With the rise of cloud and the adoption of social and mobile, consumers are now empowered to search, discover, engage, evaluate and gather information on brands and products before ever having a direct interaction with a business. According to GlobalWebIndex, 28% of all time spent online is on social media. It’s changing the way we make purchase decisions and, in some cases, how we make the purchases themselves (thanks to social buy buttons). Social media has made the buyer’s journey less linear by adding more opportunities for consumers to engage with brands and conduct research, and this creates a massive opportunity for retailers to extend their brand’s reach, boost engagement, and increase sales. Because social media is about quick interactions and jumping from content to content, brands only have a short window to catch their audience’s attention and reel them into their store.
To help you harness the power and complexity of social media for your eCommerce store, check out these social marketing tips from the presentation our Chief Marketing Officer, Erika Brookes (@ebrookes), gave at the Rand Marketing eCommerce Expo of South Florida (#eCommerceSFL) last week:
Tip 1: Track Your Campaigns and Content
Creating trackable links for campaigns, content by social network, and promotional offers will give you a better sense of what type of content is working on different social channels. This can help you see patterns around times and days that get the highest interaction rates. The best way to do this is to create unique trackable links through third party tools like Google URL Builder, or even Springbot, by campaign source, medium, name, and more. Using this data, you can determine which posts are receiving the most engagement and plan future content based on it.
Tip 2: Social Marketing is a Two-Way Street
Hypothetically, if you walked into a social setting or party, would you talk about yourself non-stop without asking another person a question or waiting for their reaction or reply? Hopefully not. Broadcasting updates about your products isn’t a great strategy for building a community around your brand and maximizing the impact of your social efforts. Engage in social trends (like #TBT or #TransformationTuesday), use Facebook and Twitter polls for quick feedback, or even ask your customers to help provide input on a product decision (vote on the next t-shirt, colors for the new ipad cover, etc.).
The name of the game in social right now is trust, and establishing trust between you and your followers is key in building and keeping a following. One way to do this is to include your customers in your conversation by leveraging their content. According to CrowdTap, millennials trust user generated content 50% more than any other media, so brainstorm campaigns that take advantage of this type of content. One tip, though: Ask for permission to share their content before using it in your campaigns.
Tip 3: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words…or 1,000 Likes?
Visual content is becoming one of the most important elements of social marketing partly because the human brain can process the information in an image faster than it can process text. For social networks like Instagram, steer away from stock photos or store inventory with plain white backgrounds and aim for higher resolution lifestyle photos. The idea is to place your products in a “natural” setting and make it part of a narrative. You can also feature these photos on your website, in email campaigns, and in other marketing channels for a cohesive message.
Don’t forget to plan for video content in your strategy this year. Current projections state that 80% of all internet traffic will be attributed to video content by 2019, so now is the time to start becoming familiar with what video content resonates with your audience. Keep in mind that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all have different technical specifications, time limits, and content styles that perform best. Video clips should be short – 1 min or less – and can be anything from do it yourself (DIY) projects featuring your product, a behind the scenes sneak peek of a spring/summer collection, or sporting gear in action.
Tip 4: Increase Reach with Ads
Improve your content’s chances of being seen by building social ads into your strategy based on the platforms where you receive the most engagement. Explore options like Facebook ads and promoted posts, Twitter ads and promoted tweets, Instagram sponsored posts, and Pinterest promoted pins. Currently on Instagram, you can’t include clickable links anywhere but your bio in your profile. Take advantage of this space by including a link to a custom shoppable landing page that features items found in your recent photos. This reduces the amount of steps shoppers have to take to purchase items they see in your Instagram photos.
Not sure which posts to boost or promote on social? Start with organic posts that are already performing well so that you can enhance their success. Analyze which boosted and promoted posts perform best and create custom content specifically for ads.
Tip 5: Be Current and On Trend
One way to annoy and disengage your followers is to post things they’re not interested in. You have a duty to your target audience to know what kinds of things they want to read about, current events that affect them, what trends they are following, and hashtags they are using. Follow people who represent your target audience and keep track of the things they talk about. Keep an eye out for pop culture trends, live events, and holidays to create content around.
On that note, be sure you understand the context of current events and trending hashtags. If you fail to use them correctly, you run the risk of coming across as out of touch, inappropriate or even offensive. There are countless stories of major and minor brands that have used trending hashtags in inappropriate ways or have created content around trends that their fans don’t care about. Another good rule of thumb is to avoid marketing during a major national or international crises like a natural disaster so your brand doesn’t come across as insensitive or inconsiderate.
Tip 6: Use Social as a CX Channel
As part of the new buyer journey, more consumers now turn to social media as an outlet for customer service comments and concerns. Studies show that 42% of customers who contact a brand on social expect a response in 1 hour, so be ready & available to answer customer questions throughout the day.
Unfortunately, not all customers will tag you in their post, especially when they have a complaint, so it’s essential that you monitor keywords related to your brand like your name, trademarked words, and spelling variations of each. You can use tools like Hootsuite, Mention, and Google Alerts to listen or flag content being shared about your products. Pay particular attention to Facebook and Twitter since they are the top two sites preferred by consumers for customer service.
Don’t just follow up on negative comments. When a customer makes a positive comment about your products on social, be sure to thank them and share their post to encourage even more positive reviews! And if there is a customer service issue, address it in public and then very quickly move to private messages to resolve the issue. Typically a customer service issue requires a longer, more specific message to the consumer that is best handled one-to-one.
Tip 7: Integrate Your Marketing
Successful social media marketing doesn’t just happen on social platforms. Provide opportunities for customers to connect with you via social media on your website, blog, in email campaigns, and on in-store signage if you have a brick and mortar store. Consider adding social logins for your store’s checkout process to reduce friction during purchases.
One word of warning: Adding social share buttons to your product pages can actually decrease your conversion rates, so be intentional about where you place share buttons (instead of sprinkling them on every page of your site).
To recap, social media marketing is a critical part of the 2016 buyer journey, so leverage it and be adaptable. Engage your followers by incorporating lifestyle photos, user generated content, and video into your posts. Provide your customers with a seamless experience by connecting social to your customer service, account logins, email newsletters, and more. Run social ad campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to enhance your content’s success and extend your social reach. Finally, track everything in order to determine what’s working and make adjustments accordingly.