There’s no sugarcoating it:
If your ecommerce company isn’t on social media, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities to grow your business.
“Social selling is becoming a cornerstone for ecommerce companies seeking real growth and elevated brand presence.” ~Jenn Guidry, Director of Marketing, eclincher.com
First of all, today’s consumers rely heavily on social media throughout the buying experience. In fact, 54% of consumers use social media to research products, while 71% are more likely to make purchases based on social media referrals.
Consumers are also now using social media to actively make more purchases than ever before. In 2020, the number of social commerce users grew by an astounding 25.2% — and is expected to increase by another 12.9% in 2021. By 2022, then, the ecommerce world is likely to see over 90 million people making purchases directly via social media platforms otherwise known as social selling.
Catering to these expectations can lead to a huge shot in the arm for your ecommerce company. According to BigCommerce, brands with an active social media presence make an average 32% more sales than those without.
If your team is yet to hop on the social selling bandwagon, you’re almost certainly losing out to those that have.
In this article, we’ll dig into the main things you’ll need to do to build an effective social selling presence for your ecommerce company — and provide a number of examples of brands “doing it right”.
First, let’s hammer out the key reasons social media is such an effective vehicle for ecommerce companies in the first place.
5 Reasons Your Ecommerce Brand Should Be Social Selling
Okay, so we’ve already touched on the “big picture” reason your company should be actively social selling.
But, it’s not that your sales numbers will magically start increasing just because you’ve started using social media.
Rather, becoming more active on social media will enable your team to do things that will ultimately lead to better sales numbers across the board.
Let’s take a closer look at what we mean.
Conduct Social Listening, Social Media Monitoring, and Market Research
Staying informed is vital to business success in any industry.
For ecommerce companies, social selling through social media this means:
- Knowing what your audience wants, needs, and expects from brands like yours
- Knowing what your competitors are doing to meet their audience’s needs
- Knowing what your audience, your competitors, and others have to say about your company
All of this information — and much more — can be found on social media.
But, of course, you have to be active on these platforms in order to find it.
This is where social listening and social media monitoring come into play. Whether using automated tools or taking a more manual route, digging into the goings-on on social media will enable you to put your best foot forward at all times.
For one, it will help with market research. Overall, you’ll gain a better understanding of who your audience is, and what they want from your company. What’s more, analyzing their behavior on specific social channels will allow you to create a presence on each that aligns with your audience’s expectations.
You’ll also gain a better understanding of how your competitors are using social media — and anything else they may be doing to better serve their customers. As long as they’re active on social media, you’re bound to find a ton of news and announcements surrounding the latest happenings within their organizations.
Social media is also a gold mine for up-to-the-minute news within your industry. Keeping close tabs on trending topics and the like will allow you to capitalize on these moments before anyone else in your niche has a chance.
Finally, becoming active on social media will make it easy to discover what your audience is saying about your brand on these channels. In turn, you can promote any positive publicity you uncover — and take action to mitigate any negative mentions you find, as well.
With all of this information in hand, your team will be able to optimize your brand’s social media presence — and also improve your ecommerce social selling efforts across the board.
Spread Brand Awareness
“Brand awareness is crucial. If you’re able to get your brand out there, in more channels than one, you’ll be able to extend your reach and appeal to a larger audience base. Utilizing social media, for example, is a cost-efficient method that can increase your following and showcase the various products and services your company offers. But it’s how you go about doing it that matters.” ~Natalie Slyman, Content and Social Media Manager, Benchmark Email
Strengthening your social media presence allows you to spread brand awareness organically and via paid methods.
The organic content you create can generate brand awareness in a number of ways.
Strategic use of hashtags, for example, will make your social media content visible to those who follow or search for related tags.
(Make sure to generate hashtags that appropriately categorize your content — this will make it easier for your audience to find exactly what they’re looking for when browsing your channel.)
Creating must-see content with the potential to go viral can get your brand in front of a massive — and relevant — audience.
