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Despite what some may tell you, social media for business is not dead. While it’s true that it is becoming a lot more difficult for businesses and brands to reach social media users organically today, there’s still a lot of value and potential ROI that can be gained from participating on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In order to succeed in continuing to use social media as a way to drive more sales for your ecommerce business in 2018, you can’t approach things in the same way that you have in previous years. You have to go above and beyond to develop and execute on strategies that help you differentiate from competitors. You have to understand that you can’t communicate or engage with your audience in the same way across every social media site. You have to know when to scale back on a social site and when to double-down. You have to know how to build trust with people and leverage yourself as a valuable, authentic resource for the people you’re ultimately trying to reach and help. And finally, you have to know how to use the right tools for each channel.

This blog post will provide you with the tips, tools, and best practices needed to sell more products across different social media channels in the year ahead:

Why Social Media Still Matters

Earlier this year it was reported that in 2017, the social media giant Facebook lost an estimated 2.8 million users in the U.S. under the age of 25. One study even reports that the average user is now spending 24% less time on the Facebook than they used to. As more stories get published each week questioning the popularity and sustainability of the site, many business owners are left wondering if it’s still a viable marketing channel, and whether they should continue investing time and resources into participating on the site at all as a business.

Similarly, multiple websites and blogs wrote in 2017 about the decline in monthly active users on Twitter, another social media site that businesses and brands have long used to reach and engage with target customers and followers.

As you look through these articles, you’re probably asking yourself the same question that many other business owners like you are asking themselves right now: is social media still worth it?

I believe the answer is, without a doubt, YES.

Here’s why social media is still worth investing in as a business:

  • Reason #1: Organic is more challenging, but paid still works. As a business owner, it’s up to you to develop and execute strategies that allow you to take advantage of the powerful advertising tools that exist on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This is especially important as Facebook continues to de-prioritize updates from pages and businesses, focusing on giving more weight to updates from family and friends.
  • Reason #2: People are going to talk about your business on social media whether you are actively present or not. Just because you choose not to use social media sites as a business anymore doesn’t mean your customers and prospective customers will stop talking about you. As a business owner, it’s much better to proactively manage and participate in conversation that’s happening between users about your products than it is to keep yourself in the dark. As more people than ever before rely on the opinions of their friends and family members before making purchasing decisions online, it’s valuable for you as a business owner to do what you can to foster word of mouth and steer conversations in the right direction.
  • Reason #3: You can still expand your reach on social media if you’re willing to try different tactics. If you’re still using the same strategies and tactics that you were using 1, 2, or even 5 years ago to reach your audience on social media sites, you’re not going to get the ROI you’re looking for. To succeed, you need to stay on top of and ahead of trends, and be willing to try to things in order to stand out from competitors and connect with the right people. That means testing Facebook Live, sharing more stories, testing new advertising options, and being more intentional, selective, and strategic about the content you choose to share with the people who follow you.
  • Reason #4: Your competitors are going to keep using the sites (for now). At least for the time being, there isn’t likely to be any sort of exodus from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social sites by business owners all at once. That means that if you choose to stop using social media to market your business, you need to be OK with the fact that your competitors will continue using it to reach prospective customers, develop and nurture relationships, and drive more product sales.
  • Reason #5: There are more tools available than ever that can help drive your success. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and third-party software companies continue to test and launch new tools meant to make work easier and tactics more effective for business owners interested in using the sites to connect and engage with their audiences.

Aside from these five compelling reasons, it’s also worth noting the existing size and continued usage of social media sites, despite the waning popularity and usage that has been written about over the past year. Consider the following:

  • Worldwide, there were over 2.13 billion monthly active Facebook users for Q4 2017 (Zephoria).
  • On Twitter, there were over 330 million monthly active users for Q4 2017 (Zephoria).
  • In September 2017, there was roughly 800 million monthly active users on Instagram (Statista).
  • As of January 2018, about 69% of U.S. adults regularly use at least one social media site (Pew Research Center).
  • Broken out by demographic, that’s 88% of adults between the ages of 18-39, 78% between the ages of 30-49, 64% between the ages of 50-64, and 37% of adults age 65+ who use at least one social media site regularly in their daily lives (Pew Research Center).

From this data, it’s clear that social media is still worth investing in as a business. The question is, where should you be allocating most of your time and money going forward in order to get the best results?

Where to Spend Your Time

If you’re new to e-commerce and to using social media for business, it can be tempting to want to create and try to manage pages and profiles on every social media site you can find. It’s logic that many e-commerce business owners have adhered to over the past few years—the idea that in order to sell products online, you have to participate on every social media site that exists.

In order to succeed in 2018 however, you’re much better off developing strategies for and investing dollars into participating on the social media sites that the people within your target audience are using most often and most regularly, as opposed to trying to spread yourself too thin across all channels.

So, the question is, how do you determine which social media site your audience prefers most? Here are some recommended steps you can take in order to figure it out:

  • Step 1: Test a few at once. If you’re new to using social media for business, the best thing you can do is select 2-3 sites to start participating on in an effort to build up a following and engage with prospective customers. You likely already have a rough idea of where your customers are spending their time online, so start with those channels first. Spend 90 days consistently participating in each social media site, then at the end of the 90 days, review analytics to decide which sites are worth continuing with, and which ones to scale back on. Look for engagement metrics on the social media channels themselves, and referring traffic from social media sites found in Google Analytics (or whatever website analytics platform you use).
  • Step 2: Survey your customers. You can also take the time to ask your customers where they prefer to spend their time. Create a survey using Typeform or any other survey creation tool, and send the link to past customers, add it to your email signature, and include it in order confirmation emails. You can also ask customers in live chats, over the phone, or as a follow-up to the support emails that your team regularly receives.
  • Step 3: Leverage published usage data. There is a ton of data published that can be leveraged in order to determine where your ideal customer is spending their time in relation to social media sites. Pew Research Center, for example, published and regularly updates a Social Media Fact Sheet that offers a clear look into social media usage and popularity across the following social sites: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, WhatsApp. These types of resources can be hugely valuable if you’re new to e-commerce or social media and simply looking for help on where to start.

