You might think that social media is nothing more than following your old high school friends or seeing what celebs are doing today. But, in reality, social media is so much more than that. Social media has completely changed the way that we live in today’s society. Not only has it changed how we communicate, but it has also changed the way that we shop. In fact, social media has played a huge role in the shift toward online shopping. By the end of the year, it’s expected that smartphones will overtake desktop in eCommerce revenue.
Today, if you are an online merchant, you can’t afford to be inactive on social media. 75% of people admit to buying something just because they saw it on social media, and 90% of people say that they will turn to social media if they need help on a buying decision.
Sure, we can admit that measuring the ROI of social media is a bit tricky. Is tweeting actually helping your sales? Or does posting on Facebook help your bottom line at all? That depends. But we do know one thing—reaching your customers where they are is priceless in today’s competitive online market.
How you use social media—which platforms, what apps, the post variety—will depend on the details of your business. Luckily, social media gives you the ability to create a customized campaign to reach your audience. Here, we will go into the platforms, goals, and tactics that eCommerce merchants need to be taking into consideration when it comes to their social presence.
There are tons of social media platforms out there. It seems like a new one debuts every day or so. Here, we will cover the main ones that most businesses can utilize. For a more comprehensive list of platforms, check out this list.
It’s hard to believe that this social media giant, which has over a billion users, once started out in Zuckerberg’s dorm room. Today, everyone and their grandmothers have a Facebook account. In fact, there are close to 7.5 billion people on this earth, and, by the end of 2016, Facebook had 1.8 billion users. Today, Facebook has the highest conversion rate for eCommerce, at 1.85%. They also make up almost 2/3 of all traffic to Shopify stores.
Currently, there are over 319 million users on Twitter, a popular channel for real-time news and conversation. Users can send and receive tweets—140-character messages. Twitter has also started playing around with selling directly on the platform with their “Buy Now Buttons.”
Think of LinkedIn as the professional version of Facebook. LinkedIn allows its 450 million users the ability to connect with other professionals and share content with their followers.
Pinterest can be an eCommerce merchant’s best friend. This social media site is a visual platform that allows users to pin or share their favorite photos to their boards. In general, Pinterest currently has over 100 million monthly active users, most of whom are women. They also have integrated buyable pin buttons for eCommerce merchants to use to sell directly on the platform.
Instagram is another visual social media site that currently boasts over 500 million members, many of which are Millennials. Instagram allows users to posts photos to their site, with the site’s multiple filters, and they can easily be shared to other social media networks. In 2012, it became part of the Facebook family when the giant bought it for $1 billion dollars. Because of this integration, Instagram is starting to acquire some of Facebook’s ad options.
Google+, if you couldn’t guess, is Google’s introduction into the social media space. They currently have a community of over 300 million members. While Google+ was a bit of a latecomer to the game, it really doesn’t matter—it’s from Google, the biggest media company in the world. Because of that alone, it’s worth using. Also, using the platform gives you seamless integration with Google’s other features and gives you their popular video conferencing feature, Hangouts.
Snapchat is somewhat of a newcomer to the business side of social media. While the app has been popular with teens and Millennials, businesses are just now starting to really dive into the marketing capabilities of the platform. There are over 150 million daily active users on Snapchat. The platform allows you to share pictures and videos to your followers, either directly or privately or to your entire list of followers on your “Story.”
Why Social Media Is Important
In today’s market, it’s all about convenience for the customer. People today are more impatient than ever. Think about it—we have the world at our fingertips, now, with the technological advancements of the last decade. You can get by-the-second news updates, Amazon has two-hour delivery, you can get your groceries delivered to your door—why go out of your way to do something when the internet can do it faster and easier?
This is the type of thinking that you have to take into consideration when you are a merchant today. How can you make yourself more convenient to the customer? First things first: You want to meet them where they are. Don’t expect to build a pretty eCommerce site and have people start flocking to you immediately. You have to find them where they are.
So, where are people these days? Social media. Don’t believe us? Consider these facts: Facebook has 1/7 of the world’s population hooked, Snapchatters check their account on average 14 times a day, and Instagram posts number about 95 million pictures and videos a day. That’s where the people are—especially Millennials, who, by the end of the year, are expected to have the most spending power of any generation.
