Every business owner seems to be at a different point in their journey with social media. If you’re just starting out, take a moment to read Glenn Burkins’s recent articles that describe the popular social media sites and give general guidance on building your social media brand. They provide an excellent primer for the newcomer.
If you've already laid a basic foundation for your business, such as creating a Facebook business page or LinkedIn profile, then you might be wondering about specific strategies for turning your efforts into revenue. Your next step depends on what kind of business you’re in.
If you sell products or services online, social media is likely your key to customer loyalty, referrals, and repeat purchases.
The Adobe Digital Index showed social traffic to online retailers doubled from 2011 to 2012. When measured by “last click” referrals, this amounts to 2% of total online shopping traffic, which may sound small -- until you consider the possibility of continued doubling, year after year.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, applied Moore’s Law to sharing back in 2008, positing that “(N)ext year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before.” This idea has come to be known as Zuckerberg’s Law.
I predict that we’ll see a similar trend in the convergence of social media and ecommerce, with the percentage of ecommerce that is socially referred continuing to double every coming year -- to 4% in 2013, 8% in 2014, and 16% in 2015. You could call it a Moore's law of social commerce.
So what do you need to know to capitalize on this trend?
Mauria Finley, founder and CEO of Citrus Lane, is a master of leveraging social for selling, without ever asking for the sale. Citrus Lane is a fast growing subscription company delivering monthly collections of curated baby products, and their Facebook strategy relies more on human psychology than hard-sell techniques for drawing in new converts into the fold.
Finley says, “We use our happy customers as our advocates and let the natural triggers of envy and scarcity do the selling for us.” And indeed, the Citrus Lane Facebook page is full of pictures of subscriber babies clutching their latest sold-out toy of the moment, irresistible fodder for keeping up with the Joneses.
Finley adds, “We don’t see ourselves as leading the conversation with our customers, but rather our job is to facilitate their interactions with each other.” One recent post illustrates this principle by posting a question from “Patty,” who needs help with getting her 2-year-old to sleep in her own bed. In less than 60 minutes, Patty’s question had 75 comments, a testament to their approach.
If you sell products or services through an offline model, social media can help you do everything from generate leads to increase foot traffic to advertise new offerings. The key is to understand your customer’s habits and motivations.
Find out where your customers spend their time online and experiment to discover what content they’ll respond to. What’s keeping them up at night, and conversely, what do they do to escape their worries for a while?
Liz Guthridge, managing director and change management consultant at Connect, says she devotes time to participating in LinkedIn groups where her prospects hang out. “The groups are an under-utilized feature of LinkedIn, and they’re a great way to see what your clients are discussing. I’ll comment whenever I can add something of value, which builds my credibility as a trustworthy resource.”
In all of the hurry to get your message out, don’t forget to listen to your customers and act on what they say. For example, use social media to poll your customers about what inventory you should be stocking. When a customer sees that the cupcake flavor she voted for on Monday is on sale Tuesday, she’ll be that much more motivated to make a purchase.
You can also combine tracking your results from various social channels with incentivizing your customers by issuing different discount codes by channel. For example, you might offer 10% off using code “ABC” on Facebook and using code “123” on Instagram. These are sometimes called whisper codes and can generate useful insights as to whether Twitter is working better than Pinterest, or vice versa.
In summary, social is here to stay, and no matter if you sell online or offline, socially referred business is going to continue to grow as a driver of revenues. So it behooves you to figure out where your customers are congregating, what content they want to see, and to create engagement in a way that builds loyalty to your business.
If you have a great social media strategy that has helped your small business increase sales, please take a moment to leave a comment, thanks!
Jennie Wong, Ph.D. is an executive coach, author of “Ask the Mompreneur,” and founder of the social shopping startup CartCentric.com. Follow her on Twitter @DrJennieWong.