How the Evolving Role of Social Media Is Shaping E-commerce

Where social media has historically been a place where users interact with their favourite people, it’s quickly becoming a place where users more often interact with their favourite brands. Social media has proven to be an incredible marketing tool; one that more and more brands are doing their best to capitalise on.

The evolution of social media marketing is an interesting one in itself. Social media began as a channel through which businesses could grow their brands, advertise, and provide high-quality customer service. But social media today is close to being a true e-commerce utility – a one-stop shop through which you can research products, select your favourite, and buy it on the spot.

How did this shift take place? And how will the continued evolution of social media shape e-commerce into the future? Let’s take a look.

The social media e-commerce journey so far

Many trace the origins of e-commerce on social media back to 2012, when Facebook introduced its “Collections” feature. This was the first tool that was specifically designed to allow a Facebook user to browse a product range (or collection). The user could then use the purpose-built “Want” and “Collect” buttons to save a product to a wish list, or to be sent to the brand’s website for purchase.

But it wasn’t until 2014 that the game truly changed. In July of that year, Facebook introduced its “Buy” button, allowing users to purchase the goods that they’d found on the platform through the platform. Twitter swiftly followed, launching their own button in September, and within 12 months every major social media platform, including Instagram, Pinterest and even Tumblr, had created an in-platform purchase function.

But while it’s been three years since the introduction of these functions, social media e-commerce hasn’t exactly taken off. Facebook’s “Buy Now” function is still only available to select partners, and Twitter’s e-commerce team was actually disbanded in 2016. In fact, only one in 10 social media users has actually purchased goods through a platform before.

With all this in mind, where exactly is social media e-commerce heading?

The future of social media e-commerce

While it’s been a somewhat slow start for social media e-commerce – in social media’s lightning fast terms at least – there are reasons to be very positive. The likes of Pinterest are leading the social purchasing way, with their “Buyable Pins” function open to any business who chooses to utilise it, rather than just select partners. What’s more, of the 10% of social media users who have purchased goods through social channels, an overwhelming 73% said that they would do so again.

So the major block for e-commerce businesses looking to generate sales through social media seems to be getting users to make that initial purchase. But how? One way could be to go a little more private.

It’s no secret that private messaging is growing at many times the rate of general social media. Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Whatsapp are all experiencing incredible growth, which has piqued the interest of many a savvy marketer.

The future of social e-commerce is likely going to be about capitalising on a consumer’s hunger for instant gratification. They’ll want to be able to instantly chat with a brand about a product, then make the purchase straight away if they see fit. This will make messaging services such as Facebook Messenger incredibly important for brands. Expect to see AI bots answering customers’ queries in real time, in-app payment integration, and the current customer service solutions all bundled into a private chat space.

What this means for e-commerce businesses

It means a few things:

  1. At this point, it should go without saying, but you need a carefully maintained social presence if you’re an online business.
  2. You should be using private messaging tools in your business’s marketing efforts, be ready to use in-app purchasing tools as they become available, and be open to chatbot technology.
  3. You must be willing to try new things as an e-commerce business if you’re to stay ahead of the competition.

There are no two ways about it – social media e-commerce will continue to evolve, and has already proven itself to be an incredibly valuable business tool for e-commerce companies. But in order to fully capitalise on it, you’ll need to be pragmatic, innovative and perhaps most of all, brave.

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E-commerce on Social Media: A Guide to Social Shopping Basics

From its humble beginnings as a simple tool that helped friends connect to friends, social media has grown into a marketing phenomenon. It’s now an integral part of people’s lives, with Facebook activity currently taking up no less than 50 minutes of each of their 2 billion users’ days.

E-commerce brands simply cannot ignore the opportunity that social media serves up. Particularly because the E-commerce-specific statistics are even more astonishing than the raw user data. 90% of consumers use social media for help with a buying decision, while 75% of people have purchased a product after seeing it on social media.

So what do you need to know about social shopping as an e-commerce business?

Building your social presence

First thing’s first – before you start selling on social channels, you first need to have a presence. Without a strong social brand, your social selling efforts will be finished before they even begin.

Being on social media goes over and above the ability to sell to people. People will be talking about your brand on social media whether you have a presence there or not. You might as well gain some control over the situation by answering people’s queries and addressing their concerns. If you do this well enough you could even win some admirers who may become brand advocates into the future!

Which social platforms are best?