Soliciting user-generated content is another effective way to spread awareness of your brand to a relevant audience. Here, your current audience will create and share content featuring your brand on their own social channels — spreading the good word to their followers in the process.
If you’re looking to go the paid route, your two best options are pay-per-click ads and influencer marketing.
With PPC ads, you can target specific individuals based on a variety of characteristics (e.g., their persona details, interests, and purchasing habits). Some channels allow you to create lookalike audiences consisting of new audience members whose profiles closely match those of your current customers.
With social ad impressions up 20% year-over-year, PPC continues to be an effective way to spread awareness of your brand throughout the social media realm.
Influencer marketing continues to prove effective for brand awareness purposes, as well. With the right influencer partners, you can:
- Get your brand in front of an existing and engaged audience
- Promote specific products and value propositions to these new audience members
- Build trust amongst new followers from the get-go
We’ll talk more about how to make all this happen a bit later on.
Build Authentic and Valuable Relationships With Your Audience
The entire point of social media is to be social, right?
Whether looking to engage with your individual customers or your audience as a whole, social media allows you to forge more personal, personable, and altogether human connections with them.
These connections will stem from your ability to provide value to your audience through your social media presence.
This, of course, can be done in a number of ways:
- Delivering important information regarding brand announcements, promotions, and events
- Offering instructional content to help your customers get the most out of your products
- Creating entertaining content that showcases the human side of your brand
In terms of actually engaging with your audience, you’ll have a number of options at your disposal.
- Replying to comments on individual posts
- Direct messaging individual customers (both proactively and responsively)
- Responding to messages during live broadcasts
With so much of the ecommerce experience being digital and automated, you’ll want to take full advantage of the engagement opportunities provided by social selling.
Deliver Customer Service and Support
In addition to providing helpful and informative content to your audience as a whole, you can also use social media as part of your customer service strategy to deliver laser-focused support to individual customers.
On some channels, you can use chatbot technology to provide automated support to those in need. On Facebook, for example, your chatbot can:
- Collect preliminary information from new followers
- Deliver informative content based on customer queries
- Point customers to specific products based on their expressed needs
Whether via chatbot or manual direct messaging, you can also deliver proactive support to new and existing audience members via social media. Using what you already know about the individual, you can deliver highly-relevant tips and content that will help them take the next steps in their journey with your brand.
If you have the bandwidth, you can also deliver responsive customer service and support to anyone that reaches out to your social media team. If you aren’t currently able to keep up with service tickets on your social channels, you can at least provide info as to how your customers should reach out when in need.
In any case, your social media channels give your customers just one more way to get in touch with your support staff should the need arise.
Increase Conversions and Sales
As we’ve said, today’s consumers are becoming more apt to make purchases directly on social media.
With this in mind, it’s likely that modern social media platforms will continue to enhance their social commerce features as time goes on.
This, in turn, means more social selling opportunities for your ecommerce company.
“By selling directly on your social media channels, you’ll streamline your customers’ path-to-purchase — making them all the more likely to go through with a potential purchase. Similarly, promoting products for sale on social media can instil a sense of urgency within your audience — again making them more likely to take immediate action.” – Alon Popilskis, Owner, Smart SEO Designs
At the very least, you can use your social media presence to point your followers directly to specific product pages on your ecommerce website. Coupled with channel-specific discounts and other such incentives can, once more, spur immediate action from a customer that may otherwise have not made a given purchase social selling is here to stay.
Social Selling Best Practices for Ecommerce Brands
As we discussed, simply “being on” social media won’t be enough to improve your sales numbers and grow your business.
To experience the kind of success we’ve discussed, you need to approach your social media initiatives strategically and methodically.
With that in mind, let’s dig into all that’s involved in creating an effective social media presence for your ecommerce business incorporating social selling strategies.
Be Where Your Customers Are — and Where They Expect You To Be
By today’s standards, there’s no shortage of social media channels for your brand to operate on.
That doesn’t mean you need to be on all of them.
Really, trying to be everywhere at once may do more harm than good to your business.
