Social media sites might be all about baby photos, celebrity gossip, and selfies for most of the general public, but for eCommerce business owners, they're tools and channels for driving growth.
In eCommerce, it's becoming increasingly harder to survive without actively participating in social media communities. The expectations from consumers are too high, the competition is too fierce, and the opportunities and potential ROI are too great to ignore.
If you want to stay in the game, you have to participate.
If you want to win the game, you have to dominate.
This guide will provide you with some tips, tricks, and tools to help you master social media for eCommerce and get more ROI from your efforts.
Why Social Media Matters
Before diving too deep into the tactical recommendations that'll make up the majority of this blog post, it's important to first spend time answering the following question:
"Why should we even care about social media?"
It's a fair question to ask when you think about all the other responsibilities and areas that require your attention as a business owner - like boosting sales, keeping tabs on inventory, fulfilling orders, managing customer service, etc. Unless you already understand the value of social media and recognize it as another growth tool for your business, it's easy to justify spending your time on more pressing matters.
So why should we care? Why should we be investing more time, energy, and money into social media for our ecommerce businesses?
Consider the following statistics from a Pew Research Center report on mobile and social media usage:
- 72% of online adults are Facebook users, amounting to 62% of all American adults.
- 31% of online adults use Pinterest (up from 15% in 2012), and 28% use Instagram (up from 13% in 2012).
- 59% of Instagram users are on the platform daily, including 35% who visit several times a day. This 59% figure reflects a 10-point increase from September 2014 when 49% of Instagram users reported visiting the site on a daily basis.
- 70% of Facebook users log on daily, including 43% who do so several times a day.
As you can see above, social media isn't going away anytime soon - in fact, social media sites are only increasing in popularity and usage, and will likely continue to do so as more and more people gain access to affordable internet and smartphone devices that offer the convenience of 24/7 connectivity from anywhere.
In response to these trends, the major social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have continued to evolve their tools and resources to better enable businesses to leverage the platforms. Here are a few examples:
- Facebook Advertising Guide
- Facebook Dynamic Advertising Offering
- Facebook Ecommerce Developer Tools
- Twitter Advertising Campaign Guide
- Twitter Ad Targeting Offering
By not investing in social media, eCommerce business owners risk missing out on the opportunity to easily find and engage with extremely qualified and motivated potential buyers.
At the end of the day, that's a mistake you likely can't afford to make.
1. Pick the Right Platforms
If you're new to eCommerce and you've never used social media for business, the first thing you need to do is decide which platforms you want to develop a presence on for your business.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when they decide to go 'all in' on social is that they sign up for every social media site under the sun. This is a mistake for a few reasons.
First, it spreads you too thin and makes consistency impossible. When it comes to managing a social media presence for your business, you need to be realistic with your time - unless you have an entire team dedicated to managing social media, you're simply not going to have time to participate regularly and authentically on every single social media site that exists.
Second, your prospective customers are likely not spending their time on every single social media site out there. Instead, they're probably using one or two based on things like interests and demographics.
There are a ton of resources out there that you can dive into to help you pick the right social media channels for your business. I recommend starting with these two:
- How to Choose the Right Social Network for Your Business by Kevan Lee at Buffer
- Which Social Media Platforms Drive the Most Sales? by Mark Macdonald at Shopify
Both authors do a great job of presenting readers the facts they need to make the right decision for their business.
When it comes down to it, the best thing you can do when choosing the right social media sites for your eCommerce business is to think about who your customers are and where they're likely spending the majority of their time online.
2. Develop a Presence
Once you've decided which social media sites you want to build a presence on, your next step is to work on developing a brand profile for each platform.
As you already likely know, first impressions are everything online - you only have a few seconds to captivate visitors and convince them to stay on your page. A strong brand presence can ensure that you present first-time visitors of your social media pages and profiles with the visuals and information they need to be intrigued enough to want to learn more about you.
On your social media pages, developing an effective presence involves:
- Effective Images - Create eye-catching graphics that enable you to feature your business and products prominently on your pages. Every site has different size requirements and guidelines, and it's important to optimize your visual content for each platform.
- Brand Voice - Decide on a consistent voice and style to use when writing updates on your pages. You likely already have an idea of what your voice and style will be, but if you need help, explore this blog post from Buffer on the subject.
- Establish Guidelines - Set some clear parameters for the type of content you want to share on your social media pages.