So which platforms should a savvy E-commerce business focus on? Let’s take a look at the strengths of each:

Facebook: A huge audience of 2 billion people, the most targeted advertising, plenty of in-built selling tools.

Instagram: The go-to app for millennials, forces you to deliver a beautifully simple message, a variety of CTA buttons available, Facebook-enhanced advertising options.

Twitter: Great for customer contact and instant updating, integrated “Buy Now” button.

Pinterest: The best source of referral traffic, the most “ready to purchase” audience, integrated “Buyable Pins” button.

In short, every platform has its strengths. Smart E-commerce businesses will think less about which platforms to use, and rather how to use each to its full potential.

Directing people to your site

As an e-commerce business it’s highly likely that you’ll be selling your products or services directly off your own website, thus you’ll be hoping to direct traffic to your site via your social accounts. At the most basic level, this requires that you put a link to your website in the “About” and “Website” sections of your social profiles, and ideally within the text of any content that you might post.

Different platforms allow for differing levels of link plastering – Facebook, for example, allows for a very generous amount of third-party links to be inserted into posts and profiles (your posts will even offer the option of a website preview), while Facebook-owned Instagram allows for just a single third-party link to be listed on any profile (in the “About” section), and none with any posts.

Social shopping integration tools

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The process of directing customers to your website has evolved just as the relationship between eCommerce and social media has evolved. Most platforms now have the equivalent of “Shop Now”, “Buy It Now” or “Find Out More” buttons, and using these buttons can help to remove much of the indecision that customers face when the purchasing process is more distended.

Sponsored posts and carousel ads

Ever since their inception, sponsored posts have proven to be a spectacularly effective way for e-commerce businesses to get their products out there. The hyper-targeted nature of social media marketing allows your business’s marketing material to hit the exact sets of eyes that you’d like it to. As time has gone on they have also become far more E-commerce-friendly, with “carousel ads” being the latest and greatest innovation.

Carousel ads allow an e-commerce business to display multiple images in the one ad, with viewers able to swipe through them. This allows a customer to view the full-colour range of a product, or a group of different products, without the need for a brand to launch multiple campaigns. Online retailer Wayfair saw a stunning 88% higher click-through rate and 20% lower cost per acquisition with carousel ads than it did with standard ads.

So in summary, the basics of social shopping for e-commerce businesses are:

  • Build a presence
  • Learn how to use each platform effectively
  • Direct people to your site
  • Use in-platform tools
  • Be smart with your sponsored campaigns

If you manage to do these things well, social media success for your e-commerce business should be just around the corner.

5 Creative Content Marketing Ideas for Your eCommerce Business

Content marketing is based on a simple premise – offering something of value to people in return for their attention. Rather than blatantly advertising to your audience by treating them as the customer and your company as the salesman, content marketing allows you instead to build a relationship. You’re supplying them with something beneficial, be it entertainment, education or otherwise, and doing so without asking for much in return. And this altruism can generate serious goodwill.

But while content marketing can be incredibly effective, the issue of creating said content can often prove too great a hurdle to overcome. You’re in e-commerce, not art, and as such it’s no small task to come up with engaging content on a consistent basis.

So, to help get those content creation neurons firing for your e-commerce business, here are five super creative ideas for engaging content.

1. Create an FAQ section with a difference

The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of your website is obviously there to answer the pressing queries on your clients’ lips, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be dull and dreary. Why not spice it up a bit by adding some personality? Try telling some stories relating to each question, laying answers out in rhyming sonnets, or simply writing in a light-hearted way!

If you want to take it one step further it might also be worth embedding explainer videos into your FAQ section to get the more complex points across!

2. Show your customers how to best use your product

Speaking of explainer videos, how-to style tutorials can make for excellent – and extremely shareable – pieces of content in their own right. If you sell bikes a how-to video on changing a tyre tube is a great way to go. If you sell makeup, tutorials are an ever-popular video option.

These videos work particularly well if you sell a product that requires some guidance to use effectively. If you provide a service instead, an explainer video about what you offer may be just as effective, provided it is suitably entertaining or educational.

3. Collect up some fun and interesting industry facts

Depending on what your e-commerce business sells this idea could mean anything. Delve into the history of the products in your range, and find some quirky facts to offer up to your audience. These can be put in your company’s newsletter, as a cute little aside in a sales email, or posted to social media. Instituting something like a #funfactfriday post will give your audience a reason to follow your accounts.

If you’re a dab hand at Photoshop you might even be able to whip these up into a super shareable meme!

