It’s starting to feel like social media and shopping go hand in hand.
Especially when a lot of us spent a little more time staring at screens over the past couple of years. 😵
But this combination was clicking together long before the pandemic pushed us online. In 2018, as much as 87% of online shoppers use social to help them make shopping decisions.
Since then a ton of savvy DTC brands have jumped on TikTok - the first non-Facebook app to reach three million global downloads - to sell their products online. So you can imagine the sheer scale of social selling today.
But social can feel pretty intimidating, can't it? Particularly when the trends and tools seem to come and go so fast.
Don't worry, we’ve got you covered.
From plotting your strategy to selling on the platforms your customers use most, we’ll get into the ins and outs of why social media’s so great for eCommerce brands. More importantly, we’ll show you the social strategies real eCommerce brands are using to make more sales. 💳
But first, let's take it from the top.
What exactly is social selling?
Hootsuite defines social selling as “...the practice of using a brand’s social media channels to connect with prospects, develop a connection with them and engage with potential leads. The tactic can help businesses reach their sales targets.”
Sounds simple enough.
But how does it differ from standard social media marketing?
Essentially, social media marketing’s about sharing content to help meet marketing objectives - that’s it. But social selling’s about using social media platforms to engage with potential customers directly.
Just think of it as a much less intrusive form of cold calling - *shudders* 😰
But unlike cold calling, social commerce can go much further than just trying to persuade someone to buy.
According to Sprout Social, social commerce is more about “...the buying and selling of goods or services directly within a social media platform.”
So beyond the traditional “discovery process”, social commerce actually encourages users to complete the entire purchase process - all without leaving the app.
But that’s just one reason why it’s such a powerful tool for your brand to have up its sleeve.
4 reasons why ecommerce brands use social channels to sell
1. It’s where the majority of customers are browsing
There’s a common misconception that social media users - especially those buying online - are generally Gen Zers or Generation Alpha; younger adults aged between 16 - 38.
But if that was ever true, it's certainly not the case anymore.
Although the highest proportion of e-shoppers is the youngest age group 16-24 (80 %), it’s closely followed by those aged 25-54 (79 %). So overlooking social media users is a surefire way to lose sales. 💸
The good thing is that, unlike traditional sales techniques, social media selling isn’t a one-way street.
2. Social media allows you to listen and learn
From Twitter to TikTok, all the major social networks offer some form of analytics. Here you’ll find demographic information about who’s visiting and, in some instances, how they actually feel about your brand.
Tools like Buffer and BuzzSumo have social listening functionality which goes beyond the quantitative data of standard analytics. Instead, it gives you a clearer picture of the customer sentiment towards your brand, products and customer service. This allows you to listen, learn and, if needs be, adjust your offering accordingly. Because when it comes to understanding how customers really feel about you, social media’s your secret weapon.
So use it to gauge the 🌡️ online and you’ll stay one step ahead of any issues - long before they get a chance to escalate.
3. Manage online communities and nail customer service
The smartest ecommerce brands get that you can sell yourself on social without even pushing products.
How? Just by letting your customers know there’s a real person behind the brand. Using your social media channels to talk to customers is a great way to build your online communities. And if they’ve got an issue, jump into the feed and show them you care.
A survey of U.S. consumers found that 52% of respondents expect a response to their query within an hour of contacting the brand. This covered social platforms like Instagram and apps such as Messenger. The thing is, 39% reported typical wait times of over two hours. With that in mind, there’s a great opportunity to stand out from the competition if you invest your time in getting this right.
But even if you can’t solve the query right away, letting them know you’re working on it is so much better than radio silence. Along with being the right thing, being approachable and friendly opens up a 🌍 of conversations and engagement. And it can create that invaluable ‘social proof’ that other customers look for when comparing products. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
That’s the beauty of social media, it never has to be a hard sell.
4. Build brand awareness and subtlety sell yourselfOk, this one’s not 🚀 science - but hear us out.
Posting regularly is the only way to build brand awareness. And, unfortunately, it won’t happen overnight. Staying on top of your customers’ minds and feeds is a long game - but one that’s well worth being patient with.
So how regularly should you post? Well according to Hootsuite, this varies per channel:
- Instagram - between 3-7 times per week.
- Facebook - between 1 and 2 times a day.
- Twitter - between 1 and 5 Tweets a day.
And this doesn’t take into account the other major platforms ecommerce brands are using either. 😲
For TikTok, Shopify suggests posting one to two times each day and going live a couple of times a week. But for Pinterest, things can get blurry. “There's no hard rule for how many pins you should post per day. Some sources say one to five, while others claim between 15 and 25 is ideal,” says Shopify.
And as for YouTube, it really does vary. But whatever you do, just make sure you’re consistent with it. Uploading quality content on the reg really is the only way to grow your channel - and your audience.
