Top 5 Reasons Social Media is Important to Shopping Websites

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Social media sites have become a very large part of online activity over the last couple of years – 11.6% of all UK Internet visits in September 2010 were on social media sites, more than Google, Yahoo and Bing added together (Hitwise). Facebook is now only second to Google as a traffic referrer but it’s not just about Facebook and Twitter, there are thousands of social networks and forums out there.

With social media playing such a large role online, it’s important retailers keep up. The challenge is how to maximise on the opportunities that social media brings. The last year has seen a 13% increase in the traffic sent from social media to online retail sites (Hitwise) so there is a lot of scope for driving quality traffic to your site if you get it right. Social Media is showing it’s here to stay so retailers need to make the most of this new opportunity and work out how to make it work best for them.

Who will Social Media marketing work for?

All ages and demographics use social networks so it can play a part in any retailer’s online marketing. Consumers are choosing where they want to hold different conversations so you need to be present wherever they want you to be.

The first step is to look at your target market and see how they fit with the social media trend. This basic analysis will ensure your campaigns are focusing on the right social media sites – you can have the best campaign, but if you’re focusing on Facebook when your target market prefer Twitter, it’s a wasted campaign. Equally, if you’re running a content focused campaign when you target audience is just looking for special offers, your efforts may be wasted.

Optimising your social media presence

The 2 biggest reasons users follow companies on social media sites are, 1, to hear about special offers and, 2, to get user reviews. It’s very easy to optimise on these.

Firstly, if you’re running any kind of special offer campaigns, always ensure you’re posting details as soon as possible through your social media presence. Not only will this ensure you are reaching out to all your social media users with each offer, but you will also encourage users to repeat visit your social media presence to check the latest promotions.

To capitalise further, create unique competitions and special offers specifically suited to for your social media users. Next are currently running a baby boutique model competition on Facebook allowing parents to enter their children into a modelling competition by uploading a photo. This is great example of a competition which perfectly engages with the core customer base, encourages repeat visits and encourages viral marketing (as parents encourage others to vote for their child).

Being as clever and creative as you can with the offers and competitions you run will increase exposure. In many cases you are reliant on your social media “fans” to spread the word for you so the more engaging you are, the more exposure you will receive and the more “fans” you will recruit for future marketing.

Secondly, encourage your users to interact with the brand, request they leave feedback, opinions, suggestions and always make sure you respond in a timely way allowing you to create a voice to the brand. Even negative feedback and opinions can be used to your advantage if you react to them effectively. Using your social media presence to reinforce your brand by using third party opinions can be very powerful. The main purpose of social media is for users to interact with friends and people with common interests so it’s an ideal platform to ensure “fans” have the ability to get brand reassurance from their peers.

Two-way social media

Engaging with your target market on social media sites is important. But it’s easy to forget that you can also encourage them to help you in your social media quest by allowing them to interact with social media from your site. Allowing your visitors to automatically “tweet” about your products on Twitter or “like” them on Facebook both gives them a voice and gives your products extra exposure – all as simply as adding a social media bar on your product pages.

Social Media for Social Media’s sake

“Everyone is doing social media, so let’s get on the bandwagon”. It’s easy to fall into this trap but you wouldn’t do the same for PPC or Affiliate Marketing so, in the same way you would for other channels, make sure your Social Media marketing helps achieve your goals.

Affiliate marketing doesn’t work for everyone, PPC marketing can prove unprofitable, set out a clear social media strategy before diving in headfirst. Establish what you want to achieve from your social media marketing, increase in traffic, reach a wider market, increase sales, brand exposure and set a clear strategy as to how you can achieve your goal. Experiment in the same way you would with subject lines in email or adtexts in PPC until you discover the social media tools and strategies that work best for your business.

Was it all worth it?

Venturing into a new and emerging channel can very much be a case of trial and error until you establish a strategy that works for you. To make sure you get the most out of your social media marketing make sure you measure every step of the way. Social Media has often been reported as being quite difficult to establish an ROI. Ensuring you measure everything you can measure as regards your social media marketing will allow you to continue to optimise activity until you find what works best for you.

The most important factor to bear in mind is that “jumping on the bandwagon” is actually a good idea so long as you do it wisely. There’s no doubt that your competitors will soon be starting to look at the opportunities they have with social media, that’s if they haven’t already, so it’s important to make sure you’re starting to engage with your market as cleverly as possible before you realise your competition are cleverer than you.

In summary

The top 5 reasons social media is important to retailers online:

  1. Brand exposure – There’s a massive market of social media users to be tapped into – in many cases, you can encourage new traffic to your site
  2. Brand engagement – users want to interact, share opinions, have fun online. Cleverly implementing you social media strategy can engage your target market, reinforce the brand and change the channel from social media to social commerce
  3. Promotional campaigns – reach current and potential customers effectively and quickly by launching exclusive social media special offers
  4. Viral marketing – implementing a clever social media strategy can encourage widespread viral marketing creating brand awareness, engagement and ultimately more traffic and sales
  5. Competition – even if you’re not doing, you competition will be and they’ll be getting cleverer by the campaign!
Autumn 2012 Social Media Workshops are Now Booking. Brand New workshops on Google+ and Pinterest, plus new Expert Workshops on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook Pages. See the full timetable and Book Now!

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