Embrace Social Media Part 1 – Tips for Social Networks

Embrace Social Media Part 1

The Insider’s Guide to EcommerceIn this exclusive three-part extract from his latest book, The Insider’s Guide to Ecommerce, Chris Barling gives an introduction to engaging on social networking sites.

Part 1 has tips that apply to all social media.

Part 2 has tips specific to Facebook and

Part 3 is for businesses wishing to leverage the power of twitter


  1. Understand the benefits of social media

    The way you benefit from social media is when a) you attract new customers b) people who buy from you or like your offering share this with their friends or followers c) you diffuse criticism or customer complaints by providing customer service and other added value, and hence protect your reputation and grow customer loyalty.

  2. Be there

    Many of your customers and huge numbers of your prospects are active on the social networks. Most of your competitors are too. You need to be there, if only to keep an eye on things.

  3. Listen before you talk

    nce you have found your customers then sit back and listen. Social networking is renowned for its real time opinions, use this to your advantage and use search engines to find people talking about you or your company. Unplug your keyboard and gather as much intelligence as you can, it often gives a fascinating insight. Even better take it a step further and look for your competitors’ names, or search keywords that relate to your products or services. Never give up on listening, things are always changing and social networks can help to keep you ahead of the competition.

  4. Engage when you speak

    After locating people discussing your brand or the competition, start a dialogue with them. When you do decide to post content, make sure you ask questions and invite comments. Social networks are not a soapbox for one way traffic, that’s a fast way to get ignored. So it is important not to comment too often and to try and add value when you say something. In particular avoid contributions which are simply intended to promote you and which stick out like a sore thumb. Try to develop a positive and professional persona.

  5. Participate politely

    A person’s online social space is sensitive; so respect it by being smart and polite. You wouldn’t barge into a normal conversation with blatant advertising, and social networking is no different. Within my business, we actively spend time trying to help customers participating on social networks. We direct people with queries to our online resources such as our knowledge base and online articles. Once you start, try not to give up. Make it part of your daily routine, schedule time to get involved in answering questions and engaging with others, it’s very rewarding.

  6. Prioritise Facebook and Twitter

    You shouldn’t worry about other social networks until you have cracked Facebook and Twitter, as these are by far the largest. That’s why we have a list of tips for each of these networks.

  7. Set up profiles

    Although the priority is Facebook and Twitter, as well as setting up company profiles there (see Parts 2 and 3) also get a presence on Google+ and LinkedIn. Remember if you don’t take the space for your company name, somebody else might. Try to tell interesting stories, maybe about how customers used your products in unusual ways. Avoid boring sales pitches and corporate flam. Ensure that your profile provides a great overview of who you are and what you sell. It must contain a link to your web site.

  8. Consider adding Sharing buttons

    After your profile, one of the biggest and easiest ways to start interacting with social media is to add buttons to pages on your web site that allow customers to share things that they like. On each product page you can add interaction with Twitter, Facebook and maybe Google+, Pinterest and others if you wish. Like all editions, you need to assess whether the real estate taken on your web site is worth the benefit gained.

  9. Use “Add This”

    AddThis provides useful code that enables you to add a series of social activities to your site embracing all of the main social networks. So consider it in your plans. Let people “like” both your site and individual products. AddThis will also provide information on how your customers are behaving. ShareThis is an alternative.

  10. Be creative where you place social media buttons

    Try to find clever places on your ecommerce store to put your social links. For instance, you might consider the order confirmation page where you could thank them for the order and suggest they share information with friends. You could do the same in the email that confirms the order. Be creative, maybe if you offer free shipping this would be a place to offer sharing?

  11. Provide compelling reasons to visit your site

    If you are promoting yourself on social networks, include discount vouchers, tips, special offers or competitions to encourage people to visit your site, just as you would with any other marketing. If these new customers are pleased with the result, they are likely to share with others. This is where you begin to get the real results of social networks.

