– A Guest Post by Plannable.io –
There’s no doubt that social media and eCommerce are as linked as it gets these days. At least I hope there’s no doubt. If you have or are part of an eCommerce business, you understand that all your customers are on social media and most of their purchasing decisions are at least influenced if not entirely made in that space.
In this piece, I’ll go through the steps needed to grow your eCommerce business using the wonders that social media creates. We’ll discuss:
- Research & Audit;
- Social Media Roles for eCommerce businesses;
- eCommerce Social Media Metrics to watch.
Conduct your social media audit and research
First, if you’re just starting with social media accounts, begin by running some (much needed) research. Social is noisy and research is vital in your efforts to shed some light on your brand.
To map your social media strategy, you need to understand what people are talking about, what your competitors are doing, how and for whom. For an eCommerce business, you should divide your research into:
- Topics & trends;
1. Topics & Trends
It’s quite important to start with understanding the topics debated around your brand and line of business. It is a way for you to capture the overview, and see, at a glance, where you could add value, what conversations you could join and what the volume around your thought-out topics is.
To conduct this part of the research, try to think about keywords and #hashtags that are related to your business. For example, if you sell accessories made from recycled items, you should search for topics around:
- Global warming;
- Recycling initiatives;
- Fashion accessories;
Once you have brainstormed your possible keywords, search these hashtags and words on each social platform. Then, map out the main topics and hashtags and use them as a starting point in your strategy. It’s a bit of a manual task, but it’s a qualitative research and it will stop you from just diving into the great unknown.
For basically anything you’re looking to do nowadays, there’s a multitude of competitors – and any business process starts with you learning as much as possible about them. When it comes to social media, the tactics are quite similar.
I suggest you follow your competitors as if you were their biggest fan in the world. Choose to see their every post, ad, mention, tag, anything. Us, marketers & business people, are made to be stalkers.
But in eCommerce, stalking is especially important. Try picturing the reality: you fight for similar audiences (if not the exact same audiences), and those prospects only have so much space in their feed for ads about recycled accessories.
2.1 What to pay attention to in your competitor research? Besides anything and everything, look for what they cover in terms of topics:
- Are they product-centered?
- Do they touch the content marketing world (writing and talking about your customers’ interests)?
- Do they talk about their brand and company?
- What’s their remotely-related content pillar?
2.2 Secondly, look for what type of content they most often go for:
- Images. Here you can go deeper as to imagery based on animated designs or photography? What kind of photography – corporate/ playful/ inspirational?
2.3 Last but not least, look for where your competitors are – what channels they used to grow their business and how they use those channels to achieve their goals.
2.4 The best part about this research is that you can conclude from your competitors wins and fails what works and what doesn’t in your space or better yet, conclude what they did wrong and how you can be better.
2.5 Lastly, look for the fans following your competitors. Try to understand:
- What type of people they are (interests, demographics, activity);
- Who are the followers that interact with your competitors – can you steal their hearts? Can you find a similar profile that will be at least as engaged?
These days, any micro space and industry have its own pack of influencers to choose from. There’s no topic without a leader for it. You might not have the budget or time to start your campaigns and debut in the social media world with influencers but it’s still important to research them and know who they are and what they do.
It’s important because you will understand what your audience likes, you will know more about the topics and trends in your industry, and most importantly you will be an insider in the community that you’re going for. For example, Billabong Womens Australia worked with influencer @fakander to promote their clothing:
If you want to go further and run campaigns with these influencers, there are multiple ways to do it. For example, Whalar is a great tool that might help.
How to use Social Media to drive your eCommerce business
Social media for eCommerce businesses can be used in two main ways:
- Build an engaged community & fanbase
- Drive direct sales
Be aware that these two goals are not mutually exclusive and that, in fact, they work best when followed in parallel.
1. Build an engaged community & fanbase
eCommerce is a business for direct deals. I totally understand the temptation to talk product, make ads, calculate ROI and be done with it. Why should you bother with building a community?
It’s more important than you think. One reason is that no one wants only one-time customers and that’s what you get when you treat deals as strictly transactional. The second reason is that a cold approach to sales has a lower conversion rate and it ultimately leads to fewer customers and less revenue.
I won’t go deeper into convincing you, because I’m sure you see the value in building a brand and having an entire community support you and choose you every time. Just to paint you a picture, repeat buyers spend 33% more than new ones and it costs 500% more to acquire new customers than it does to keep current ones.
In order to build this community, you need content besides the product-focused pieces. The key is to find a way to add value to your audience. Your products might rock but customers associate their decisions and sentiment towards a company with the personality and values that the company brings to them. For example, look at this post from Chubbies.
