Understanding Social Media and E-Commerce

One topic that comes up with every project we build is social media.  Unless you have been living in a cave, you probably know just how huge social media is to just about every aspect of life on the web these days.  Many people don’t understand exactly how it works with e-commerce, so I thought I’d outline the basics.

Social Media Sites

Obviously the first step of Social Media is to get yourself out there.  There are a number of social media platforms, and which ones you concentrate on really depends on your market.  There are some that you absolutely need to be active on, and some that are more industry-specific.  You need to be spending your time where it is most beneficial to your particular store.  You’ll quickly learn which platform is giving you the best return on your time investment.  Here are the big ones:

Facebook – absolutely essential to have a presence here.  You need a page, not a personal account – they are very different.  Pages let people ‘like’ them, accounts require you to friend request them.  You want everyone and their brother to ‘like’ your page, you do not want everyone and their brother being your friend, as many things that get posted on Facebook are not business appropriate.  You should be posting at least once a week if not more.  You can also advertise on Facebook, which we have covered in-depth here.

Twitter – another essential platform.  You should be tweeting at least daily, if not more.  Great for quick hits about new products, sales, etc.  Recently they increased the character account, so you can post even more detailed items about sales, products, lifestyle, etc.

Instagram – this platform is fantastic for businesses who sell cosmetics, clothing, shoes, or anything else that has some great visuals to share.  You can show a feed on your site, and also advertise using Facebook’s Advertising platform.

Pinterest – if you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it is a site that allows you to share photos of things you find around the web on ‘boards’ that you set up.  Many people use it for shopping lists, ideas for projects, etc.  If you are selling anything that has images, you should have a Pinterest account and set up boards with your products.  People can share boards and images with one another, which hopefully will cause your products to spread like wildfire!

YouTube – if you have products that warrant video demonstrations/instructions/etc, you absolutely have to have a YouTube account to store them all.  Vimeo is an alternate service, but YouTube is still the biggest and since it is owned by Google, you know they factor it into search!

LinkedIn – not a huge player in the e-commerce side of social media, it can still be valuable if you are a B2B company.

Google + – this was Google’s attempt at creating a social media platform, and it just hasn’t taken off.  I don’t know many people who still use it, but it can’t hurt!

Managing Social Media

You’ll soon discover that posting on all of these sites regularly is a full-time job in itself.  Not only do you have to find/write great content daily, but you absolutely MUST interact with any customers that interact with you, particularly if it is a complaint or rave.  This is now a major communication channel for people, and if you aren’t responsive you will lose customers.  This is why once you get busy, a Social Media Manager is going to become an essential part of your company.

Integration

So how do you integrate Social Media into your e-commerce site?  Some methods are quite easy, while others require a bit more work.

Links to your channels – first you need to provide links TO your social media channels from your site.  These are usually found in the header or footer of a site, and take the form of small icons with the social media logo on them.  There are all shapes and sizes, and usually your designer will come up with a set that matches your look and feel.  Make sure you set them to open in a new window, as you could easily lose a sale because someone gets distracted by going to Facebook!

‘Like’ Buttons – this is where the real value of social media comes in.  On each of your product detail pages, you should have ‘like’ buttons to each of the major social media channels.  When a customer clicks on one of these links, it posts your product to their wall/page/feed.  That is basically free advertising for you, as everyone of their friends and followers will see that product.

Feeds – one challenge of e-commerce is to provide fresh content for your customers (and the search engines). One great way to do that is by using social media ‘feeds’.  These are basically boxes that you place somewhere on your site that show the last 2 or 3 posts on each of your social media channels.  Some people have them in just one place (like the home page), while others show them throughout the site.  Either way, it is a great way to keep things fresh, and even pick up a few ‘likes’ for your channels.

Login – Many social media channels offer a way to log in with your saved info.  These take the form of ‘login with facebook’ or ‘login with Google +’ buttons next to the regular login buttons on your site.  These are one click logins, so they can save your customers a ton of time.

Comments – it is also possible to have ‘comment on Facebook’ boxes right on your product detail pages.  These work a lot like reviews, and are visible to all of the people on the person’s feed.

Blogging

If you are a blogger (and you should be), you can also post your blog article directly to your social media channels.  This reminds people who are following you to come on over to your site and see the latest and greatest, and hopefully make a sale.  Blog posts also get shown more often on Facebook than a product link will, as Facebook can tell when you are selling something vs sharing something valuable.

A lot of info to digest isn’t it?  The bottom line is that if you don’t spend the time to create an active, professional social media presence your store will never be successful.  It would almost be like building a brick and mortar store but not putting a sign out front.

As always if you have any questions feel free to contact us!