Every e-commerce business ostensibly knows that a solid presence on social media is important to the growth of their bottom line, but not every e-commerce business does social media well. For every story like Adidas selling out of a pre-release sneaker on Snapchat (Snapchat!), there are hundreds of shops scratching their heads on how to drive sales with Instagram and Facebook.
What aspects of social media is worth your time? What isn’t? What things should you post? Let’s dive into the best practices that e-commerce businesses must follow to see an increase in social-driven sales.
Dominate one platform at a time.
Especially for SMBs, managing Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Ello, SocialduJour can be overwhelming and time-consuming. We see a lot of companies being a jack of all social trades, but mastering none of them. In general, it’s a better idea to focus on one social channel at a time.
Consider a few factors:
- On which platform are you already seeing some success?
- Which platform are your competitors doing well on?
- Is your product or service better as images/video, or text?
Answering these questions can help you decide where to focus your time. For example, BirchBox is a beauty brand so it naturally lends itself to Instagram:
Meanwhile, Audible is all about long-form content and they’ve found their niche to be YouTube, where the audience is already ripe for listening to content. You’ll see them sponsoring many channels, as well as creating amazing ads themselves:
Choose a platform that is right for your business and attack it hard.
Get personal and personable.
What sort of emotion does Airbnb invoke as opposed to the Holiday Inn? How about GoPro versus Canon? The former brand seems more relatable than the latter, right? More street-level and less corporate?
In our current consumer climate, shoppers (especially Millennials) are wary of any brands that they feel are less personable. A joint study by SAP, Siegel+Gate, and Shift Thinking revealed how people thought about brands, showing two distinct clusters that they categorized as “purchase brands” and “usage brands.”
Purchase brands focus on creating demand to buy the product, while usage brands focus on creating demand for the useof the product. Consider the makeup department of a department store. The whole focus is getting you to buy the product with samples and professional makeovers. By contrast, Sephora and Ulta provide instruction, community, and services to help people feel confident in being able to use the makeup themselves when they get home.
Ultimately, customers are more loyal to a usage brand, and that loyalty turns into more sales over the lifetime of the relationship.
Your e-commerce business should strive to be a usage brand by having a relatable personality and compelling story to tell. The days of the cold monolithic corporations are giving way to brands that will engage with their customers and create a true community. And on that note…
Create and foster a community.
SproutSocial found that not engaging with your fans and customers leads to 29% of them likely going to a competitor. A third of your base is ready to leave if you keep ignoring their comments on your social media! This is exactly why it pays to spend time on fostering the conversation in your community.
It’s not enough to just post nice images on Instagram. Spend the time responding to comments, answer questions, and truly engage them as one human to another. Does this take plenty of time? Absolutely, so be smart about which platform you choose to foster this community.
For our money, Facebook is still the best place to do it. We wrote about creating an maintaining a community of happy affiliate reps via this platform, but it applies to your loyal fans as well. After all, they’re the most likely to become affiliate reps! Creating your own Facebook Group can help you get a handle on customer interaction in one place, while giving you plenty of tools to run surveys, answer FAQs, run contests, and more.
Develop a posting regimen.
Posting on social media is no longer a once a week game; it’s more like 3–5 times a day, depending on your brand’s voice and social platform. Wendy’s, which is a brand already legendary for its use of Twitter, posts a couple times a day but responds to fan tweets ALL THE TIME.
Yes, your e-commerce business may not be able to hire a full-time Twitter manager, but that doesn’t mean your brand can be a total slouch when it comes to regular posts.
For e-commerce businesses, Instagram is a great platform to show off your wares and engage with your fans. Posting three great images a day is a great goal to aim for on this platform.
Using tools like Missinglettr and Buffer can help schedule and meter out posts, so your brand is still putting new stuff up on social even while you’re asleep. And for some industry benchmarks of how often you should be posting, Hubspot has compiled research into the social habits of various niches. For example, if you’re in software/tech:
Just keep in mind as you read Hubspot’s numbers, posting fewer times is of course easier (read: lazier), so you should take the higher percentages on the left side of the graph with a grain of salt.
Commit to the “follow, like, comment” strategy.
As you build your brand on social, SMBs need to make a decent amount of noise to start getting noticed. Again, having a plan of attack is crucial to see success in this crowded field. Here are the three steps to take every day when you’re starting out:
Follow 20 of your customers, competitor customers, or those in your target market each day. Since it’s common to receive a follow back, it’s a great way to start increasing your fan base on, say, Instagram. Eventually you can shed some of the people you’ve followed to maintain a good follow/follow back ratio.
Like 3–5 posts of each new profile you follow. For some users, a follow plus a like gets their attention and gives you a follow back. But also, liking their posts is a great way to start engaging with your base. They appreciate it, and it’s a simple thing to do.
Comment on 1–2 posts of theirs, each. Short of DM’ing them, this is about as engaging as you can get on social media. Make sure when you comment it’s one or two sentences and make sure it is engaging. For instance, ask a question or give your honest thoughts on their post. Write anything that will motivate them to reply, check out your profile/website, and then hopefully follow or share.
Track your engagement to see how much your social clout has grown over a month. You can use a spreadsheet to do this, or better yet…
Utilize social metrics.
Like all online marketing, there is always measurable proof whether something is working, if you are willing to put in the work of analysis. If you’re not measuring, then you’ll never really know how effective or ineffective your social media efforts are.
At the very least, always use unique links in each of your posts so you can easily track back to where any boosts in traffic/sales came from. If you’re new to UTM tracking codes, get to know them as they will be your friend. This is why we always encourage merchants to use unique links for their affiliate reps, as it makes successes easy to trace back.
Hootsuite has a good list of the social media metrics you should track. See which ones make sense for you, and limit it to about 3 key performance indicators to keep track of. Any more than that, it’ll become a chore and you won’t do it. One of our favorite is the ratio of post-likes to post-views. The better the ratio, the more you know that your strategy is working.
Increase the quality of your posts.
Too often, busy e-commerce shops just toss up a post with bland images and content with typos. Lackluster posts like these won’t do you any favors. As consumers get more savvy with taking and processing pictures or video, they’ll have less patience for shoddy quality posts.
In our Instagram guide, we said businesses must curate a feed that reflects the brand. After all, to many people, your Instagram feed is your brand. It is often your most outward facing presence online. No matter how great your actual website looks, more eyeballs will be on your feed than your product pages.
Take the time (and money) to take great looking images and video. And use humor as much as possible. If Staples can make office supplies fun and hilarious, you can do it with your brand too:
Social media is powerful enough to make or break your e-commerce business. Follow these best practices to put your brand in the best position to increase sales by engaging with your loyal fan base.
Author: Robert Woo
Robert Woo is heavy into tech marketing, affiliate marketing, just marketing of all sorts.