Screen Shot 2018 03 11 at 3.24.30 PM

Source: Pew Research Center

As mentioned, you likely have a pretty good idea of where your target audience is spending their time, so follow the recommendations outlined above, but also don’t be afraid to trust your gut. Invest time where you think it would be most valuable, track performance, and adapt and change lanes when needed.

How to Approach Selling on Social

If you’re ready to start investing (or re-focusing) time and resources into social media for your ecommerce business, there are a handful of recommendations regarding how to approach selling products on social that can help boost your success:

  • Recommendation #1: Don’t make it about the sale. Social media users are overwhelmingly tired of being marketed and sold to by brands and businesses. In order to be successful in getting them to buy your products, don’t make it about the sale. Instead, focus on providing value to people, addressing their pain points, showing them you care, and being authentic with your audience. Do what you can to show them that you’re different, that you’re human, and that you’re not simply using social media as another way to get into their wallet.
  • Recommendation #2: Participate, don’t just broadcast. If you’re going to invest in social media, you have to be willing to participate and engage with your online community. Social media sites are not broadcast tools. Instead, you should use them to build community with your customers and target audience. Show the people that you want to buy your products that you’re willing to listen and have conversations with them. Work to establish and nurture authentic relationships with them, and provide them with the same level of customer service that they would get if they were walking into your physical store if you had one. Be consistent with how you respond to people, and how long it takes you to respond.
  • Recommendation #3: Be honest and transparent whenever possible. Share updates with your followers about your business, team, and products that they won’t get anywhere else. Build trust by being a little vulnerable and giving people a sneak peek into the daily operations, challenges, and milestones relating to your business. Differentiate from competitors by being OK with showing your human side.
  • Recommendation #4: Be different and have fun. Social media is not about business. It’s about real relationships, entertainment, and creativity. The worst thing you can do when participating on social media as a business is to come across as too stale, too formal, or too professional. As a business owner, work to go out of your way to be different than your competitors on social media. Go live on Facebook and celebrate a milestone with your followers. Tell stories, run contests, and engage with people in unexpected ways.

To use social media as a tool or channel for selling more products, you have to be 100% committed to participating and engaging with your target audience in ways that they want and expect. Remember: it’s not about you, it’s about them. If you can follow the recommendations above and focus on providing value and nurturing relationships with people, your reputation will strengthen, trust will be established, and you will drive more product sales.

Now that you understand why social media is still valuable for business, and how to best approach using social sites to sell more products, I wanted to wrap up by offering some tips, tools, and resources for a few specific sites that you may want to use (or continue using) for your e-commerce business.

Selling With Facebook

Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites you can use to reach and connect with online consumers. If you find (based on your research), that it’s a channel you need to be leveraging for your specific audience, focus on these tips, tools, and resources:

3 Quick Tips

  • Share content natively whenever possible. Facebook tends to give more weight to content that is created on and lives on Facebook (as opposed to somewhere else on the internet) Instead of sharing video links or blog post links all the time, upload a video directly to the platform, go live on Facebook, or share a text-based story with a photo as your update.
  • Utilize Facebook advertising. The targeting tools are incredibly effective and there are many different types of content ads that you choose from based on your audience, your needs, and your resources. Ads are also incredibly affordable, and you can easily scale your budget up or down based on performance.
  • Share more video on the website. Facebook also tends to give more weight to visual content, especially video. Need help getting started? Check out this guide.

2 Helpful Tools

1 Homework Reading

Selling With Twitter

Twitter is another widely used social media site that you might use to reach and connect with online consumers. If you find (based on your research), that it’s a channel you need to be leveraging for your specific audience, focus on these tips, tools, and resources:

3 Quick Tips

  • Create a hashtag. Create a custom hashtag that you and your customers and followers can use when talking about your business and products. Center it around some sort of movement or niche community that you’re trying to create (ex. Chacos uses #ChacoNation).
  • Repurpose content into multiple tweets. Whenever you have content to promote, break up content into multiple tweets to extend the life of the resource. Don’t just tweet the same copy over and over again day after day.
  • Use monitoring software to find conversation opportunities. Use a tool like Hootsuite to proactively find and participate in conversations that are happening about your products, your business, or the pain points you solve.

2 Helpful Tools

  • Hootsuite (for monitoring updates in real-time)

1 Homework Reading

Selling With Instagram or Snapchat

Instagram and Snapchat are newer social media tools, but are exploding in popularity and usage, especially with younger demographics. If you find (based on your research), that it’s a channel you need to be leveraging for your specific audience, focus on these tips, tools, and resources:

3 Quick Tips

  • Use photo editing apps like Snapseed or VSCO. Use apps to make your photos look more professional and to make your feed look more consistent.
  • Use hashtags. Grow your following and boost brand awareness by using up to 50 hashtags at a time when posting new photos to Instagram.
  • Use the Stories feature on both Snapchat and Instagram. Engage with users and differentiate from competitors by going the extra mile when creating and sharing content with your followers on the two channels. Offer exclusive deals and information that they won’t be able to find anywhere else but within your story.

2 Helpful Tools

  • MikMak
  • Snapchat Ads

1 Homework Reading

Over to You

What social media channels are working best for you when it comes to driving more sales? Share your experience and tips in the comments below.

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