Today, social media accounts for about 9% of company budgets, but by 2022 that number is projected to increase to 22%. Why? Companies are starting to really see and understand the potential that social media has to build their customer base and retain previous customers. You can find first-time customers in ways that you can’t with any other customer acquisition channel.
You have the ability to carefully create a campaign based on their demographics and interests and find them in real time. You can also instill loyalty with your existing customers by making them feel like they are important to you. Focus on sharing helpful information and building relationships with your audience.
You can also use social media to reach your customers in real-time when they need you most. Let me give you an example: A few years ago, I was having problems trying to check into my flight on Delta. I called their customer service number, but I was put on hold. While I was waiting for the next representative, which I was told could take up to an hour, I tweeted to them about the problem I was having.
In a matter of five minutes, Delta reached out to me via Twitter and had the situation fixed. Who knows how long I would have been on hold with them on the phone and how annoyed I would have been after waiting for an hour? But, with social media, they were able to quickly respond to me and fix my problem.
I now tell that story all the time; how great they were when I was having problems with their service and how quickly they took care of it. Not only did they use social media for customer service, they also turned me into a walking marketer for them. They built a relationship with me, and now I’m a life-long fan.
Tactics for eCommerce Social Media
A. Set Goals
The first thing that you want to do when you start to think about your company’s social media presence is to set defined goals. There is no point in publishing content on social media networks if you aren’t going to monitor it. How will you know if it is successful or not? How will you know if it is really worth the time and effort?
Consider setting benchmarks based on the following:
The amount of traffic you want to bring to the platform.
The number of fans and followers you want to have.
The amount of engagement you want to receive.
The ratio of posts to the amount of engagement.
The ratio of visitors to conversions.
The ratio of audience growth to your engagement.
For your information and comparison, Hubspot’s 2015 Social Media Benchmark Report found that retailers in the eCommerce space had an average of 370,000 followers, 6 posts per week, and 11.4 interactions per post.
B. Provide Value
The number-one thing when it comes to social media is reaching your customers where they are. The second is then providing them value. People aren’t going to like you on Facebook or follow you on Instagram just for nothing. They want value out of it. They aren’t there for your sale pitches. They want content that is going to benefit them in some way.
That isn’t to say that you can’t be promotional. Of course, you want to promote your brand, but you want to balance it with other varied posts—stories, news, tips, helpful articles you found—information that is going to educate, entertain, or inform your customer base. Make sure, when you are promoting your brand, that you are highlighting the best, most interesting, and unique parts of your company. Tell your customers something that they might not know about you—something they couldn’t have found out any other way.
C. Optimize Your Posts
One tip to help you perform better on social media is to optimize your posts. Just like in SEO, you want to be using keywords that will help increase your visibility. Perform keyword research or take a page from your SEO efforts, and use those in your posts to increase conversions. This will allow you to reach an even larger audience than your current followers.
Remember, each platform has different functions and different ways in which you should optimize, but, in general, add your desired keywords, and you should be good. And, if possible, add a visual element to help grab viewers’ attention.
D. Share Reviews
This is something of a cheat—let your customers do the marketing for you! Nothing sells a product, service, or company better than a happy customer. People are much more likely to trust an objective third party who says that your products are the bomb than they are if you tell them. In fact, 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Here are my top ways to get reviews:
Ask: You can always ask your customers to review you. However, you need to be careful. According to Google’s guidelines, you can’t offer any incentives for reviews.
POP: Create POP, or point of purchase, displays that ask them to review you. Make sure you first identify the top places that your customers come in contact with your product.
Email Them: You can use your email marketing to help you gain reviews. You can email them and ask by putting a link at the bottom of your email.
Frequent Flyers: Ask those who are repeat customers. If they keep coming back to you, chances are that they like you and will be glad to leave you a review.
Social: This should be obvious, considering our topic here. You can ask your followers on social media to review you. However, you want to make sure that you don’t make it too easy to also leave negative reviews.
E. Share Images
Most of us are going to be more visually driven when it comes to social media. Pictures and videos are more likely to catch our attention than a bunch of text. A human has a shorter attention span than a goldfish; therefore, whatever you can do to grab attention, DO IT.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but studies have found that images are more engaging on social media than text-only posts. Therefore, whenever possible, you want to make sure you add a visual element. This is especially important for retailers who are on Instagram and Pinterest—these are visual platforms. Make your pictures high-quality, shareable and creative.