For one thing, a sub-par presence on your lesser-used channels will reflect poorly on your brand’s overall image. Worse yet, spreading your team too thin means you’ll have fewer resources to invest in the channels that you should be using.
So, the best course of action is to become active on the social media channels your customers are on — and where they expect brands like yours to be.
To figure out which channels are best for your brand, ask yourself:
- Which channels do your customers use for ecommerce-related social selling activities?
- Which channels are your competitors on — and which ones do they avoid?
- Which platforms offer the best opportunities for you to accomplish your business goals?
(Note: When assessing your competitors’ social presence, look for ways that your brand can “one-up” them on certain channels.)
Now, you probably won’t be able to do everything on every channel you look into. Some may be better for generating awareness and creating engagement, while others may be more conducive to making sales.
Whatever the case may be, it’s vital that you know what your goals are before getting started on a specific channel. That way, you can ensure that everything you do on a given channel gets you closer to this intended goal.
But, again, you’ll need to know how to best use each channel to engage with and deliver value to your customers in order to accomplish these goals. If your efforts don’t align with your audience’s needs and expectations, they’ll have little reason to engage with your brand on the channel in question.
On that note, it’s important to be wary of any new or trending social channels that may emerge over time. While it may be tempting to jump on the latest bandwagon, you should only do so if it makes sense for your brand, and your audience.
As we said earlier, this is a key reason that social listening and social media monitoring is essential. With a clear idea of which channels your audience uses — and how they use each — you’ll be able to build awareness and strengthen customer engagement strategy with every post you create.
Take Full Advantage of Each Channel You Use
We mentioned this in the last section:
If your brand is going to become active on a given social media platform, you need to be prepared to take full advantage of social selling on that channel or platform.
Of course, no two social media channels are exactly alike.
Each one provides its own set of features and functions that can be used to provide a unique experience to your audience. It’s your job, then, to determine exactly how to use each channel to deliver such an experience.
This goes back to what we said about identifying your audience’s expectations for each channel you operate on. Your goal is to simultaneously fit your brand into the given channel, while also doing what you can to stand out from the rest of the content your audience is seeing on the platform.
For example, content posted on Facebook and LinkedIn often centers around text, with pictures and video content supplementing the information presented.
(Note: This isn’t always the case — but these channels allow for much more text per-post than most other channels do.)
Instagram, on the other hand, typically involves more visual content — with captions and text providing follow-up info.
With that notion, Instagram has embraced social selling environments for ecommerce-focused companies.
Snapchat and TikTok are, of course, almost completely focused on audio/visual content — with sparse text being used for call-to-actions and the like.
Also, think about what each channel allows you to do that you simply can’t do elsewhere.
A few examples:
- Broadcasting live videos and webinars
- Engaging in real-time chats
- Creating quirky content full of stickers, filers, and lenses
The point is:
If there’s no major difference between your branded presence from channel to channel, your audience will have little reason to engage with you on each.
By providing something special and unique on each one, though, you’ll always keep your audience engaged on every channel you operate on.
Provide a Variety of Content
In order to keep your audience engaged over time, though, you’ll need to deliver a variety of content on each social media channel you use.
If you just publish the same content over and over, you’re going to bore your audience — and they aren’t going to stick around for much longer.
That said, there are a few ways you can mix things up to keep your social media channels interesting.
As discussed above, you definitely should be using a variety of formats on every channel you use.
Some posts may be more text-heavy, with others focused more on visual appeal. Or, you may offer a combination of both.
Sometimes a single image will do, while other posts will require a series of images presented carousel-style.
Social selling doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to be strategic.
Video content — whether live or recorded — is another effective option for delivering valuable info and keeping your audience coming back for more.
In addition to using various content formats, it’s also important to create content revolving around different topics within your industry. In creating content aimed at different audience segments, you’ll offer “a little something for everyone” — while also allowing those within each segment to explore your brand with every post you publish.
Similarly, your posts on social media should vary in their purpose, and the overall value they provide your audience.