Hmm, sound like a lot of work? It can be. Especially when each post needs to talk the language of your audience and be consistent in your brand visuals and tone.
But even if those figures look a bit unfeasible, don’t worry. Quality means so much more than quantity when it comes to social. Even if you’re only posting once a week on Instagram, just make sure it counts. Look at the stunning photography from reusable bottle brand Chilly’s or the engaging stories WellEasy are creating around healthy living for ideas.
Of course, scheduling tools like Buffer can help ensure you’re posts are timely. And paid advertising is there to give you a leg up if you need a boost. But, at the end of the day, these are just tactics. To really stand out, all your posts will need to be supported by a smart and creative social media strategy.
How to plan a killer social media strategy
Everything’s less stressful with a plan, right? Well, social media’s no different. Because managing multiple channels might feel like spinning plates but, with a solid strategy, it's a breeze. Here’s our four-step plan to smashing it. 🥳
1. Outline your goals and objectivesFirst things first, you’ve got to define the goals of your social media strategy. The good thing is that you shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel here; instead, these objectives should support and complement your wider ecommerce marketing plan.
Not sure where to start? 🤯
Relax. Here are a few ideas to get things rolling:
- Drive brand awareness
- Increase product demand
- Grow your following
- Get more leads and customers
- Partner up with influencers
- Establish yourself as an authority
- Improve customer service
- Source positive social proof
Alternatively, you might be laser-focused on creating a “buzz” around your brand and want to focus a lot of your efforts on getting user-generated content. Although it’s important later, focus less on what channels you’ll use here. It’s more important to figure out what it is that’s going to cause a stir online. We talked more about this in our ecommerce guide to user-generated content.
Once these goals are established, you’ll have a reference point to measure your actions against. So, if that Instagram story’s not serving a greater purpose, it’s not worth your time.
But this isn’t the only insight you’ll need. You’ve got to figure out who it is you’re trying to reach as well.
2. Identify your target audienceOk, this one’s a biggie. Because posting on social media without knowing who you're talking to is like screaming “PERSON!!!” in a stadium full of people. If you’re lucky, it might turn a few heads. But won’t resonate with anyone in particular. 🤔🤷
The good news is you shouldn’t have to start from scratch. If you’ve put together a solid eCommerce marketing plan, it’ll include content or buyer personas that break down your ideal customer. But if you haven’t, no problem. Key attributes to consider are things like:
- Where they’re based: London
- How old they are: 21
- Their gender: Female
- What interests they have: Fashion, music, photography, sustainability
- Their career and income: Retail, minimum wage
- What social media accounts do they have: Insta, TikTok
- Their motivation to buy: Wants clothes but feels guilty buying new
- Relationship status: Single
- Favourite websites to visit: Depop, The Guardian, Pitchfork
- Buying concerns: Budget and how ethical a brand is
You get the gist.
But depending on your goals and objectives, you can take things even further by creating target segments. So beyond the customers themselves, this could cover people who already purchase from competitors, gift buyers shopping for your audience or influencers you’d like to connect with.
Essentially, you can never have too much data. But data only becomes insight if it can be measured, right?
3. Lock in those all-important metrics and KPIsThe comprehensive reporting functionality that comes with today’s social platforms can feel a bit like a blessing and a curse. Sure, there’s tons of intel at your disposal but what matters most when it comes to measurement? 📏🤔
Focus on these fundamentals and you can’t go wrong:
- Engagement - how people are interacting with your content through likes, shares, retweets, etc. It also takes into account those all-important clickthroughs to your online shop.
- Awareness - this looks at impressions, reach and sentiment, e.g. how many times you’ve been mentioned online compared to competitors - be it positively or negatively.
- Return on investment (ROI) - this one’s so important because it’s a surefire way to justify your efforts. How does your social media presence compare to sales? In-app stores like Facebook Shops can help you track purchases, which makes things easier.
Now it’s time for the fun part.
4. Find your perfect social media content and channel blendOK, let’s get one thing clear: you don’t need to be active on every platform. In fact, it's much better to use one or two channels well, e.g. Instagram and Facebook, than to have four or five networks that you post on infrequently. Because when it comes it social, it's so important not to spread yourself too thinly. Instead, focus on the accounts that your audience spends their time on. Then create and serve them the content that’ll interest them most. Depending on your product offering and the channels you use, this could a variety of different things:
- Topical news and industry trends to join the conversation
- Q&As and polls to start a debate
- Motivational and lifestyle posts to inspire
- How-to videos and infographics to educate
- High-quality product/promotional posts to drive traffic and sales
- User-generated content from hashtags, quizzes, rewards, etc.
- Influencer videos and customer testimonials for social proof
- Contests and giveaways to capture emails and nurture leads
- Tips and tricks to position yourself as an authority
- Behind the scenes on how your product is made and business works
But these are just a handful of things you can do to inspire your audience, build trust and nurture your audience towards that all-important sale. Take a look at your competitors to see what they’re posting - but only to avoid doing the same thing.
