I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how important social media marketing is for an eCommerce shop. It doesn’t matter if you are a big brand or if your online store is just your side hustle. If you want to sell products in today’s crowded marketplace, you need to be using social media and you need to be smart about it.
When I’m not slinging code for WordPress here at WebDevStudios (WDS) and Maintainn, my wife and I run a small online store where we sell our handmade leather goods. We’ve been at if for just over three years now, and social media drives 70%-80% of our sales. We rank pretty well for some key search terms in our niche, but even with Google’s domination of the search market, it doesn’t send us anywhere near the sales that social media does. That’s not to say you should ignore trying to rank well in search engines, just that you should definitely put some energy into social media, as well.
I’m going to share some of what works well for our shop and hope it can help you get more sales from social media. A lot of this is going to seem obvious once you read it. Most good advice is, but sometimes you just need to hear someone else say it. It’s just like when you ask someone how they lost weight. You already know the answer is that they ate better and exercised. There is no magic method to losing weight. It’s like that with social media, too. The things you need to do are simple, and you probably already have a pretty good idea of what you should be doing. The biggest challenge is sticking with it. Don’t get discouraged if a social media post doesn’t do well. Just keep at it and put in the work. That’s what will set you apart from everyone else.
Social media is a very visual medium. You are competing with not only people in your niche but with every other social media post in your potential customer’s feed. They are seeing memes, family photos, videos, ads, and more. Having great images or video to share will give you an instant advantage over someone else in your niche who’s not taking the time to get great content to share. Everything you do to market your shop starts here. Not only does it help you stand out in your customers’ feeds, it also tells them a lot about what you have to offer with just a quick glance of the product. Modern smart phones can take great pictures; you don’t need an expensive camera. Instead, take time to plan out your shots, develop a style to suit your brand, and make sure you have great lighting. Tell a story with your pictures. Your customers will engage with you more, and you’ll increase your sales.
Even with the great products and photos you still need to make sure your posts get seen. There’s no simple algorithm to this. Sometimes a post will be popular, and other times people won’t notice it at all. Some of this is just random luck.
You have more control over being seen than you might think. You need to consider when you post. Most people are online during the day throughout the week. On nights and weekends, people get away from their computers more. You also need to know your customers and what works for them. Start with posting during the day, Mondays through Fridays. But experiment with posting during other times, too.
For our site, I do most of our stuff during the day, but I like post a couple at night and on weekends, too. With our customers, we pick up a lot of extra sales and engagement this way because not all of our competitors post after normal business hours. You also need to go where your customers are. For us, that’s Instagram and Pinterest, with a little bit of Facebook. Look at where your potential customers spend their time and be active on those social media websites.
You also have to hashtag your posts on most social media services, especially Instagram and Twitter. Think of hashtags as adding keywords that your customers might use in a search. Users click on these hashtags and browse similar posts. When they do, this click may lead to your posts on the “Discover” or “Trending” pages related to these hashtags. I can’t stress how important adding those hashtags are. Hashtags let your social media posts be seen by people who aren’t on your feed and increases your potential reach.
Here is an example of what an Instagram page for the hashtag #leatherwork looks like. Using a hashtag like this can land my Instagram post on this page, which is then seen by potential customers.
Pro Tip: Keep a note of hashtags on your phone so that you can just copy and paste them. This will save you tons of time. I have several sets of hashtags for each of our products. Copying and pasting streamlines my efforts. Work smarter, not harder.
Running a business means that you have lots to get done. While marketing through social media should be a high priority, it does take time. Here are two tips that help me:
Recycle images and content.
When you take photos, create a batch of photos in a single session so you can use them over the next couple of weeks or even months. Reuse and re-purpose images or content you’ve created in the past in new ways.
Schedule in advance.
Take advantage of scheduling social media whenever possible. For example, Twitter and Instagram both allow you to save drafts so you could create several posts, save them, and publish later. But I like to go a step further and queue up posts with a tool like HootSuite. It’s a paid service, but it saves you a lot of time sharing your work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. At WDS, we currently use Buffer but also recommend Social Web Suite.
If you are a little more tech savvy you could save some money and use a service like IFTTT (If This Then That), which has applets to auto share your posts from one social media service to all the others. I use this personally and for our shop.
Make a plan.
Even if you end up scheduling your posts in advance, you need to also consider how often you post. Like most suggestions, this is going to depend on your customers and the niche you are in. For ours, I post one to two times a day when we are at our most active. Eventually, I’m planning on posting a little bit more frequently. Our audience is hungry for this kind of content and the more we post the more sales we make, but you can’t just spam the feed all day long. It’s a big turn off for me, personally, as a consumer. I want to avoid doing that to our customers.
I suggest picking a social media schedule that you can maintain. Repetition is also key. Your customers will learn your social media schedule, and they’ll be on the lookout for your next post. If you want to test out posting more often, just start with a slight increase and add more posts slowly and test the reaction. If you keep getting positive results, then keep it up. If not, slow down a bit. It’s pretty simple.
You can’t automate engagement. That’s a good thing.
One of the hardest parts about marketing your brand with social media is engaging with your customers, even though it’s very rewarding. There’s no easy way to automate engagement; and even if you could, I wouldn’t recommend it.
We’ve gotten tremendous benefit from talking to our customers through our social media channels. It’s a great way to provide customer support and generate sales leads. People love that they can reach out to us and they’ll get a real person to interact with.
I’ve had chats with our customers about the most random topics. This helps build customers for life. You’ll only get out of social media what you put into it. Don’t be afraid to share your personal side. Our customers love seeing behind-the-scenes stuff, such as our day-to-day life and other non-product related photos.
In our case, we, ourselves, are our brand, but even if you are a big eCommerce brand, make sure to show off the human side of your business. Customers connect with people and stories. Making those personal connections can build life-long fans. You can’t buy that with marketing dollars. You have to earn that. And anyone who’s run a any kind of business for long knows that it’s easier to keep customers than it is to get new ones. Sharing your brand’s journey through social media lets you connect with them on a personal level and grow that relationship over the course of months or even years.
Email marketing still works!
Email marketing has been around forever. It doesn’t seem as sexy as social media. However, it’s still around because it works!
While it’s not social media, I wanted to include it in this article because email marketing drives a lot of sales for us, and we use it to drive our customers to our social media profiles. So if you are on the fence, make sure you have an email list for your shop. Just don’t abuse it. We only send out mailings six-eight times per year. You should do what makes sense for your business, but don’t ignore email marketing or you’ll be missing out on sales.
You don’t have to just sell products with your list. We use it to promote giveaways, social media accounts, highlight work we’ve done, and share content that we put out there on social media or our site. Try it out and see what works for your customers.
I hope this gives you a good starting point for using social media in your digital marketing efforts. If you have any questions or suggestions of things you’ve tried, feel free to leave them in the comments below.