6 Reasons Twitter Won't Sell Your Widget

MCMWednesday, June 17, 2009

If you listen to some marketing experts, you'd get the impression Twitter will cure cancer (in 140 characters). Have a problem? Twitter can solve it. Want to stem bad PR? Twitter can help. Want more people buying your stuff? Twitter does that too!

But hold on. That's just a load of crap. Twitter may make it easier for you to interact with your customers, and it may make it easier for you to connect with prospective ones, but it's not going to directly sell any widgets for you. Here's why:

  1. The web of trust is a myth. Just because I follow Bob, and Bob follows Jim, and Jim likes a brand of candy that simulates the sensation of being set on fire, that doesn't mean I'm going to buy that candy based on a Twitter rave. Jim may be a raging psychopath for all I know. Most people named Jim are.
  2. Chasing sales on Twitter is like hawking steak knives at a kids' birthday party. Just because someone says, "That looks like a great cake!", it doesn't mean they want a hard sell on a blade that's perfect for cutting things tougher than chocolate icing. People expect Twitter links to be happy fluffery, not an e-commerce page. They'll resent you if you try.
  3. Everything on the Internet should be free, you fool! Twitter is free, and it should only be used for talking about free things, or complaining about things that aren't free, or pointing out discounts (wherein something is becoming more free). Sending me to your page for a $2.99 iPhone app is like a slap in the face, you heathen!
  4. Nobody is going to retweet a purchase. Assuming they don't unfollow you at the mere sight of your sneaky ploy, there are literally MINUTES between initiating a purchase and receiving most digital goods. By the time they get it, finding your referral tweet will be too much work. Effort = friction = a waste of time.
  5. Only famous people can sell things though Twitter. Wil Wheaton had to fly the Enterprise before he was allowed to sell books via Twitter. Greg Grunberg had to learn to read people's minds before he could promote Yowza. What makes you think you can just waltz in here and make anybody care about your stuff? Fight a pair of chromatic dragons, then we'll talk.
  6. An eye for an eye. Nobody bought my widget when I pimped it on Twitter last month, so why the hell would I buy yours? Uppity little bugger.

So what can you do? Is there no hope at all? Is there really no way to make money on Twitter at all?

Of course there is: you chat with people, you share links, you build relationships that are based on authenticity and/or mutual sarcasm. And over time, these new friends of yours will start to investigate what it is you do, and might happen to notice you have a new widget for sale...

...which they still won't buy, because who the hell has spending money anymore?

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