The world of e-commerce is fast-paced and super competitive. Its beauty lies in how simple it is for a consumer to see a product, read some reviews and make a purchase. If you’re in the e-commerce business, social media is likely to be central to your overall marketing strategy.

We’ve created this handy guide to social media for e-commerce business in order to show you the scope of some of the major platforms as well as some of the most effective tactics. Keep reading!

Social media for e-commerce

In this guide, we’re going to look at four key areas:

  1. The scope of social media marketing for e-commerce
  2. Developing a strategy that works for you
  3. Paid advertising > getting bang for your buck
  4. Tactics in practice

We’re also going to signpost you to other great information that you’ll find helpful in your quest for world domination.

If you are new to social media marketing, check out our page on social media theory so you have a good grounding in some of the concepts mentioned here.

Hera London's e-commerce shop design. Perfect to begin marketing through social media.

The scope of social media for e-commerce

Social media plays a fundamental role in the lives of the majority of teenagers and adults in developed countries. Furthermore, consumers continue to buy more and more goods and services over the internet – great news for e-comm businesses large and small.

 

Social media heavily influences the buying decisions of consumers.

 

You know this without reading all the studies on it.

Based on this most fundamental of assertions, it stands to reason that your goal is to leverage social media as best as possible to influence your target audience’s decisions.

 

But what does this look like for an e-commerce business?

There are several ways to use social media with a view to influencing people’s decisions. The first is simply in making people aware of your shop, brand or products; they won’t decide to buy from you if they don’t know you exist!

The second is building a relationship and rapport with those consumers. Show that you share their values so you can build their affinity towards your brand.

Finally, you can leverage social media through social proof: demonstrating that a community or influential individuals hold your products in high regard. This may be through positive reviews, discussions in forums or through the sharing of images of your products by influencers.

 

The way in which consumers make their buying decisions has changed dramatically with the rise of the internet. Consumers now experience, what Google term, the ‘zero moment of truth’ or ‘ZMOT‘. This is the part of the buying process where users search for different solutions and compare options online before making a final decision. It is at this moment that social media has the power to change your fortunes.

 

Social media for ZMOT

 

There are great examples of e-commerce businesses, large and small, using social media in all three elements mentioned; building awareness, developing relationships and demonstrating social proof – all of which impact the ZMOT. You only have to scroll any given social media feed to see examples of brands doing this.


Instagram for e-commerce businesses

Before we delve into the depths of the strategic side of social media marketing, a note on Instagram. For the majority of e-commerce businesses, Instagram has become a major player in their marketing strategy. Whether it is through great content, influencers or paid marketing, the power of Instagram can no longer be ignored.

Whilst the importance of Snap and Pinterest can be debated depending on the size of the brand and nature of the target audience, Instagram should be seen a powerful as Facebook when it comes to e-commerce. Over 80% of Instagram users follow at least one business account with over 120 million visiting a company website or contacting them each month (stats from Instagram).


 

So what’s in it for you and your brand?

Developing a strategy

Having a clear and thorough strategy is fundamental to your success. Do not scrimp on the time and effort to create a strategy that will give your activity purpose and a focus from week to week and month to month.

If you are in any doubt, without a strategy in place you will waste time, waste money, get frustrated, and potentially alienate your core audience. Your social media strategy is based on three things:

  1. Your audience
  2. Your goals
  3. Your brand

There is a lot more information on strategy in this post.

 

With a thorough understanding of your audience, you are well-placed to create the right content and position yourself correctly. This means identifying the key characteristics of your core target audience members in order to best resonate with them.

This helps you when attempting to generate awareness amongst them and when trying to build an affinity. The key is being as specific as possible when defining that audience, something we explore in depth here.

 

In terms of ‘goals’ – it is paramount to be clear what exactly you want social media to achieve for your business. This may come down to the stage your business is in and whether you can afford to play the long game in building awareness and brand affinity, or whether you need to make sales pronto.

Choose a single, primary goal for your social media endeavours. You may then have subtly different goals for each individual platform. Remember to be specific in your goal setting.

 

The nature of your brand will also dictate your social strategy. Some strategies and tactics will simply not work as well for very formal or high-end brands. It is important to stay on brand, especially as an e-commerce business whose customer buy into what you stand for and how you portray yourself online.

Paid social media advertising for e-commerce

All e-commerce businesses will use paid media spend on social media platform at one time or another. Algorithmic platforms like Instagram and Facebook (especially Facebook!) strangle business pages’ organic reach.

Unless you have hundreds of thousands of genuine page likes, standard Facebook posts will gain very little traction, even amongst your fans. This means that businesses of all shapes and sizes resort to paid Facebook and Instagram ads (even the big ones!).

 

Carousel ads

Carousel ads have been shown to be incredibly effective for e-commerce businesses. These rotating ads give brands the ability to showcase several products or facets of a product to a targeted audience, which has been shown to attract high levels of clicks.You’ll almost have certainly seen a carousel ads from an e-commerce

Example of a carousel ad, prefect for e-commerce businesses

You’ll have almost certainly seen a carousel ads from an e-commerce brand trying to market to you and there’s a very good chance you’ve clicked one. Credit to Facebook for the sample ad image above.

