In the current state of e-commerce, social media marketing is a necessary channel for reaching target audiences. It has become one of the simplest levers to pull to communicate and connect with customers and prospects alike. Building an engaged social media community is a great way to succeed in 2023.
Social Media’s Impact on Shopping Behavior
As of February 2021 (the most recent available data), 72% of U.S. adults said they use social media. In the broader global picture, that number is 44%. That is a powerful medium. Your goal as a marketer or business owner should be to reach your target audience where they are already spending their time. Don’t make shoppers come to you; meet your customers where they already are.
Social media platforms have realized the importance of conversion to sales. Most platforms now include “Buy Now” or similar options, allowing social media users to check out in app. This is the growing trend of “social commerce” and is increasingly important in larger e-commerce. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, “Social purchasing is the way of the future. It’s a dynamic, engaging experience that replaces tedious, time-consuming transactions.”
It’s Not Just About the Buy
Beyond the actual shopping experience, potential buyers are also quick to turn to social media platforms for customer service. The publicity of a disgruntled customer is likely to get that customer both a favorable and a quick resolution. Future shoppers also want to see how a brand handles interactions like this to measure customer care.
Also consider the impact of influencers on buying behavior. Thousands of influencers worldwide make comfortable (if not lavish) incomes by promoting products and swaying their communities. Working with one of these influencers or even positioning someone at your company as an influencer is another way to level up the community game.
The Importance of a Social Media Community
Let’s set the scene:
You and your team have worked for months on launching a new product. There has been a substantial investment of time, energy, and funding. Multiple people and departments have contributed. Your whole heart is in this product, and you are so proud. It comes time for launch day, you click “publish” on your product listing, and…
Without a social media community (assuming you don’t have an email list either), you’re stuck waiting for sales to come to you organically while spending heavily on ads. You’ve taken great pains to make sure that everything is optimized for organic and paid search, marketplaces, and your branded website, but you’re still struggling to get your message heard by people who are actively interested.
With an engaged social media community, you can accelerate that product launch! Build hype for the launch ahead of time, run a promotion on your social media channels once it’s live, offer bundles and giveaways . . . the options are endless. In fact, we’ve known brands (as we’re sure you have too) that have sold out of product on launch day because of the effort they were able to put in with their social media communities ahead of time.
Add Value and Get Valuable Promotion and Brand Loyalty in Return
A social media community delivers more value than just helping with new product launches. Having an engaged community and a curated social media presence can turn a shopper into a buyer. From there, it can turn a buyer into a brand evangelist. Just think how many times have you Googled a brand name to check them out before buying from them? Those reviews and conversations are the social proof that makes or breaks future sales and customers.
We already mentioned that potential buyers want to see how you interact with people in your social media community. What about the actual content you’re producing? Are you sharing user-generated content (UGC)? Is your content diverse both in the posts themselves as well as the participants in the conversation? Are you encouraging conversation instead of just using the channel as a vehicle for your own posting? The more involved and the better represented a company is, the more likely potential buyers are to see themselves using/wearing/buying/loving the product.
Choosing the Right Social Media Channels
It appears there is a hot new social media network every year. TikTok has been the big winner in 2022. Snapchat was the thing in 2021. Clubhouse was big in 2020 as a way for people to connect when the rest of the world shut down. New platforms are emerging all the time, some general, others hyper-targeted and niche. People are actively finding – and creating – new ways to connect with each other. Pay attention to your core audience and target market and join them on the channels they use.
Earlier this year, Search Engine Journal compared the top ten social media platforms, based on the number of monthly active users per platform. Chances are that these results won’t surprise you.
Top 10 Social Media Platforms
Meta owns three of the top ten social media platforms. So, while Facebook itself may not feel like the king anymore, parent-brand Meta is still on top. In terms of growth, TikTok has made great strides, reaching over 1B monthly active users since it first hit the scene in 2016.
This list is (obviously) missing countless platforms that may be relevant to your business. Platforms like Goodreads, Tumblr, Ravelry, Discord (a personal favorite of Steven Bartlett), Untappd . . . the list goes on.
Each social media channel has its pros and cons. These pros and cons will vary based on each business’s target audience. For example, a brand that sells reading glasses may not focus marketing efforts on TikTok. However, a brand that sells blue light glasses might see great success there, due to its increased volume of Gen-Z customers.
Top Tactics for Growing Your Social Media Community
It’s easy to be influenced and feel lost when you’re coming up with tactics to grow your social media community. Trying too much can result in a disconnect with who your brand really is, while being repetitive in content can bore your audience. Start with a few of these tactics in rotation to see what resonates with your audience.
- Embrace fun holidays! Websites like National Today or Holiday Insights have thousands of fun holidays that you can tie into your social media calendar. There are universally loved holidays like National Cat or Dog Day, and then more niche holidays that you can tie into your brand and products. Involve your followers and friends to participate by sharing pet photos. Even better if you sell pet-related products!
- Be human. This gets easily forgotten. You’re so busy promoting your products that you forget to talk about your people or your company. Implement something like #FridayIntroductions or post some photos of your team volunteering throughout the year. Show the people side of your brand.
- Try a contest. This is a great way to get your audience engaged AND to generate some user-driven content. Host a contest that ties in with your product. Get people to post on social media and use a specific hashtag. Not only will you have extra content, but you’ll know who your most engaged followers are.
- Go behind the scenes. Shoppers love to see the inner workings of companies. Post a video of your team packing orders or brainstorming the next quarter’s content. Let customers in and make them feel welcome.
- Host a brand ambassador search. Similar to an affiliate program, ambassadorship is a great tactic for smaller brands (though even large companies do it too)! Create an application or “rules” on social media to partner with brand ambassadors. If selected, send them a few products and a discount code they can share with their followers. Ambassadors doing an unboxing or sharing reviews is powerful content that inspires buyers.
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