Social Media for eCommerce Businesses — Tips, Stats, Best Practices

Why social media is crucial for eCommerce brands

The idea used to be that using social media in eCommerce was a bit wishy washy; no tangible return to the business and “while it could work for some brands, it wouldn’t work for us” — this was a very common belief.

  1. Your customers are on social media;
  2. It is extremely cost-effective to market to them;
  3. It helps create a solid image.

It’s where your customers are

Today three-quarters of shoppers use social media when making a purchasing decision.

It’s extremely cost effective

At its most basic, social media is free. Companies can set up their pages, post content, respond to messages, and build a following without spending a dime on the platform. There are still internal costs (mostly staff costs for planning, creating content, and handling messages) but it’s still possible for businesses to enjoy massive growth using free social media.

It helps create a solid image

Social media allows eCommerce companies to cultivate, build and share their own image. That’s why elements such as logos and cover photos are so important: over time, audiences learn to recognize your brand even when they’re not actively looking for your products.

Building a social media strategy for eCommerce

Here we’ll explore valuable, general advice for building an eCommerce social media strategy. We’ll follow this up with specific tips for building an organic following and also executing paid social media ads — these are both exceptionally powerful tactics, but each has its own set of requirements and techniques. Let’s start at the start: goals.

#1 Define your goals

Your goal is probably to get more customers, more revenue, and more growth. But when it comes to building a strategy, your big goals should be more targeted:

  • We want to drive more traffic to our website or specific webpage
  • We want to build an engaged following that loves interacting with our brand
  • We want to sell % of our products directly through social media
  • We want to bring more locals into our brick-and-mortar store
  • We want to drive more traffic to our website or specific webpage
  • Convert 1% of post viewers to site visitors
  • Hit 10,000 monthly site visits within 6 months
  • We want to build an engaged following that loves interacting with our brand
  • Achieve an Instagram engagement rate of 5%
  • Grow a community of 2500 followers on Facebook
  • Land 5 volunteers a month for your “Our Customer’s Story” feature posts

#2 Find out where your audience “lives”

Nearly 3 billion people on Earth are “active social media users”. Since your customer base likely runs in the thousands (possibly the hundreds or tens) that’s a really unhelpful number. Your goal is to dominate a very specific niche, not appeal to half the world.

#3 Create and optimize your profiles

When creating your company profile, it’s incredibly important to get the basic information down first:

  • What’s your company called and what do you offer?
  • Where are you based?
  • How do I contact you?
  • How do I buy from you?

#4 Start posting

The fundamental key to building an engaged organic following is content. This can be virtually anything:

  • Blog posts and helpful tips
  • eBooks, Guides
  • Customer success stories
  • Collaborations with industry influencers or partners
  • Webinars, Videos
  • User generated content

#5 Use tools to automate

The biggest hurdle to social media success is the sheer amount of time you can lose racing down rabbit holes, analyzing the competition, responding to comments & DMs, creating and scheduling content, and producing analytics. From day one (and long before you see any kind of payoff) there is a lot of work to do.

  • Schedulers — There will be a most active time window for your audience. Use post schedulers to prep content in advance and always release it at the optimal time.
  • Sophisticated replies — As a rule, automating replies to your brand is an awful idea. It’s disingenuous and off putting. But some tools allow you to save authentic, pre-written responses to common questions. When a question comes through, you can send the appropriate response with a single click, which can save time for some companies without any reputational damage.
  • Customer support chatbots — On social media, it’s generally accepted that chatbots are a reasonable first line of defense. If you get a lot of simple queries, it might be worth having a bot direct them to other resources (like guides or FAQs) or whatever ticketing and support system you use for more complex queries.

#6 Interact with and engage your followers

Any time a person comments on a post or sends you a private message, you should always take the time to respond — without copy pasting or giving very short responses. Apart from an inundation of similar queries (like we talked about in the last section) it’s always worth the effort to give personal, personable replies. Every one builds your brand, credibility and relationship with followers.

Tips for building an organic following

You’ve already done the required legwork: you know who you’re targeting, you know their interests, and you’re actively building out content they’ll value. The first step to building an organic following is to keep up this effort with total consistency: keep creating, keep publishing, and don’t give up when nothing changes overnight.

Tips for executing paid social

There are two challenges with organic social media as a strategy: success is not guaranteed, and it’s slow. Despite being immensely powerful once you get going, most companies will put in months or years of effort before their organic social account is really thriving.

  • Spread awareness about new products or causes
  • Increase post engagement and/or your follower count
  • Increase overall traffic to your online store
  • Promote a specific product, catalog, or event (like a sale)
  • Bring potential customers in-store

Leverage audience segmentation, targeting and personalization

Knowing your audience is a useful yardstick for organic social media. For ads, you can actually target this specific audience and exclude everyone else! The big social networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest all allow you to segment audiences and create ultra-personalized campaigns.

  • Specific brands that prospects follow
  • Geographic location
  • Job title or income level
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Behaviors, partner connections, and more.

Understand Ad Types

If you’re new to paid ads, you might be surprised by how many different options there are. To avoid overwhelming you, here’s a quick intro into some of the most popular ad types:

  • Image ads — These are the staple of social media advertising. An engaging, text-light image which catches the users attention. Most of the ads on Instagram and Facebook are image ads, with some descriptive text underneath or to one side.
  • Carousel ads—Carousels are used when a single image isn’t enough. They allow users to swipe through various images or videos, typically for things like full product lines, seeing multi-step processes, or companies offering an array of solutions.
  • Product ads—These let customers see the prices for every item in the ad. As Social Commerce takes off, we’ll be seeing more and more of these ads across social media.
  • Stories ads—Brands can insert ads between users’ stories on Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. These are becoming increasingly interactive, allowing users to click and navigate ads in a more immersive experience. You’ll need a good design team on-hand for these!
  • Text ads—Your classic text-based ad still has a role for many companies, though image-driven posts have become the significant majority.

Design ads with a mobile-first focus

79% of users exclusively access social networks on their smartphones—if your ads are still set up for desktop, they’re set up to fail. The easiest areas to focus on are:

  • Simplicity. Keep all artwork, text, and designs simple and easy to understand.
  • Concision. Convey your message impactfully, but with as few words as possible.
  • Display. Build all aspects of your design around smartphone use, then scale up for desktop users. It’s all about tapping, scrolling, and swiping.
  • CTAs. Make all buttons and CTAs as obvious and prominent and easy to find as possible.

Test, Measure and Optimize

Testing lets you discover which of your ads works best. You iterate on the successes to create increasingly effective ads for lower costs. Once you have a successful ad, make small and iterative adjustments—if you just change everything, how will you know what was working?

The difference between eCommerce social media and “social commerce”

The main ideas of eCommerce social media are building brand awareness, engaging with prospects and clients, build trust, and ultimately contribute to the final conversion. More recently another powerful function has emerged: selling products directly within your social account, and this process is referred to as social commerce.

  • Instagram—Shoppable Posts
  • Facebook—Facebook Shops
  • Pinterest—Shoppable Product Pins and ‘Shop the Look’ ads

Start your social media journey

If your eCommerce is considering a move into the world of social media, there’s no better time to start than right now. Across this post and our other content, you’ve got all the information and guidance you need to make a considered and impactful beginning. Power-up your social media from the start with this list of 14 great social media tools to help you create images, schedule content, access analytics and much more!

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