You’ve built your eCommerce store, everything is up and running, customers are beginning to buy from you, but it’s still not enough. You want to take your shop to the next level – but how? The answer is simple, it’s not sufficient to have a well-designed store, you need to connect with your customers on a personal level, you need to expand your reach – you need to make your eCommerce store social.
In this article I am going to show you the 5 simple steps to accomplish just that.
Step 1: Research, Research, Research
As any good graduate student will tell you, the first step needed to succeed is a solid research-based foundation. In your case, you’ll have to determine which social networks you want to be active on, and what kind of content you want to post.
- Competition: Check out what your competition does. See where they are active and where they have had the most success.
- Twitter: Search on Twitter for relevant hashtags to see what kind of content is being posted. For example, (and since it’s the Winter Olympics and #Sochi2014 is on everyone’s lips) if your eCommerce store sells skiing gear, browse Twitter for #ski, #skigear, #skier4life, and other similar industry related hashtags.
- A search for #skigear lead to this post by Mountain Rideshare.
- Analytics: Use an analytics tool to help you out. For example, Social Crawlytics breaks down how a specific company’s content has been shared – where it was shared the most and what kind of content was shared. This tool can be used to assess the shares from any website, so you can use it to really analyze your competitor’s success.
Tip: Once you decide which networks to be active on make all of your content instantly shareable by adding social share buttons.
Try using AddThis to put them onto your website.
Step 2: Pick the Right Time to Post
Now that you know which social networks to use and what kind of content to post, you are going to want to know when and how often to post. First of all, think about when your customer base is most likely to be online? Jay Baer, founder of ConvinceandConvert.com, has an interesting suggestion for business to business (B2B) marketing. He theorizes that most business people spend their days in meetings which will generally be starting and ending on the hour. This means that these people will be checking their social media mostly between meetings, aka in the few minutes before or after the hour. By posting in this time range, you will have the best chance of engaging your target users while they are active.
A study by Buddy Media revealed some useful information regarding Facebook posting:
- Brands that posted 1-2 times a day had a 40% higher rate of engagement than brands that posted more than 3 times per day.
- Brands that posted before and after business hours saw a 20% higher engagement rate.
- Engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursday and Friday than they are during the rest of the week.
- You can also make use of tools to figure out when your customers specifically are most active. For example, this is very simple to do on Facebook – As admin of your Facebook fan page you can see a breakdown of when people are active.
Tip: Hootsuite’s auto-schedule function finds the optimal time for content to be posted and does it for you.
Step 3: Build an Engaged Community
Next it’s time to start building an engaged community around your store. The goal of social media marketing is not to advertise your merchandise, it’s to connect with your customers on a personal level. Engage your customers by giving them something to talk about. This is where you get to use your creativity by:
- Posting relevant questions
- Posting pictures for your customers to create captions
- Starting a sentence and have them fill in the blank
For example, check out this post by Walmart:
You shouldn’t just post content at random though. Rather you should post content that appeals to your target customers in order to build a community. Show them that you have the same interests that they do. Going back to our ealier ski gear example – if your customers are interested in skiing, post about wanting to ski, put up pictures of mountains, make jokes that only a skier would get, and ask questions to get your fans engaged with your brand Take a look at this post by The North Face:
Or this one from Paoli Peaks:
Another good way to engage your customers is by providing them with quality information. Doing this will show them that not only are you an engaged member of the community, you’re a thought leader and knowledgeable authority that they can turn to for information. You can do this by writing a blog related to your field or hosting a live Twitter chat or even a webinar with an expert from your industry. However, avoid sending impersonal messages. Social media is not the place for blanketing your customers with promotional spam mail. You should be forming a personal bond with your customers by engaging them.
Tip: Use Twubs.com to host Twitter chats, for an event live feed, or to register a hashtag for your business.
Step 4: Reward Customer Loyalty
OK, so you’ve built the infrastructure for a social media community, now how do you maintain it and help it grow? Easy. Show your customers you care about their loyalty by giving them something in return. Have competitions, sweepstakes, and other giveaways to reward your current customers, and bring in new ones. There are many different types of customer rewards that can help your community grow:
- Follow to win: The most basic is the “follow to win/share this post to win” competition. This type of competition is pretty self-explanatory — you simply ask your customers to follow your company or share a post and in exchange they are entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a prize of your choosing.
- Sharing = coupon: Along the same lines, you can give your customers coupons for sharing their purchase on social media, or reward them for following your brand’s social media page with the Coupon Pop tool.
- Photo contest: Another good one that drives engagement and spreads your company’s name is a photo competition related to your product. Take Chipotle Mexican Grill as an example of this type of competition. They asked their fans to post on the company’s Facebook page a picture of “What they love” wrapped in tinfoil like a Chipotle burrito. They offered a cash prize to the winner. Over 1300 pictures were posted and 96,095 votes were cast during the competition.
- Story competition: This final example gets your customers to share their personal stories. In this “Tell me why you deserve to win” competition, you offer a prize to your followers for the person who can give the best reason for why they in fact deserve the prize. A good example of this competition is KFC’s #KFCscholar competition. KFC offered a $20,000 college scholarship to the person who Tweeted the best reason for why they should get the scholarship.
Competitions are not just important as a reward to your customers, they are also an incredible and relatively cheap marketing tool. Having a competition encourages your followers to post and to share with their friends all the while mentioning your company and brand. Through competitions your customers will market your brand, while you sit back and watch.
Tip: ShortStack is a tool that gives you the ability to host competitions on Facebook.
Step 5: Always Keep your Customers Engaged
Don’t forget about the day-to-day activity on you social networks. You have to ensure you maintain a presence on all your social media pages. It’s a two-way street, so promptly respond to comments, criticism, and questions.
- Staying engaged with your customers shows them you care. Obviously you can’t respond to every post, but you should make an effort to maintain a steady presence.
- When you do respond, be sure to do so in a timely manner (preferably within 24 hours of the post).
- Not responding to, or deleting negative posts is a bad practice. Utilize these posts as an opportunity to show off your customer service.
- You can use tools like Buffer to stay on top of your different social networks
Tip: Try to form a strategy for responding to negative comments. Take a look at this article for some advice.
As I’m sure you can tell, building a following for your eCommerce store isn’t exactly easy. It requires a lot of patience, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of hard work. Following these steps is definitely a good way to start your social marketing efforts, but obviously there is always room to grow.
Bonus Tip: Use StoreYa.com to import your eCommerce store directly to your Facebook page. Once your store is on Facebook you can utilize StoreYa’s different marketing tools to broaden your community, boost your sales, and at the same time follow the productivity of these efforts using the included analytic tools.