4. Show your e-commerce operation warts and all

It’s surprising exactly how engaging your fan base might find a #behindthescenes look at your e-commerce operation. It’s fair to say that the overwhelming majority of your audience will have never worked in an e-commerce business before, which makes it interesting to get a look at the cogs of your operation and understand how the whole thing ticks.

You and your employees may be a little hesitant to get in front of the camera, but this content idea is about as simple and effective as they come. Just film yourselves doing what you do.

5. Post your content as website Easter eggs

No, not the delicious chocolate. A digital Easter egg is defined as “an unexpected or undocumented feature in a piece of computer software or on a DVD, included as a joke or a bonus.”

Easter eggs are the sort of secret that you want to get out. If you hide your content within your website (and tell your audience that you’re doing so) it makes it that much more valuable, as the fun is not just in ingesting the content, but finding it too! An invisible hyperlink or smart flash design can make hiding Easter eggs simple and fun for web developers. It also gives people a reason to have a proper snoop around your site!

Remember that whenever you’re trying to create content the focus should always be on creating value. Over and above that, your content is limited only by your imagination!

Why is Social Media Important for E-commerce Businesses?

Social media began simply as a way to poke and throw digital sheep at those within your personal network. But from what wasn’t exactly the most hallowed of beginnings, it has grown into perhaps the most influential technology of the 21st century. Over a third of this planet’s people (2.56 billion or 34%) are now on social media, with over 2 billion being on Facebook alone; an incredible number that would’ve been unimaginable just a decade ago.

So you’re an e-commerce business, who has heard a lot about this social media marketing malarkey, but are new to the whole concept. The first question on most newcomers’ lips is “what’s the big deal?” Why exactly does social media marketing matter so much these days?

To understand why social media is such a key to your e-commerce business’ success, we first need to understand why it has become such a marketing powerhouse in the first place.

An unmatched marketing experience

Over 2 billion people have happily handed over their vital information to Facebook upon sign-up, with many more millions doing the same to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube and others. This is combined with the fact that by engaging with these platforms, each user is handing in more and more information about themselves every single day. Their habits and their hobbies, their (very literal) likes and dislikes, even their exact location!

All this information allows social media platforms to offer the sort of hyper-targeted marketing experience that no other marketing method can match. Users can be separated into an innumerable amount of different segments, divisions and categories, and thus the message that your business sends will only ever be put in front of the exact eyes that you want it to be.

Compare and contrast this with more traditional methods of marketing, such as television, radio and print. Sure, these methods allow for some form of targeting; putting your TV ad on during a 3pm soap opera will obviously hit a largely female and older demographic, and a flyer drop can hit a very clearly demarcated area. But no traditional marketing method, nor indeed any other digital marketing method, can even come close to the level of targeting that social media can offer up.

What does that mean for your e-commerce business?

E-commerce is in a unique situation, in that traditional marketing methods almost don’t apply. Digital businesses understandably need a digital marketing focus in order to direct customers efficiently and effectively their way. This makes social media marketing – along with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) – far more important to e-commerce businesses than it does to others who have a presence outside of the World Wide Web.

Part of the fascination with social media marketing lies in its mystery. It’s a discipline that’s still very much in its infancy, and most social platforms are still fine-tuning their marketing products in an effort to make them as effective (and profitable) as possible. As such there’s no go-to guide on how best to approach it – e-commerce businesses must be pragmatic and flexible with their social media marketing, and be willing to throw caution to the wind.

Get on board now, or be left behind

Sure, you may no longer be able to throw a sheep, but social media has managed to become something even more useful.

With the ability to hyper-target your audience, faithfully tell your brand’s story and be in control of exactly how much you spend, social media is a – if not the – vital marketing cog for your e-commerce business.

And it’s high time your e-commerce business gave it a poke.

5 Proven Ways to Empower Your Business Through Instagram

Business empowerment is a far broader challenge than it once was. The amount of marketing channels that any business is now expected to capitalise on, be it a multi-national corporation or a small corner store, has grown dramatically over the last decade or two.

The driver of this change has been the internet, and perhaps more specifically social media. Can you really be called a business if you don’t have a website, a Google account, a Facebook page and an Instagram profile? To the youth of today, no, you most certainly cannot.

Instagram is perhaps the most mysterious of these digital marketing channels, in part because of its simplicity. How do you best use a marketing channel that is so limiting?

That’s exactly the question that this blog seeks to answer. So, without further ado, here are five proven ways to empower your business through Instagram.