Maybe you aren’t a clothing retailer with tens of thousands of pictures of clothes to share—that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using images. Maybe you offer a service; you can still share images—you just have to be a bit more creative. Show some behind-the-scenes pictures of your company and employees, or somehow feature customers. How you add images depends on your brand and how you want to market it.
F. Interact with Your Followers
Social media is the place to directly interact with your customers and prospects. This helps not only to give a human face to your company but, also, to show your followers that you care about them. Nobody wants to be treated as a dollar sign; instead, they want to know that what they have to say is relevant and meaningful to you. Make sure you are monitoring posts that people are making about your company and engaging with them on a daily basis.
Respond when people comment or share your content, ask questions that foster responses, participate in chats and discussions—whatever you can do to reach more people and connect with your followers.
Obviously, the more followers you have, the less personal your interactions will become, but you want to do everything you would for a friend—talk to them, reach out. You do have to be careful with your interactions, of course. Sometimes, if you are dealing with a disgruntled customer or employee, it might be best not to get involved.
G. Interact with Influencers
Another tactic for using social media is using the platforms as a way to build relationships with leaders and influencers in your niche. No matter what area of business you are in, there are going to be certain people who have a lot of pull and importance. Your goal should be to be that person—but, in the meantime, work on building relationships with those who already are. Having those relationships built up is never going to hurt you. It’s good to have people in your corner.
One great way to build these relationships is by joining groups on social media that are related to your industry or niche. Post content there that you think will help out other members—again, it’s about adding value to their lives. What expert knowledge can you pass along that will make others think of you as a leader?
H. Be Concise
Again, remember that your followers have the attention span of a goldfish. They can’t take in long form content. Studies have shown shorter messages gain more engagement. This makes sense—your followers can easily digest and share short, visual messages, not long paragraphs. Therefore, you need to be as compelling and concise as possible when you are posting on social media.
I. Be Consistent
One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t post once a month and expect to get anything out of your social media networks. You need to be consistent—posting on a regular basis is necessary if you want to improve your engagement and reach. It also shows that you are committed to sharing information with your audience.
Now, I know that it can be hard to consistently post on social media, but it doesn’t have to be. Use a marketing automation tool to help you increase your posts. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can schedule out your messages in advance so that you don’t have to remember to post every single day. This means you can schedule a week or two in advance so that you have a continuous stream of content being posted.
J. Start Blogging
What do you do if you don’t have content to continuously share on your social media? Create it. A blog can be a great stream of new content where you can pass along your information to your audience. Not only does this give you an outlet to showcase your company’s unique content, but this can also help to establish you as a thought leader.
K. Use Hashtags
Don’t roll your eyes—hashtags can be a very helpful tool for marketers who are using social media. These tags help your content get discovered by more people, more frequently. They also help to organize your content.
One thing to keep in mind—hashtags are different on different platforms. It might be okay to have 7 or 8 hashtags on Instagram or Twitter, whereas it might be frowned upon on your Facebook page. Do research into different hashtags in your industry and see how others are using them.
L. Use Paid Advertising
Paid advertising is one of the biggest benefits of social media. It can take your social media to a whole new level. Most of the platforms have their own advertising component— i.e., Facebook Ads, Promoted Tweets, LinkedIn ads—but, by far, Facebook (and, therefore, Instagram) has the most sophisticated and advanced advertising of any of the social media platforms.
You might be thinking “Why do I have to pay to use social media? I thought it was free.” Technically, social media platforms are free, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be investing some of your budget into them.
The days of organic and free social media marketing are extremely limited. Soon, you are going to have to pay to be posting your content on social outlets. Why is this? Think about it—Facebook isn’t the giant it is because they offer free accounts to everyone. They’ve become so large because they know how to make money. They realized they could charge companies to advertise on their platform. While you can post something and have it reach part of your audience, you are going to have to pay in order to reach more of them.
And you should be—Facebook ads are a very effective way to reach your existing customers and potential ones. You can segment your ads by age, location, interest, gender, job title, and more.
With a large majority of consumers being active on social media, and 93% of consumers saying that they turn to social media to help them make buying decisions, it is critical for those in the eCommerce industry to be active on these platforms. Today, your social media accounts are like the storefronts in the 50s. They are how you communicate, share information, and showcase your company to audiences.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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