Social media is your brand’s best friend. When done correctly and consistently, social media engagement can improve your brand’s reputation, drive new traffic to your site, and encourage the rapid spread of your content and promotions; for an e-commerce site, it’s a dream come true. E-commerce sites, especially those that operate exclusively online, rely on the power of people in numbers, and social media can make those numbers a reality.
Traditional social media strategies are effective for most businesses, but e-commerce sites require something more. In this article, I’ll speak to the differentiating factors that make e-commerce sites unique, and how e-commerce entrepreneurs can build a near-perfect strategy.
All businesses rely on revenue, and that revenue comes from successful conversions. For B2B companies, a successful conversion usually means a customer filling out a form with their personal information, which only constitutes the first step of the sales process. For e-commerce platforms, the sales process is immediate; users are instantly confronted with a choice in products, with the instant ability to purchase them. That immediacy demands a different social approach: one focused on fast inspiration rather than gradual relationship building.
E-commerce platforms are also more competitive on the social front. Typical businesses can use qualitative measurements of their services to justify a higher price or slower turnaround time, but most e-commerce platforms sell items that can be compared, apples-to-apples, to other nearly identical products. Audiences are therefore more discriminating, and in order to capture a customer’s interest or loyalty, you’ll need to prove your business’s superiority objectively.
Before you get started with a social campaign, you’ll need to choose the right mediums for your messages. The big three social platforms still remain as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but let’s take a look at which are the most valuable for e-commerce sites specifically.
Facebook is a solid platform. It offers a wide reach to a wide variety of consumers, and easy means of sharing content with friends and family members. If you’re going to be posting lots of promotional offers with the propensity to be shared virally, Facebook is a must. Plus, Facebook’s easy-to-use advertising platform could give you the boost you need to win more loyal fans.
Twitter is great for e-commerce platforms, and for two main reasons. First, Twitter is a fast-paced platform, forcing concise messages and near-immediate responses. Considering e-commerce platforms rely on immediacy and fast decisions, Twitter makes for a perfectly appropriate medium.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is not as appropriate in most cases. Unless you have a highly targeted demographic that requires one-on-one professional networking to build interest, LinkedIn is not worth your time as an e-commerce social platform.
There are several other platforms available, of course, but your choices beyond the big three are largely dependent on the types of products you’re selling. For example, if many of your products have a visual element or are geared toward women, Pinterest would be another effective platform.
Once you’ve selected a range of different social media platforms to use, you’ll need to start perfecting your brand’s social voice. You want this voice to be in line with your brand standards and consistent across all platforms, to ensure a familiar, comfortable experience for your users no matter what platform they choose to engage you on. For example, a user accustomed to engaging with your brand on Facebook should receive a similar experience on Twitter.
Many of your brand voice’s qualities will depend on the nature of your brand. For example, is your brand more sophisticated or more relatable? More energetic or more laid-back?
Once you establish a base for your voice, ensure its appropriateness for social media by adding a few degrees of personality and casualness—people like to engage with people, so making your brand seem more like a person is always a good idea.
Nothing drives social media traffic for e-commerce sites more than special offers. The specifics of those special offers are up to you and your business model. They could be promotional discount codes, such as custom codes that can be redeemed for a discount or a free gift upon checkout. They could be occasional rewards points, if your e-commerce platform has a kind of reward system. They could even be regular giveaways, such as entry for a drawing for a free gift for every person who favorites, likes, or retweets a given post.
No matter what you choose, make sure you have special offers timed to roll out on a regular basis. Special offers have a clear immediate effect; they attract people to come to your site and buy something. But they also have a powerful secondary effect; they encourage people to pay close attention to your posts in anticipation, giving you more attention and more opportunities to market directly to them.
A great social media schedule will serve as the backbone of your entire strategy. You’ll want to log in regularly, responding to customer comments and engaging with current events, but scheduling most of your posts ahead of time will keep your audience interested no matter how often you can afford to check in.
As an e-commerce platform, you’ll want a good portion of your posts to be special offers—valuable opportunities to attract new people to your site. But you also don’t want too many, so you retain those posts as valuable commodities. One such post a day is more than enough, and one per week might be plenty for some brands.
The remainder of your scheduled posts should be an equal blend of the following:
Your scheduled posts are only the foundation of your social strategy. If you want to keep your followers interested and engaged, you need to go out of your way to bring them into conversations. Start conversation topics by posing questions or implementing surveys, and follow up with people who respond or continue the thread. The more you personally interact with your followers, the more loyal they’ll become.
Search for brand mentions and mentions of your products as well—it’s a prime opportunity to jump into existing conversations and respond with your own expertise. It shows that your brand cares about what’s happening, and can make for a perfect first impression to an unacquainted user.
Overall, the fundamental principles of social media marketing are the same for e-commerce platforms as they are for other sites; bring value to your followers and interact with them frequently. But the channels and specifics of these interactions require a different approach. Remember that building a social media following does take time, and it may be weeks or even months before you start to see an increase. But over the course of your campaign, you should see a dramatic increase in your customer loyalty and web traffic as a direct result of your efforts.