For example, your social media feeds should contain a healthy mix of:
- Brand and industry news/announcements
- User tips and best practices
- Support documentation
- User-generated content
- Promotions and sales content
In delivering this variety, you’ll accomplish three key things:
- You’ll ensure your brand’s social media feeds stay fresh and up-to-date
- You’ll minimize the “salesiness” of your content — while also promoting sales at opportune moments
- You’ll ensure your audience can always find something of value whenever they check your brand out on social media
Pro Tip: Create a social media calendar to ensure you cover all the bases and keep your audience engaged.
Be Consistent on All Channels
This may sound counterintuitive to the previous section, but hear us out:
If you’re looking to keep your audience locked into your social media channels over time, you need to be consistent.
Yes, it’s important to mix up your content as we just discussed — but you also need to live up to your audience’s expectations in a few key ways.
First and foremost, timing is everything.
While you might not need to post to a given channel at the exact same time every day or week, you should have a pretty clear idea of when your audience expects you to do so. This will not only build anticipation amongst your audience, but will also maximize the visibility of your content as well.
Put all this together, and you have a recipe for optimal engagement.
(This, again, is why a social media calendar is vital to your success.)
It’s also important to be consistent in terms of the topics you discuss, and the overall themes of your social media content.
Obviously, you want to focus on topics that relate to your brand and niche — and that interest your audience. Once you’ve identified the key topics to revolve around, you don’t want to stray too far from them.
But you should also continue to build on the content you publish on your social media channels. Instead of creating post after post that exists in a vacuum, develop some continuity. In turn, your audience will always be looking forward to whatever you have next in store for them.
Finally, your social media content should have a consistent appearance and feel to it — regardless of the format or channel you’re using. Basically, your brand’s content should immediately be recognizable as your brand’s — and it should always be presented in a way that your audience has come to expect.
(Look back to Lidl’s Instagram page…pretty clear theme, no?)
Consistency is often the key to getting your audience to stop what they’re doing, and to pay attention to your social media content. Meet their expectations in this regard, then exceed them with your killer content.
Be Transparent on All Channels
According to a recent report from Accenture, 66% of consumers say transparency is one of the most attractive qualities in a brand.
The more open and honest you are with your customers, the more likely they’ll be to place trust in your brand. This, in turn, will keep them coming back to you whenever they’re in need.
Social media provides the perfect opportunity to be transparent with your audience — in a number of ways.
- Creating candid or behind-the-scenes content
- Providing insight into recent announcements, product releases, and other customer-facing decisions
- Offering in-depth glimpses into your team’s charitable efforts and business partnerships
On that note, it’s also crucial to be transparent with regard to the nature of every post you publish on social media. For example, promoted content should always be labeled as such (even when not required by the social media channel in question).
Overall, social media lets you show your audience what your brand’s “all about” — and you should take full advantage of the opportunity to do so.
Looking to dive deeper? Check out our guide on how to keep it real on social media.
Get Your Audience Involved
We’ve touched on this a few times, but it’s worth repeating once more:
Your social media channels are the perfect place to converse and engage with your customers — and to get them more involved with your brand, overall.
“The ultimate goal is to use your social media channels not as a place to just broadcast brand announcements, but to create a community forum consisting of your team and your customers.
At the very least, you’ll want your audience to engage with your social media content in ways that impact their branded experience. Getting them to “like” a post is one thing — but getting them to comment on and share your posts (and their reactions to your posts) will lead to much more memorable experiences over time.” – Alon Popilskis, Owner, Smart SEO Designs
Similarly, you want to get your audience involved with your more interactive content.
For example, there are a number of ways to involve your audience in your live broadcasts, such as:
- Hosting Q&A sessions
- Quizzing your audience
- Surveying your viewers
Soliciting user-generated content will bring your audience even deeper into the fold — and get them much more invested in their relationship with your brand. Here is an example of utilizing a LinkedIn Showcase Page to showcase the customer relationship.