  12. Promote yourself, not the social network

    Most social networks commentator’s talk as though the social networks are an end in themselves; they’re not. Make sure you don’t send traffic to social network sites that should be staying on your site and buying your products, rather than being exposed to the competition. So it’s helpful for a customer to share their likes of your products with their friends, but probably not to join a social network from your site.

  13. Allow reviews to be shared

    If your customers can review your products, make sure these reviews can be shared across social networking sites, a really simply way to do this is through ShareThis and similar add-ons.

  14. Use analysis tools

    Most social networks enable you to analyse traffic and there can be a wealth of interesting information available. Once you work out how your customers are sharing, you can modify your site design. You don’t want to complicate your design for no reward, you may even reduce sales. Use URL shorteners like bit.ly whenever you post a link so that you can track how many people are clicking the link. Look at how effective different types of links are in various social networks. It might be that Twitter followers are interested in new developments while Facebook fans click on free coupons.

  15. Research and get ideas

    Social networks are brilliant for asking questions. The open nature of these communities allows anyone to ask, view or respond, so the potential is obvious. Thinking companies use these networks to gain insights into the market as well as broadcasting their own messages. So you can use social networks to identify people who influence others, see what is trending, check on the competition and understand better what your customers want.

    On the other hand, social networks can use up a huge amount of time. Researching the medium takes substantial effort, so make sure it’s concentrated in the right place. Check your demographics and find out if your customers use social networks. If so, which ones? Talk to your customers and friends about which social networks they use, to try to not miss any new trends.

    After you have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, consider more options like Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. There are many more social networks and they are developing and changing all of the time.

  16. Think about demographics

    The links that people have on Facebook are most likely to be social and will cover many years, running back to school friends and relatives. These are people that the user may or may not have much in common with.

    In contrast, Twitter connections are more likely to be related to interests and LinkedIn to similar business activities. As a result, different networks will work best for different types of business.

  17. Think about your audience and your offering

    PracticalEcommerce.com performed a survey among its readers and found that nearly 80 percent of readers got less than 5 percent of their sales from social media. 13 percent believed that they got between 5 to 10 percent from that source. Against this, Eventbrite, who market events, found that Facebook was the top site for referring traffic, beating Google. Every customer that shared their purchase of an event with their friends on Facebook, led to 11 extra visits to the Eventbrite website. Of course, attending events is a fundamentally more social activity than buying goods or services.

  18. Don’t give too much away

    Coupons providing discounts may be very popular, and “social media gurus” are always advocating their use. But if all you are doing is giving away margin without getting additional business, that’s bad news. So track what’s happening and make your decisions based on business rational, not the advice of people with an axe to grind.

  19. Don’t confuse people

    Whenever you offer additional options, you run the risk of confusing and diverting customers. So it’s important to ensure that all social media integration with your site provides a net gain, as the benefit may be outweighed by confusing your customers with too much choice. It is probably an idea to limit the use of such buttons and be very selective on which social networks you support. Testing different options and seeing how your audience responds is a good idea.

  20. Use automatic feeds

    It’s a standard feature on Facebook to push out posts automatically to Twitter, and Twitter allows automated, scheduled publishing. There are also many other automation tools around such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck. Just be careful not to lose the personal touch and make sure that what you do is appropriate for each network.

  21. Watch the load times

    Finally, make sure that your social tools load at the end of the page to avoid slowing down page load times. It may sound like a minor point, but the gains from social media could easily be offset by the loss due to slower pages.

SellerDeckChris Barling is co-founder and chairman of ecommerce software and EPOS systems supplier, SellerDeck and has over 17 years’ experience of helping SME retailers with advice on trading online.

In his third book Chris shares the basic steps to setting up shop on the web, together with the key lessons he has learned that can make the difference between success and failure.

The paperback edition is £12.99 from www.sellerdeck.co.uk/insider and a Kindle version is also available on Amazon for £6.49.

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