Remember, there’s no safety in numbers for brands. So don’t follow the pack.
The key to standing out and selling through social is to be creative.
One thing is for sure, though. The more campaigns you plan and create, the more visual content you’ll have lying around. So think about where you're going to store it all before you get going. That way you'll avoid any content chaos down the road. Our digital asset management system Dash not only stores everything for you but organises it all too. That way you can find what you’re looking for lightning fast ⚡ - and before the moment’s passed.
How to sell products on social
Whether you’re getting creative on TikTok or taking a more traditional approach with Facebook, there are infinite ways to delight, inspire and persuade your audience to purchase on social. Here are just a few examples and ideas to get those creative juices flowing. 💡
There are loads of upsides to advertising your products on Instagram. It’s user-friendly, allows creators to easily engage with their audience and can be visually alluring.
If you don’t skimp on the visuals.
Check out plant-based confectionary brand Gigantic for inspo.
The team used its brand colour palette to perfection so that, however chaotic and creative the content gets, nothing on the page feels out of place. The channel also includes eye-catching stories with product links that point straight to the store.
We’re helping lots of ecommerce brands manage their visual content more easily. With Dash, you can quickly crop, resize and send files straight to social (and your online store).
Top takeaway 📝 Whether it’s product imagery or inspirational quotes, make sure every image is carefully curated and ties together nicely. You’ve got limited time to make an impact so your feed’s got to pop off the page and keep 'em scrolling.
Despite all the new kids on the block, Facebook is still a valuable tool for ecommerce brands. Particularly Facebook Ads which allow you to serve highly targeted campaigns to a variety of audiences. Just install the pixel and start experimenting with tailored messaging and visuals. Speaking of which, we’ve got some tips on how to create Facebook Ad graphics that sell products here.
But that’s not the only way creative ecommerce brands are using the platform. Mindful Chef is whetting the appetites of its followers with snapshots of tasty dishes.
If you click through to the website, you’re greeted with a full recipe and an easy way to order the box of ingredients.
On the other hand, you could take the same approach as Oddbox. The team strike up a convo with their followers by first telling them what they’ve “saved” and then asking them what they’re going to cook with their ingredients.
Top takeaway 📝 Facebook Ads are still great for targeting audiences with personalised messaging. But this platform’s also perfect for striking up real conversations and building a community of followers. And you can’t put a price tag on that.
TikTok is on the rise and is fast becoming a go-to for ecommerce brands. That’s because along with features like mini storefronts and integrated product catalogues, it seamlessly combines creativity with commerce.
For example, cosmetics brand Frankbody are playfully turning the traditional body scrub into a dance routine (and one that pushes a time-limited product offer).
Top takeaway 📝 Like Frankbody, use trending audio clips to increase the chances of your video going viral. And don’t be afraid of selling a little harder, either. The Creative nature of TikTok can really feature your products in their best light.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need to create a killer TikTok ecommerce marking strategy here.
Last year, organic reach was down to about 2.2.% on Facebook and 9.4% on Instagram.
That’s definitely on the decline. 📉
But it’s not the same story for Pinterest. In fact, Similarweb revealed that Pinterest actually receives 68.1% of direct desktop traffic and 28.5% from organic searches. That means with the right strategy and content you can get in front of a vast number of potential customers - even without the advertising budget.
And when they find you - which they more than likely will - funnel them straight to your products to purchase. Check out how responsibly sourced clothing brand Desmond & Dempsey is doing it. Crisp, clean and super-simple.
Or how about sustainable furniture brand noo.ma? At the time of writing, its Pinterest page gets a whopping 3.3. million views a month - and that’s with only a thousand followers. Just think what you could do organically. 👀
Top takeaway 📝 According to SproutSocial, 85% of women use Pinterest for gift ideas, recipes and renovation tips. If your target audience and products fit into these categories, Pinterest could be a no-brainer. But even if they don’t, hundreds of thousands of people are hanging out on the platform every day - just waiting to find you organically.
Last but not least, it’s worth thinking about using a YouTube channel. Especially, if you’re creating content that demonstrates your expertise and goes beyond pushing products.
Pure Electric is smashing with its YouTube. It includes everything from tips on extending the battery life and puncture prevention to community conversations around scooter safety and sustainable transport. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve got a pretty slick product video on the homepage either. 😉
Top takeaway 📝 If you’ve got an enticing reason for viewers to tune in, YouTube is a great option for eCommerce brands. Whether that’s setting challenges for influencers or inviting people behind the scenes, deliver regular content that your audience can rely on. Oh and don’t forget to promote your videos elsewhere. Because who knows where they might be picked up?
But whatever channel you use, Dash makes it dead-easy to store your visual content and get it looking striking for socials. Want to try it for yourself? Sign up for a free trial below! 👇