When asking your audience to create UGC, providing guidelines can help ensure the content they create is valuable and usable on your end. You also might choose to provide incentives for those who go above and beyond with their content creation efforts — and consider forging more lasting partnerships with them, as well.
(More on this in a moment.)
At any rate, getting your audience involved with your brand’s social media presence will keep them engaged and moving forward in their journey. Keep the conversation going — and keep your audience on the hook.
Forge Strategic Partnerships With Influencers
We’ve already talked about the value of influencer marketing on social media.
But, as with all marketing tactics, you need to approach your influencer marketing initiatives strategically for them to be successful.
First of all, your influencer partnerships need to be authentic. Ideally, the influencers you work with should actually use your products on their own accord. Minus that, they should at least have a true understanding of the value your products bring to the table — and truly believe in what you’re trying to sell.
(In other words, they shouldn’t be hawking your products simply because you’re paying them to do so.)
It’s also crucial to work with influencers whose audience shows a clear overlap with your own target customers. Needless to say, if their audience doesn’t have much interest in what you’re selling, your influencer campaigns aren’t going to be all that effective.
On that note, you probably aren’t able to afford to work with those “big name” influencers that ask for thousands of dollars per-post — and that’s okay.
In fact, working with micro- and nano-influencers can actually be better for your growing ecommerce business in the first place. Instead of casting a wide net, working with micro-influencers targets your social selling efforts and will allow you to target a small group of highly-engaged and highly-interested consumers.
The right influencer can get your brand in front of the right eyes — and can allow you to build trust within your new followers from the very start of your relationship.
Create a Cohesive Omnichannel Experience
Remember how we talked about creating a consistent experience on each of your social media channels?
It’s just as important that you provide consistency throughout your customer’s overall experience with your brand.
For starters, your various social media channels should not operate in isolation.
This doesn’t mean you should deliver the exact same content, messaging, or overall value on every channel. Rather, the experiences you provide on each channel should add to your audience’s overall branded experience.
For example, if you plan on broadcasting live on Instagram, you should spend time promoting the event on your other channels, as well.
You can also repurpose content you’ve created for one channel to make it more appropriate for the other channels you operate on. For example, you might expand on a quick tweet by creating a longform Facebook post that dives deep into a specific topic.
Your individual customer’s social media experience should be as cohesive as possible, too. Social CRM tools, for example, allow your team to pick up where they left off when engaging with a given customer, regardless of which channel they’d used or are currently using.
Overall, the goal is to ensure that every touchpoint between your audience and your social media channels adds to their experience with your brand. They should never have to backtrack, and should rarely see content they’ve already seen.
Keep things fresh and moving forward, and your customers will always be moving closer to their next purchase.
Make Data-Driven Improvements to Your Social Media Presence
Over time, you’ll gain a better understanding of what works for your brand — and what doesn’t — in terms of using social media to:
- Attract new customers
- Engage and build relationships with your audience
- Make additional and repeat sales
As you make improvements to your social media presence, it’s extremely important that you keep these ultimate goals in mind. Otherwise, you may end up spending time and money making changes that don’t have much of an impact on your business.
To be sure, making worthwhile improvements will involve a fair amount of trial-and-error.
But, with the right data on hand, you’ll be able to make much more informed improvements moving forward.
For starters, you should continuously be looking to answer the following questions:
- How much site traffic can be attributed to social media?
- How many sales (and how much money) are you making via social media — directly or indirectly?
- How much are you spending on your social media initiatives?
- How much is a single customer acquired via social media worth to your business?
As time goes on, you can track fluctuations in this data, and trace them to any changes you’ve made to your social media initiatives. This will help you identify specific things you’re doing right — and areas that may still be in need of improvement.
What’s more, you’ll also start to see how so-called “vanity metrics” impact your bottom line. While an increase in followers, likes, and comments may not directly impact your sales numbers, there will likely be some correlation that can help you make more informed decisions in the future.
The takeaway here is:
When making changes to your approach to social media, consult your performance data first — and only make changes that will clearly lead to a better outcome for your business.