 

Facebook advert sets

Facebook ad sets are an integral part of the process. They are absolutely crucial when it comes to scaling up your Facebook marketing because ad sets enable you to concurrently run variations of the same advert under the same promotion.

This means you can promote your site or a particular item using a range of different images, copy and calls to action in order to test which one works best. Even the most subtle difference in wording or imagery can make a significant difference in your metrics.

An example of advert set data from Facebook

If you can reduce your cost per click by just a few percentage points, that can make a huge difference on ROI over time. The likelihood is, however, that your final iterations of ads will be drastically more cost-effective than the first.

 

Target your ads based on customer journey

Facebook ads are built on the marketing funnel process – that is they work most effectively when running simultaneous ads, each aimed at attacking potential customers who are at a different stage of the funnel. The three-tier structure of ads enables advertisers to accurately split test, to try different ads with different sample groups to maximise ROI and shape strategies as they are being deployed.

The art of advertising on social

The most successful sales campaigns for e-commerce don’t tell a customer to buy their product. Instead, they create a scenario where the customer decides to investigate and purchase. It’s about making the customer think that they are in control of the transaction.

This is a sales technique that existed long before social media, but the principles of selling remain the same. The buyer journey has evolved because of the internet, but the human decision-making process is unchanged. Social media doesn’t do anything new in this respect – it’s just a new platform upon which to do it.

Tactics in practice

Your overall strategy determines which tactics you should choose to support your e-commerce dreams. In this section, we’re going to look at some tactics that businesses of all sizes can incorporate into their social media management to give you actionable ideas for your own brand.

 

Engagement posts

Since Facebook introduced reactions, brands have been using them as voting tools. Because it is so simple to ‘vote’ using them, the right audience will get involved. Of course, those reactions signal to Facebook that your post is super-relevant to the target audience and they can attract huge levels of reach and engagement.

 

Competitions

Running competitions on social media is a very popular tactic for businesses in many sectors. If you’re giving users the chance to win something of value or just to show off their creativity or photos they’ve taken, you can attract lots of engagement through competitions.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all perfect for running competitions, just make sure you’ve set them up correctly to maximise your gains.

 

Conversion drivers

Conversation drivers are terms used by individuals to signal they are in the market for your product. These are typically used on Twitter but can be useful on Instagram too. If your product solves a particular problem or is perfect for a certain type of individual, the things people tweet about might very well highlight them to you.

 

Promoted posts and paid ads

Virtually all the social networks allow you to promote ads and content to a specified audience. The trick is to know how and when to exercise this power. This is what we discussed in the ‘paid social media advertising’ section above.

 

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has blown up in the past few years and become a serious industry. Brands pay tens of thousands of pounds to individuals with large and loyal fan bases to post about their products.

The reality is, however, that influencer marketing is incredibly expensive and the ROI is somewhat unclear. The act of being paid to promote a brand seemingly genuinely is being cracked down upon with landmark cases occurring regularly to reduce the power of influencers. Here are some guidelines to be aware of.

 

Unless you have a marketing budget well into the tens of thousands annually, you need to be clever about how you leverage influencers without paying over the odds.

See if anyone in your network knows any influencers and try and call in favours. Alternatively, do some research into the lesser-known influencers in your sector and personally reach out. If you can find someone who genuinely likes your brand or produce, they might just post about it because they want to, not because they’re being paid.

 

Blogger outreach

This is a tactic that can be very cost-effective, with wide-ranging benefits and is a form of influencer marketing. Many bloggers will review your products and promote it to their readership and social following in exchange for the item, itself.

This means that if your items have low production and shipping costs, this option is very appealing. In contrast to influencer marketing, this is a better option for goods that a) are not particularly ‘Instagrammable’ or b) need some explanation. Benefits include:

  • Qualitative feedback
  • Shareable content for your own social media
  • Backlinks and web traffic
  • Social reach amongst their networks
  • Quotes, images, and testimonials to use

If you’re considering some blogger outreach, read our piece on optimising your campaign.

 

Competitor analysis

Take a look at what your competitors are up to on social media. Which of the above tactics are they employing? Which are working well? Which could you to good effect too?

Don’t underestimate the power of this tactic so explore more in our post on competitors here.

Social media for customer service

Social media has become the primary channel for individuals to make complaints and enquiries to brands. Whilst this means you can avoid dealing with irate customers on the phone, it means you’re expected to be responsive 24/7. Furthermore, nasty comments and negative reviews are out there in the public domain.

We mentioned how key public sentiment is in the ‘zero moment of truth’ so it is important to have your online customer service locked down. The art of community management is crucial for e-commerce businesses simply because such a large proportion of the business operations are online. Here’s own handy guide for dealing with complaints on social media.

Before you go

Remember that having a thriving e-commerce business is an attractive position to be in. The rise in easy-to-use platforms like Shopify and Magento and the ease with which a drop-shipping business model can be achieved means the marketplace has become incredibly crowded.

Besides all that, e-comm giants like Amazon provide a vast range of products at competitive prices to consumers. The trust instilled in companies like Amazon and the speed and ease with which people can purchase and receive their goods more than make up for their platforms’ often lagging design and usability.

This isn’t to say that building an e-commerce business is not possible, but it should highlight some of the challenges and the fact that you must be prepared to think outside the box and really use social media to its fullest potential in order to get ahead.