Author: 02 Feb 2023minutes read
Believe it or not, social commerce has been around for 15 years, with Facebook and Instagram leading the charge, but it’s only recently become big business. With global social media users surpassing 4 billion and the COVID-19 pandemic pushing more people to shop online, social commerce sales are expected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2025, growing three times faster than traditional sales channels, according to a 2022 report from Accenture. The generations behind this growth will likely be Gen Z and Millennials, who are together expected to account for 62% of the spending.
But to get your slice of this massive social commerce pie, it’s more than posting a bunch of product images and waiting for the sales to come rolling in. “As with any marketing efforts, you need to have a strategy and a plan—which look different across industries, audiences, and social networks,” says Jordan Abidor, social media manager for Buy with Prime. “There’s no ‘one size fits all.’ What works for one ecommerce business may not work for another.”
Fortunately, whether you’re the owner of a small online store or the social media manager at a big retailer, these six foundational best practices can help you get the most out of your social media marketing.
Your starting point is getting to know your audience and what makes them tick, and then build from there. Ask yourself questions like: Who is your ideal customer? Where do they live, hang out, and work? What social networks do they use? What do they care about? What brands do they love, and how are they engaging with those brands? What are their unmet needs?
With this information, you can get a “better understanding of which social networks your audiences are on and what types of content and messaging resonate most with them,” says Jordan, who advises against signing up on every network and jumping on every trend. “Start slow and find the channels that can bring value to your brand, and be active on those at the times that your audiences are.”
In terms of investment and the networks driving clicks, he points to Instagram and TikTok. “For brands with audiences on either of those platforms that have the ability to post authentic and unique content, they’re probably a good place to start,” he says. “If you see success on those, then you can experiment with other networks to expand your social media campaigns.”
The answers to all those questions about your target audience and your research about the different channels inform your social strategy and, if done right, can be more impactful than investing a lot of money in traditional marketing efforts.
Jordan recommends that brands decide how they want their target audience to perceive them on social media, and then create an aspirational guide. “Identify your SWOT—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—and compare that against the brands you aspire to be like,” he explains. “Check out other retailers’ feeds. What does their social media presence look like? What do you like or dislike about what they’re doing? What types of posts are followers engaging with?”
With clear aspirations and insights about other brands’ social media efforts, the next step is to define your goals and the types of content you need to achieve those goals.
Content is the centerpiece of your social strategy, so you need to consider the formats and imagery, how often you post on each channel, and when to post to ensure your audience is engaged. For instance, if your audience is more active on certain days or at certain times, publish content on a similar schedule. If your audience engages more with videos, prioritize reels or compilations.
Messaging is a key component to your social strategy. Being clear about what you want to say to your audience and consistent in how you say it (more on that later) are essential best practices. You should base the core message that you share across social media on your brand’s mission, but tailor it to your audience and the social network you’re using.
“Make sure your message is appropriate for the audience on the particular platform and aligns with their reasons for being there in the first place,” says Jordan.
Don’t know what those are? You can use simple polls to get feedback from your followers. Ask them what they use social media for most. Ask them what they like reading about or shopping for. What brands do they like following, and why? What do they want from brands on social media?
If you’re lucky, you can collect valuable data from potential customers to help you craft content and messaging that resonates and ultimately build an engaged community around your brand.
On social media platforms, brevity rules. Jordan advises keeping the copy in your post short and simple. “Many users won’t expand your post to read what’s hidden behind ‘See more’ so try to get your main message across in fewer than 125 characters,” he says. The option to see more breaks at about 100 characters, so after that you can include hashtags that are relevant to your brand and industry—just don’t overdo it.
If you have a longer message or want to emphasize a call to action, consider adding it to the image itself, Jordan suggests. “Adding the message or desired action to an image can help ensure that it’s not lost in the caption and that it’s very clear what you want the user to see or do.”
Consistency across every touchpoint with your brand is crucial, giving shoppers a familiar, connected experience throughout their journey with your brand. From your website and your Store on Amazon.com to ads and newsletters, make your brand recognizable by color scheme, visuals, typography, messaging, and more. The same is true on social media—the look, feel, and voice should align with those of your overall brand.
If you don’t already have brand guidelines, a voice and tone guide, or a style guide for your company, consider creating one and dedicating a section to how your brand is represented on social media. It’s also a good idea to create social media guidelines for your employees (and any business partners) to make sure that they represent your company in the right way when posting on their own social media channels.
“Consistency is also important for setting expectations about how you engage with followers, and how they can engage with you,” says Jordan. For example, if you’ve set the expectation that you post three times a week on Instagram, stick with that cadence so that your followers know when to tune in. If you make a point to respond to every comment, hold yourself to that commitment so that engaged followers know what to expect.
A social media strategy can only be successful if you’re constantly reviewing, analyzing, and adjusting. “Frequently evaluating your social content and activity can help you understand performance—what’s performing well, and what’s not,” Jordan explains. “You can use that analysis to guide short-term adjustments and inform your longer-term social media strategy.”
At a minimum, you should check your accounts daily, but you should also conduct regular social media audits that look deeper at your efforts and resulting activity. Quarterly audits, for instance, can give you actionable signals about the effectiveness of your social media efforts across networks, while also providing insights about audience needs and expectations.
One way to evaluate performance is through A/B testing. Experiment with your content, trying different content types, such as static images or videos, and different image styles, such as detailed product shots or lifestyle images. Experiment with the frequency and timing of your posts. And even experiment with your messaging, such as word choices or character counts. Whatever you decide to test, the key is to only test one thing at a time over a long enough timeframe to generate valuable data. From there, you can see what’s working, or not, and make any adjustments to your strategy.
Engagement may be one of the metrics you’re tracking as part of your ongoing social measurement, but it’s also an important part of building a community around your brand—which is why you created a social media account for your business in the first place, right?
Engaging with your audiences through posts, comments, tags, DMs, and more helps you build relationships with potential customers and nurture relationships with existing customers. One effective tactic is including a call to action in occasional posts to engage users, such as asking them to tag a friend in the comments, answer playful questions, or take pictures with your products. These desired actions can also be part of games, contests, or promotions.
According to Jordan, “Social media users love contests—maybe they can win a prize, get a discount, or just get recognized—so anything you can do to ‘gamify’ your social efforts is a good way to get users engaged, while helping to build affinity.”
Jordan also points to stories as a popular way to engage audiences on social media. Stories not only inspire, but they also provide a mirror for prospective and existing customers to see themselves using your products or services. They’re also super easy and fun to engage with.
“Use stories to show how audiences are tagging you and how they’re using your social content or your products,” says Jordan. “The more you can tap into user-generated content as part of your brand story, the more likely your followers (and your followers’ followers) are to emulate that behavior.”
The essentials of social media marketing success are to know your audience, develop the right strategy for your brand, find and deliver a differentiated message consistently across channels, analyze the data to identify gaps and opportunities, and focus on nurturing relationships to build a thriving community that loves your brand.
Before you know it, you not only have thousands of followers and an engaged community around your brand, but also have your own sliver of that $1.2 trillion social commerce pie.