Debenhams is no twit with social media

September 10th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Update: More – this time from Nielsen – on how retailers can benefit from recognising and engaging with social media – or, a new phrase, Consumer Generated Media.

UK high street retail veteran, Debenhams, came over all social yesterday with its Twitter assistants “experiment”.

The idea was to ensure its staff gave “top notch service” for the launch of its new season stock by giving customers the chance to tweet their queries to @DebenhamsRetail, whereby six assistants in its Oxford Street store would spring into action, either in person or – obviously – via the Twitterverse.

Was it simply a PR gimmick, as Socially Minded questions, or a giant step forward in customer service? Why would a shopper browsing in the store tweet an assistant for help rather than just tapping one on the shoulder?

Well, the Debenhams Twitter team, clearly still buzzing from their Tweet-fest, sent me this message within minutes of being asked how it all went:


But social media, and particularly Twitter, for retailers – while no longer new – is a strategy worth looking at:

Chris Lake over at Econsultancy has taken the time to collate the “27 varieties of tweet used by retailers” (I think he should’ve found 57, just for cringe value) which demonstrate that just pumping out offers is a legitimate, but far from being the only, reason to be a retailer active on Twitter. With this Twitter “to-do” list, a retailer should never be short of something to tweet. And Lake makes the point that using Twitter for customer service is a good way of demonstrating openness and willingness to help while displaying that in an open, online forum.

Asda is one retailer that has grasped Twitter, to the point where it has different Twitter feeds for different purposes: @asda is a place for its “Rollback” offers, getting sneak previews of new TV ads and seeing retweets of media coverage and complimentary comments. @asdajobs speaks for itself, while @asdaserviceteam is monitoring Twitter for customer upset and providing a response and @GeorgePRGirl is talking up new products, picking up quirky media mentions (Allister Darling saying he preferred George suits to Armani) and bringing some personality and humour to the brand.

Clearly, Twitter is not a cure-all for retailers’ marketing communications and customer service ambitions and issues. But as part of a social media engagement programme, it is becoming another effective tool in the box.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

4 Responses to “Debenhams is no twit with social media”

  1. Matthew Goldsbrough Says:

    A good piece, Jon, and I think you’re dead right that some of these ideas are very usable by smaller firms.

  2. Luke Brynley-Jones Says:

    Great piece. I run seminars on ‘using social media for business’ – so I’ll be adding these to my examples 😉 One example I already use is of the St Louis Pizza restaurant (@nakedpizza) that gets something like 15% of it’s turnover via Twitter.

    I’m also running ‘Monitoring Social Media 09’ ( in London in Nov – where we’ll be discussing tracking and enagement examples like these.

  3. Jon Says:

    Thanks Matthew.
    The primary investment for any firm is going to be time: to find the right connections and communicate regularly and authentically. But I think you’ll agree that would be time well spent.

  4. Jon Clements Says:

    Thanks for reading.
    It’s good to see major companies starting to adopt social media as an integral part of their communications and customer relationship strategy.

Leave a comment