just for giving away a simple product or gift card, it’s the best kind of marketing on twitter if you ask me.

  • Coffee Hound

    I am sorry, but real numbers don’t bear out your optimism about Twitter. For Dell, a $16 billion powerhouse company, to make only $3 million from Twitter despite having 1,500,000 followers is pathetic. That’s less than 0.03% of their total revenue. If Twitter died tomorrow, they would never notice. Also, if 1.5 million followers only generate $2-$4, then Twitter doesn’t hold a candle to email marketing, where a double-opt-in name is world $19.

  • http://www.thesashcompany.com Keira

    I think that social sites like Twitter & Facebook are just like the stock market. Everyone as of right now is on this social media bandwagon and eventually it’s all going to pop. It is important for companies to actively engage with people that are interested in the products or services that they sell. But some companies are just taking it too far. 2-3 years from now there will be a new social site with new social features that everyone will join that bandwagon as well. Oh wait, LinkedIn just announced their new social feature!