The E-Commerce Column

Ultimate Guide on Investing in Social Media Marketing for E-Commerce Store Owners

Woman Shopping Online

If you’re reading this, I at least hope you’ve already done the bare minimum and ensured that your product pages have the requisite like, tweet, and pin buttons in the very least.  It’s super simple to do today and requires almost zero technical knowledge.  This one act alone can be a way that some stores instantly increase sales in their online store, because they’ve made it super easy for their existing customers to do their marketing for them.  HubSpot reports that you can get 7 times more mentions on social media channels by doing this.  Since this is so easy, what’s the next step though?  Why and how do I need to invest further into social media?

Oh, you’re B2B you say?  Social media doesn’t work for B2B you say.  Well, you’d be 100% wrong.  E-Consultancy has 5 case studies to prove it.  Your buyers do in fact use and will see you and find you on social media sites.  Their online behavior doesn’t differ.  They use the internet the same as you or I.  In fact, they’re doing it right now.  So let’s get started!

Do Your Homework

First, where should you be placing your bets?  That’s right.  When you invest into any strategy, in the very least, you’re investing your time and that’s a real cost, no matter the size of your company.  When you’re looking at your next steps, the first thing you need to do is profile your target audience.  Who are they?  Are they male or female?  Do they use any social channel more than the others?  How much time do they spend on those channels?  Are my competitors using those channels yet and how much?

If you don’t do this little bit of research, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.  At the very least, hire an intern or use an online service like Upwork to get someone to do the research for you.  I’d really suggest putting that into the hands of your marketing team or agency though.

Picking Social Media Channels

Now that you’ve done your homework, where should you invest the most?  If you look across the choices, each social network is used in different ways.  People are looking for and expecting different messages, tones, and content in each – and they’re using them in different ways, at different times of the day.  With the options only starting at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, this will feel a bit daunting.  You’ll need to cut through this fog.

An interesting thing about Facebook, is that Edgerank Checker found that Facebook fans are seeing less and less posts from their favorite brands.  If you’re a retailer of some kind or sell any brands, this is a clear indication that you have an open battle field to market on.

Facebook fans aren’t seeing many posts from brands

When you look at the data provided by Pew Research Center, Facebook tops the charts again, showing the largest audience to market to.

Social Networking Growth

Keep in mind though, that the Facebook audience has a lot more women actively using it, versus men.  Thanks, Lightspeed Research.  If your target audience is primarily made of women, this should could close the case for you in terms of where to invest the most.  However, eMarketer has reported that Pinterest boasts an audience that’s 85% women.

More Women have Facebook Pages than Men

Facebook isn’t the only game in town though.  In fact, your specific store may not even benefit from Facebook at all.  When you keep looking at the numbers, the various studies you’ll find seem to be unfairly skewed towards how Facebook does and doesn’t work for you.  It’s difficult find the top reasons to use Twitter or Pinterest, for example.  We definitely identified that Facebook has been analyzed, a lot.  What does that mean for you though?

Let’s face it, if you did your homework, chances are the data we just discussed may not have changed any of the assumptions you’ve already made.  For example, if you sell construction materials, you’re statistically selling to older men who probably will spend about an hour on Pinterest in their entire lifetime.  You can cross that one off of your list, but depending on your vertical, you shouldn’t really rush to judgment too quickly.  What would hurt for you to test the waters a bit?

Unless your target audience is clear-cut, we’d suggest getting active in each of the major social media channels.  We realize that this could be a lot of work for someone, so make sure you still have that intern lurking around somewhere.  Also, social media tools like Hootsuite make this job so much easier.

Grab Their Attention, Convert, Measure

Now that you’re made the decision to try out each social channel, you should spend a few minutes learning which network performs better during which time of day and which days.  HubSpot did a great job putting together an infographic to help you with this.

Once you place your bets, you should know why your prospects are following you or engaging with your brand online.  As you’ll see below, Nielsen was able to uncover that your followers are mostly lurking around, waiting for you to give them a good deal.  So you might want to throw out a unique coupon on each social channel and see which one performs the best.  You can really get to know your specific audience this way.

Why Consumers Follow Brands & Celebrities on Social Networks

You shouldn’t just throw out some promotions.  You should also have some content to put out there.  People in general love accounts that add value to their day.  So, be sure to post interesting articles and news about your industry or vertical.  Save them the time of looking for it themselves.  Even better, if you can, write some of that content yourself and maybe include commentary with your thoughts.  This is a great time to involve that Upwork contractor again if you don’t have a content writer on staff.  You can easily have someone generate tons of great content for you with very little investment.

When you post to each of these channels, toy with how you message to your audience on each.  Make it a campaign even.  Spend no less than 1-2 weeks on a specific focus.  Then, run some reports.  Hootsuite will do this for you, but there are countless tools sprouting up to help you measure, like Socialbakers (they have a great blog post to help you think through this too).  Compare which social network seems to convert more, and which appears to get the most engagement.  Engagement and conversion are not the same thing, and in many ways, engagement can be much more important than immediate conversions.

By the way, you can’t just throw your content out there.  You’ll need to interact with other people as well.  Comment, like, and share whenever you can – but only when it makes sense and adds value.

Your Next Steps, Today

You have the formula now.  Get on the social networks you think could have an impact, and begin running tests.  Remember, each test should last for no less than 2 weeks.  Then, run the numbers and make the adjustments you need.  You’re going to find that this is much more rewarding to your business, compared to Google AdWords or traditional marketing.  (But you can’t ignore those either… We’ll look at that in another article.)

About the Author

Will StrohlWill Strohl

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