1. Offer high quality branded content

Images and videos are the foundation of your Instagram existence. Serve up trash and your performance will reflect that. Your content is the reason that people will follow your brand, so be sure to make it enticing. Ideally, you want to either entertain or educate – or indeed do both – with every post.

At the same time, you want to stick to a predefined brand persona – an aesthetic that your followers can associate with your brand. This may be as simple as choosing a particular colour scheme or filter to apply to every post.

2. Incentivise subscription

While the quality of your posts will form the major impetus for people to follow you, why not add a little sugar on top? Holding regular competitions on your Instagram page will add another lure to help get potential followers over the line.

If you’re a business that has a product or service which works as a giveaway then you’re in prime position to capitalise on Instagram competitions. For those who don’t, a more creative approach will need to be taken.

 

3. Share for share

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours – on no other social platform do strategic partnerships work quite so well as Instagram. It’s where the hashtag #f4f (follow for follow) began, after all.

Shouting about your brand from the rooftops is one thing, but if people see a supposed third party also up there shouting, you’ll be far more likely to be taken seriously. The difficulty lies in finding a partner that fits. You have to steer away from competitors, and find a brand who you’re also happy to sing the praises of – this is a two-way street of compliments after all. Spotify/Starbucks and Apple/Hermes are great examples of brand partnerships that work.

4. Hire an influencer

Alternatively, you could just pay someone to sing your praises – although it’s far more nuanced than that. Using the services of Instagram influencers is an incredibly popular form of Instagram marketing, and that’s because it works. Whenever you see an Insta celebrity shouting out to a drink company or a watchmaker you can guarantee that it’s a sponsored post, yet the subtlety with which these posts are constructed is such that it goes over the heads of large swathes of that minor celebrity’s followers.

Your best bet is to start small – find an Instagrammer with a few thousand followers who aligns with your brand, and see if they’re open to a subtle shout-out for cold, hard cash.

5. Call your followers to action

The last step to brand empowerment via Instagram is to convert your followers into actual customers. This is by far the most difficult part of the whole exercise, and must be handled with the utmost care. A simple call to action is a great place to start. “Check out our website for our latest deals (link in bio)” or similar should be included in the text of every bit of content you post if you want to ensure that your Instagram efforts aren’t wasted.

The intricacies of Instagram run far deeper than we’ve delved here, but at a base level, these five tips will help to set a solid foundation for your brand on Instagram.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get empowered.

7 Little Known – but Incredibly Handy – Facebook Marketing Features

With nigh-on 2 billion members at last check, Facebook continues to be by far the most dominant social network. It has done this by continually breaking new ground in the world of social media, and nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of marketing.

Facebook is an incredible tool for marketers, and far more expansive than most give it credit for. It’s likely that you won’t have heard of most of its features, such is the depth of the utility. So to ensure that you get the most out of Facebook, let’s look at seven fantastic marketing features that may well have flown under your radar.

1. Audience Insights

Paid advertising is part of any serious social media marketing campaign, and with it – on Facebook at least – comes a wealth of incredible insights. These can be found within the “Audience Insights” section of Facebook’s business section (marked by a greyer colour palate). The insights run deep, offering incredibly detailed info about your target audience, allowing you to create content that is far more relevant.

2. Ad Relevance Score

Facebook’s ad relevance score is a way of quantifying exactly how successful your ad is likely to be. A huge array of factors are considered when coming up with the score, including views, clicks, likes, comments, and positive and negative reactions. The relevance of your ad will also steer its cost – Facebook rewards success, so a good score will result in more views for less cash!

3. Post Scheduler

Many people assume that you require a third party app like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts. Not so. Facebook has a native function to do just that. It’s just a matter of clicking on the “Publishing Tools” tab, selecting “Scheduled Posts” and then creating one!

4. Invite People to Like Your Page

A quick and easy way to grow your audience, you can automatically suggest your page to your contacts in far more ways than you might have thought. Businesses with healthy email databases rejoice – you can import your entire list of contacts and flick them a link to like your page automatically. Simply click on the “…” button on your page, then click “Suggest Page.” A variety of email options will come up, so just choose the one that’s right for you.

On top of that, did you know that you can suggest your page to people who have previously engaged with your content? Just click on the list of people that like a particular post, and they’ll be listed with a button that says either:

  • Liked – that person already likes your page
  • Invited – that person has already been invited to like your page, or
  • Invite – that person hasn’t yet been invited

If it’s the third option, hit the invite option to (hopefully) gain another follower. The good thing is that they’ve already appreciated content that you’ve posted, so the conversion to followership shouldn’t be a particularly difficult one.

