The term social media might give you the impression that it doesn't have much to do with business. After all you post your pictures of your last party on Facebook, or you tell people about your latest holiday on Twitter.
Businesses however deal with people, so it is only natural that they go 'social' and interact with their customers that way. It's a more personal approach that makes people feel the company is interested in them.
Even though social media might not drive up the sales directly according to statistical research, they can and do increase awareness and interest in the products and services of a company.
For example, if the latest shooter video game for the Xbox is advertised on Twitter, I might not buy it straight from their web site, but I might buy it from another retailer. However, that Tweet has just contributed to that sale.
That said, even pseudo e-commerce sites such as online auctions can benefit from social media.
Talk About Related Subjects
Don't just post a tweet every time you release a new product. Engage in a discussion and address people's concerns, but always stay positive.
If you are selling computers, talking about the latest operating system can be a good way to gain followers who have been keeping an eye on that subject (hashtags on Twitter are very helpful for this), so more people become aware of your existence.
Do a Research to Find Niche Social Networks
Facebook is the biggest social network out there, but it isn't the only one. Some other specialised networks might be better suited. If you are working in a business-to-business environment for example, LinkedIn is probably a better choice.
This doesn't mean you don't use the most popular social networks, it means you also find those that are closely related to your products.
Websites such as Svpply and Fab for example attempt to connect online stores to the buyers in a more direct and social way. They take the wish list concept to a new level and products ripple through the network as more people notice them and add them to their lists.
Don't Forget To Talk About Your Site
Tell people about the latest successful auction. Talk about the amount of prizes people have won if applicable. Or let your customers know about your exclusive offers, coupons, and so on.
You can also run such offers through your social media, "Like us on so and so and leave a comment, and you will be in our monthly draw for a free coupon."
This will make people aware of your offers, let them participate and give you an idea of what interests them - if your customers don't take part, you know that they don't care about that particular offer and you can do a different one next time.
And since people have liked or commented on that offer, other people - their friends - will know about it, so that is yet another way to gain new followers.
Monitor Competitors and Find Out Where Your Customers Go
Keep an eye on how your competitors promote their products and how many people follow them. Make a note of what social networks they use as that gives you an idea of where you should promote.
Knowing about their offers and promotions can help you plan a way to be more interesting and more attractive than them.
Ask your customers through surveys where they like to spend their social media time, or check usage statistics from social networks.
Keep in mind that social networks are there to spread the word of mouth and hammer in the awareness about your company. People don't buy a Coke only after they saw an ad, however they will get it when they feel like it because it's something they are aware of.
Coca Cola is not a drink. It's a Coca Cola.
Your job is to make people instinctively think, "I would like to buy a new computer, so I'll go to [enter your e-commerce site here] to do it."