- Develop process - Create a standardized process that you and others can follow when communicating via your pages - this is especially useful if you know that you're going to have multiple people managing your social media pages.
- Content - Create relevant content (written and visual) which you can use to share your brand story with your social media followers.
Because so many people will interact with your business for the very first time on your social media, it's important to put as much time and effort into the look and feel of your pages as you do for your own website.
3. Share Content & Updates
There's a big difference between 'social media' and 'social media marketing', and a lot of it has to do with the content you ultimately share on your pages and with your followers.
To be successful in using social media to drive more traffic to your eCommerce store, boost brand exposure, and increase sales, you have to have a clear content strategy in place. What that means is that you have to be intentional about every update you publish on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever other social media tool you decide to use.
The important thing to keep in mind is that just because you're thinking strategically about the updates you share on your pages, that doesn't mean that every update you share should be promotional in nature.
To engage authentically with your social media communities, you have to share a variety of updates - I recommend focusing on these 5 categories:
- Brand storytelling updates - These are photos, videos, or text-based updates that help your audience get to know your brand and the people behind your brand better
- Educational updates - These are niche-specific blog posts and other media from your blog or other blogs that help educate your target audience and strengthen your reputation as a trusted resource
- Entertaining updates - These are light-hearted updates that are meant to make your followers smile and engage with you on social media
- Promotional updates - These are the updates where you mention your special offers, coupons, and one-time deals that directly aim to drive traffic and sales. They should be used sparingly (read "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook" to get the idea)
- Customer-centric updates - These are the updates that spotlight happy customers, share testimonials, or offer some other form of social proof that can help eliminate any possible objections coming from prospective customers
If you can think more strategically about the content you share on your social media pages, you'll find that it becomes a lot easier to get more ROI from your efforts, whether in the form of increased engagement on your pages, increased traffic on your website, a better reputation among customers, or even a boost in sales.
4. Build a Loyal Community
To be successful on social media as an eCommerce business, you have to do more than just share updates with followers. In order to start seeing actual ROI from your efforts, you have to be willing to put the time and effort into building a loyal community on your social media pages.
Think of it this way - social media followers will visit your page and occasionally like or share your updates, but a loyal community will engage authentically with you, give you feedback on how to make your products better, and talk about your business and products in other forums.
There's no 'secret sauce' for building a loyal community on social media, but there are some best practices you can follow that will help in this regard.
- Be authentic - People don't want to interact with and buy from businesses, they want to feel like they're engaging with other human beings. Take the time to have genuine conversations with people on social media, show people that you care, and the ROI will come.
- Be consistent - There's nothing worse than radio silence from brands on social media. To build a loyal community of followers, you have to be present and consistently active. Don't just chime in when you have time - make time to consistently engage with your followers.
- Be a good listener (and responder) - Social media isn't about sell, sell, sell, it's a two-way form of communication. To build trust with your followers and strengthen loyalty, become a fantastic listener and responder. Again, show people that you care about their opinions.
- Serve your customers - Don't be obsessed with selling to people on social media - instead, become obsessed with helping people. If you can provide people with value, help them with their problems, and be there when they have questions, the sales will come.
- Don't be spammy - Don't make people feel like the only reason you're interacting with them is to make a quick buck.
Building a loyal community on your social media pages won't happen over night, so don't get don't get discouraged if your efforts don't starting paying off straight away. The best thing you can do is focus on being consistent, providing value, and being authentic with the people who choose to interact with you.
5. Invest in Automation Tools
The final action you can take to boost social media ROI is to invest in automation tools which can help you manage your social media efforts more effectively. Here are 10 tools worth testing.
- Buffer - This tool makes it easy to schedule, publish and analyze all your posts in one place.
- Hootsuite - This tool helps you identify and respond to social media mentions in real-time.
- CoSchedule - This tool helps you share your blog content with your social media followers.
- Canva - This tool allows you to create graphics for your social media pages and updates.
- Gleam - This tool can help you drive more engagement on your social media pages through contests.
- Share by SumoMe - This tool makes sharing your website and blog content incredibly easy.
- Google Analytics - This tool allows you to track ROI from your social media efforts.
- Mention - This tool helps you track and respond to mentions of your company as they appear in different places on the web (as opposed to only on social media sites).
Adopting tools like the ones listed above can help you spend less time managing social media and more time engaging with potential customers on your pages.