5. Pages to Watch

Keeping an eye on the competition, or industry movers and shakers, is always a good idea. And Facebook makes it incredibly easy. “Pages to Watch” allows you to follow up to 100 pages and compare their activity, audience growth and engagement with your own over a weekly period. You’ll get incredibly detailed insights into the workings of your competitors and of social media leaders, allowing you to learn the Facebook marketing ropes super quickly!

6. Like Pages as Your Brand

If you put the good vibes out, you’ll get the good vibes back. But many people assume that you can’t let the positive energy flow from your business page by liking and following the pages of others. The reality is that you can, although it’s a feature that’s somewhat hidden. You’ll need to visit the page that you’re looking to support, but instead of blindly hitting “like, you instead need to hit the “…” button on the page, and click “Like As Your Page.” This is great to encourage a little bit of #f4f action!

 

7. Free Ad Images

Did you know there was a stock photo collection built within Facebook, ready to bring fantastic imagery to your next campaign? When you create your Facebook ad, you’ll obviously be given the ability to upload your own images, but next to the upload button you’ll see a stock images tab. As it’s completely free it’s always worth a look, particularly if you haven’t got any imagery that’s super relevant to your post on file!

6 Essential Tips for Social Media Cross-Promoting

Cross-promotion on your organisation’s social platforms is a social media marketing fundamental, but nevertheless, it can be a difficult one to get right. With the intricacies and best practices of each platform constantly in flux, it can be difficult to know exactly how to go about your cross-promotion efforts from year to year.

There are some things that never change though. Here are six bankable tips that will help you to get all that you can from cross-promoting across your social media accounts!

1. Add social links to each of your profiles

Each one of your social accounts – be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest or LinkedIn – comes with an “about section” (or something similar). While this section should obviously outline what your organisation is about, it should also be seen as a fantastic cross-promotion opportunity. Be sure to include links to each of your other profiles in the section, so that a follower can receive the full complement of your social media activity.

2. Buddy up with a non-competitor

Good social media cross-promotion strategy utilises both internal and external methods. External methods are those that capitalise on a third party – an individual or organisation with whom you’re not in direct competition – to promote your material. This can take the form of either a mutually beneficial cross-promotion partnership where you promote their offerings and they promote yours, or a paid sponsorship agreement, like hiring the services of a social media influencer.

3. Learn how best to use each platform

Every social media platform is its own unique little snowflake, and you’ll need to treat each as such. Posting to Instagram, for example, necessitates the clever and liberal use of hashtags, whereas hashtags on Facebook are far less important. While text-only posts can still work well on Twitter, they’re inadvisable on almost all other platforms.

Educating yourself on the ins and outs of each platform will allow you to cross-promote content in the most effective way possible, extending your reach markedly. Avoid cross-posting – uploading the exact same post across all of your profiles – at all costs.

4. Assimilate your website and social profiles

Your website should direct visitors to your social profiles, and your social profiles should direct visitors to your website. If your website uses WordPress or something similar then there will be a variety of plugins that will allow you to embed either social buttons or small social preview screens directly into your site. Directing social followers to your site will generally be done by posting links to website-based content, but it’s also important to have a link to your website listed somewhere on your profile.

5. Invite one profile’s followers to an event on another profile

Each platform has a unique broadcasting strength. Capitalising on Facebook’s Live function or conducting a Twitter Q&A tends to attract a greater and more engaged audience than simply posting a link to a blog post. So why not invite one platform’s followers to watch you do your work on another? If you’re going to do a Facebook Live feed, advise your Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat followers. This will help to ensure that every member of your audience has a complete picture of your social activity and won’t miss a thing.

6. Use customised tracking URLs for your analytics

There’s no real way to know how effective your social media cross-promotion efforts have been without analysing your performance, but if you’re cross-promoting one particular piece of website content it can be difficult to know where each hit has come from, and thus see which profile’s post worked and which didn’t. Customised tracking URLs seek to solve this problem – they are unique to each profile, enabling you to check exactly how many click-throughs you get from each source.

So yes, cross-promotion is a social media fundamental, but it can be a difficult one to get right. You’ll need to be committed, adaptable and adventurous to do so, but the benefits that come with good cross-promoting are more than worth the effort.