Today, social media spending makes up a small fraction of most business’ marketing budgets. A recent Duke University survey found that, on average, social media spending accounted for just 9% of the overall budget. But that number is projected to expand to nearly 22% in the next five years.
Clearly, ecommerce marketers recognize the power of social media to connect with an audience. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are nearly ubiquitous in our lives. They’re like the 21st-Century Main Street; we use them to communicate, find information quickly, and increasingly, to shop for products.
For Web businesses, effective social marketing represents real value. Social networks offer new ways to reach first-time customers, engage and reward existing customers, and showcase the best your brand has to offer. Your social network profiles and the content you share are as important as a business’ storefront signage and displays in the 1950s.
Why? Social networks are evolving from merely places to find and distribute content; they’re becoming commerce portals. Businesses that integrate social media into their marketing strategy – from customer acquisition, to sales, to re-engagement campaigns – will benefit. Here are a few ways ecommerce businesses can maximize their social marketing efforts:
To Find and Engage Customers
Go where your customers are. It’s a marketing maxim, and it’s never been easier to accomplish than today. There are many different ways social media can improve the way you interact with customers, whether they’re first-time buyers or loyal fans. Here are a few examples:
- Customer Research: Marketers can see in real-time what your audience cares about most, their interests, the conversations they’re having and what they like. Use your social networks to better segment audience and understand your target demographics. This will help you optimize your campaigns and deliver more targeted messaging.
- Customer Service: Immediacy is big in social media; we want information and we want it now. That’s why social networks are so great for customer service. They enable businesses to quickly respond to customer inquiries. Plus, social media makes it easier to spot and respond to unpleasant customer experiences. Develop a strategy for responding to customer inquiries via social media.
- Customer Acquisition: Your social profile is really your storefront. Customers are now using social networks to research companies and products. Your Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social pages provide the perfect opportunity to make a lasting impression. Start by optimizing your profiles and making important information easy-to-find. Also, encourage your existing customers to review your company on Facebook, Google, or Yelp.
- Customer Engagement: Don’t think of social media as another way to generate sales and drive traffic. Use these platforms to demonstrate value and validate your marketing efforts. Take a look at the camera maker GoPro on Facebook; very rarely is does the company share content that is designed to sell product. Instead, their posts highlight the best quality videos and pictures taken on their cameras, and they effectively showcase the brand. Develop a social content strategy that is designed to highlight the best, most unique, most surprising thing about your brand. And remember you don’t have to do it all yourself; curation can be an extremely valuable tool.
Paid Advertising Optimization
The days of free marketing on social sites are numbered. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have all made paid advertising a more important part of their businesses, and ecommerce marketers will likely have to increase their paid advertising spends to reach the same audience. There are some advantages to paid advertising on social networks:
- More Effective Segmenting: Think about it: Facebook and LinkedIn have made it much, much easier for marketers to target customer segments, by age, location, interests, job title and much more. Shopify, an online retail start-up, saw a 50-percent reduction in cost-per-lead thanks to the Facebook Custom Audience segmenting tool.
- Video advertising is becoming more sophisticated. A recent study found that YouTube led all social networks in its ability to convert users. There are a few reasons for this. First, video is an amazing way to showcase your product. Consumers are researching the products they buy online more thoroughly these days, and video provides an interactive way to see these products in action before they buy. Additionally, video is much more engaging than text, and when your audience is more engaged, conversion follows.
- More accurate social data analytics. A number of tech companies are making products that enable marketers to measure every aspect of their social campaigns – from top-performing networks, to the types of social content that works, and the actions that customers take. These kinds of social data analytics tools make it easier for ecommerce marketers to tie social campaigns to results.
- To Better Distribute Content. It’s been said that every brand is a publisher, and today, anyone with an Internet connection and a social profile is a publisher. Take a look at Starbucks, the coffee company. They don’t just sell coffee; Starbucks is an Instagram rock-star, as one of the most-followed brands on the site. The simplest way to distribute your content online? Include social share buttons on your website. That way, you can subtly encourage your visitors to share as they interact with your content.
Today, it’s extremely easy for businesses to generate content and distribute it directly to their audiences. We can look at GoPro again. They use produce and curate more effectively than most on the GoPro Channel. The channel features videos shot on the brand’s camera, both by amateurs and the GoPro team. This content is shareable, engaging, and creates incredible brand visibility. Then, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the company has built up a stellar following.
Of course, it’s easier to share an extreme sports video than, say, a picture of vitamins, but social networks open up endless opportunities to distribute content. Use your social networks to showcase your brand and distribute the best, most engaging blogs, photos, videos, infographics, and multimedia you can produce. If one type of content doesn’t work for your niche, such as vitamins and nutrients, then maybe an amazing infographic is the way to go. Find the content that best matches your niche.
Plus, content curation – finding the most useful or interesting content on a particular topic – creates value to your potential audience. Here’s an example from the Shopify blog. STORQ, a company that sells fashionable clothes to expecting mothers, curates content related to pregnancy. Their newsletters create real value for their target audience. By using curation, your business adds value, and gives potential customers another reason to follow your brand.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
It’s a brave new world in marketing. Never has it been easier to reach an audience. But as Facebook grows, the deluge of content we see is off the charts. There’s really a need today for smarter, more targeted social marketing strategies.
Staying ahead of the curve means experimenting with the way you interact with customers, advertise and publish content. The Internet makes it easier to test, optimize and test again. And now, the latest technology, like social analytics and content publishing tools, have put marketers in a position to truly measure their social marketing reach.
Author Bio: Matthew Davis is an associate of Ignition72, a Maryland web design agency. He's fascinated by digital marketing and web design and is always on the lookout for cutting-edge e-commerce trends.
Feature image curtsey of Meg Robichaud