According to online marketing pioneer Rich Gorman, most online business professionals realize that social media is an important part of their branding and marketing endeavors—but at the same time, social media does not always have a direct, bottom-line impact. Social media use can cultivate a strong brand presence, boost visibility, and ultimately cultivate more loyal and enthusiastic customers, but it is not as though a tweet or a Facebook status update leads directly to money in the bank, or to a closed sale—at least, not most of the time.
As such, social marketing can prove frustrating, especially for e-commerce sites. The goal of e-commerce, of course, is to sell products. Social media can sow the seeds of sales, but it can also seem like a waste of time and money. According to Rich Gorman, however, those e-commerce sites that see their social marketing efforts as fruitless are probably just not doing it right.
But this begs the question: What are the best ways to market an e-commerce site via social media? In the paragraphs that follow, Rich Gorman lays out his own 10-step solution.
Rich Gorman Reveals 10-Step Plan for E-Commerce Sites
Gorman says the first step—even before signing up for social media accounts—is to collect some data. “The odds are good that you already have some patrons who are sharing your products or talking about your e-commerce brand through social media, which provides you with a great foundation to build from,” Gorman explains. “The question is, exactly where are people sharing your products, and which products seem to be getting the most social media traction?”
Both are vital questions to address, and Rich Gorman says doing so is a simple matter of pulling up some Google Analytics, or else utilizing a third-party social tracking service.
Setting Up Shop
The second step in Gorman’s 10-step plan is the simplest: Set up the social media accounts your e-commerce brand is going to use. “Facebook and Twitter are the big two, but though companies with particularly photogenic and visually appealing products will also want to think seriously about image-driven services like Pinterest and Instagram,” he says. Gorman also recommends obtaining vanity handles and URLs that contain the brand name.
Enable Social Sharing
Rich Gorman goes on to say that e-commerce brands looking to get the most bang for their social media buck will definitely need to use some social sharing buttons—because the more people to share a product, the better the chances of closing some sales. The question is, where to put these social sharing buttons? “They should be on every page of your website and company blog, but I also recommend putting them in some less-obvious and more surprising places,” Gorman explains. “Thank-you e-mails, invoices—anywhere you can embed some social media links, do so.”
Gorman goes on to remind e-commerce professionals that social media is not just about promotion, but about engagement. “Are you looking to turn previous customers into repeat customers?” he asks. “If so, one of the best things you can do it to make those folks feel respected and appreciated, via some real, open dialogue on Facebook or Twitter. Make time for engagement each and every day.”
Sell Without Selling
Gorman also advises companies to go beyond traditional selling and to do some good ol’ content marketing—which he calls the best way to engage clients. “Your social media friends and followers do not wish you to be selling to them 24/7,” he says. “Instead, what they’re looking for is helpful articles, behind-the-scenes features, and customers stories. That’s how e-commerce brands can engage.”
A closely related point, Gorman says, is that e-commerce brands need to create trust. They need to give customers some reason to take them seriously. A great way to do this is to show a genuine willingness to help. “If you’re doing social media for a home improvement store, don’t just sell your products, but also give some tips or ideas on how those products can be used around the home,” Gorman observes. “That is how you prove to customers that you are there for them, that you know what you’re talking about, and that you care.”
Another tip from Gorman is to remember that social media and video marketing go hand in hand—and that videos are especially useful for those who work in e-commerce. “Video opens many doors for the creation of compelling content—whether you are offering product demos, tutorials, or how-tos,” Forman explains. “People like to see products in action, and, more to the point, videos offer another social component to your marketing endeavors. Videos are the most-shared form of content, so embedding some videos in your social media feeds can pay off big dividends.”
Give Something Exclusive
One thing that e-commerce sites can do to drive social media action is to promise something exclusive. “Create strong calls to action in which you pledge to provide unique content to social media fans,” Rich Gorman advises. “Promise that you’ll give some discount codes via Twitter, or offer exclusive product previews to your Instagram followers alone.”
Serve Your Customers
An important point for e-commerce sites to remember, Rich Gorman says, is that social media is not just an extension of the company’s marketing wing, but its customer service division, as well. “Through your social media sites, you can reach out to customers and ensure that they are having a satisfying experience, even diffusing tense situations or addressing consumer complaints before they bubble over and become negative reviews—or simply lost sales,” he remarks.
Return to Tracking
Gorman’s final tip: Return to tracking. “Go back to your analytics, once your social media campaign is under way—and do so regularly,” he offers. “See what people are sharing, which strategies work and which ones don’t. This is the only way to really fine-tune your efforts.”
Rich Gorman is an online marketing trailblazer and a social network enthusiast.