That being said, there’s space to explore no matter what your business is. If you’re a brand that sells wooden watches, for example, you probably talk to a select audience who is into one-of-a-kind fashion pieces, who’s quite quirky and doesn’t like to just go with the general flow. They probably enjoy beautifully designed items and love the idea of hand-crafted items. A good example is how Rifle Paper Co. made a teaser out of their working process.
Following these guesses (highlighting “guesses” here because research should go into the likes and dislikes of your community as previously mentioned), you could make a how-to video on how a wooden watch gets to become a beautifully crafted accessory. There could be content around other items, that you don’t sell, but which have a fascinating process behind. You could just promote photographers that are keen on pieces around static art. I told you, there’s an entire world out there.
To avoid getting lost along the way and to stop you from scraping for content ideas every day, make sure you set the grounds on your social strategy from the very beginning. From all the research you’ve done and from how well you know you’re brand, you already have a mental image of how your tone and content will be like. To make sure you don’t lose this “I’ve got this” feeling, you have to draw the mindmap of this image. Later you’ll thank yourself for the decision because it will be your go-to map for a while.
And about those social posts? No worries, it’s ok to get stuck on the copy from time to time. There are always brainstorming techniques to help you and your team out.
Once topics are drawn out, you need to handle form. There are lots to play around with and trust me, the Mark’s of the world keep springing opportunities on us. For now (and by now I mean today, at the minute I’m writing this) we’ve got:
- Blog articles
- Live videos
- Presentation videos
- 360 videos
- Long-format videos (Facebook Episodes, IGTV)
- Short-format videos (feed, stories)
The format of the content matters a lot more than one would think. In the past couple of years, video has grown to be king and rules them all in a heartbeat. That’s still the case and combined with Instagram Stories, we’ve got a winner. But always keep in mind that social media is about testing. Nothing that works for me is guaranteed to work for your brand and your audience. It’s why after years and years of social as a profession, people still desperately search: “at what time should I post on Facebook?”. The key is testing, and the bright side is that you can test anything you can think of:
- Do emojis work for my fanbase?
- Should we do live videos from events?
- Is Instagram a good channel?
That stands for the content itself as well. Not to mention, the content that you write and host on your blog will help with SEO as well and will bump up some of those organic sales.
2. Drive direct sales
As I said, it’s of the utmost importance that you understand that these two go hand in hand. The best approach would be for you to start (for a couple of months at least) with building an audience with your generous value-adding content and then jump in with the sales. Think about the classic pipeline: when reaching out to cold audiences that have never heard about you before or interacted with your brand, the conversion is very small.
But how do you drive direct sales from social media?
Firstly, social networks do more and more for eCommerce these days. For example:
- Facebook allows transactions via Messenger Payments.
- Twitter offers the option of a “Buy Now” button in tweets, so you can purchase without leaving the app.
- Instagram is integrated with Shopify.
- Pinterest allows for buyable pins.
- Even Tumblr includes the option of a “buy” button.
So there are, indeed, a lot of ways to get there. And yet, these options are another proof that social media is definitely perfect for eCommerce businesses.
The main tactic you can use to drive social media sales consists of paid ads. These can take again any format that your organic content can take (videos, stories, images and so on). When it comes to paid advertising, there are two main things that you should definitely test and learn:
- Content Formats
We’ve already discussed the format of social media posts – and when it comes to promoting your products, I recommend you try it all. Carousel ads themselves offer a large variety to play with, Instagram stories with swipe-ups, polls, questions are again an entire world, slideshows, links, short videos and I could go on. Play with these formats and with the content itself until you get it right. The funny thing about social though is that after you get it right, trends change and you’ll start testing again. But hey, can’t live without it, right?!
When it comes to audiences, each social network offers its own options. Facebook linked with Instagram are pretty great when it comes to targeting.
- Remarketing. Any eCommerce business should have some remarketing running ads – the classic “you forgot an item in your basket” ad. People often go to a website, see an item, play with the idea of buying it, get distracted and leave. So it’s in your best interest to remind them.
- Lookalike audiences are more and more relevant and they work better and better to use this feature to attract new customers
- There are also options to build ads for your fans and for others that interacted with your page content at one point or another
- Besides these classics, there are always the targeting options based on location, interests, jobs, age and so many others.
Don’t hesitate to A/B test. Try out ads with small investments. Push 5 ads with $5 each and see where it goes. You’ll become more relevant with your ads as time passes and your conversion rate will go up.
That’s a wrap! Hope I’ve at least convinced you to go all in on social media to grow your eCommerce business. Oh, and since you’re going all in and need to build that social content with your team, choose a workflow that won’t waste your time and money. My recommendation is, obviously, Planable, :wink:.
About the Author:
Miruna Dragomir, Head of Marketing @ Planable. Social media fanatic, tech geek & a sucker for learning. Past experience? Social Media Comms Manager @Oracle & Marketing Coordinator @Uber – Twitter & LinkedIn