Social media grew from connecting friends on Facebook to uniting brands and communities across platforms. Over the past decade, social media has become an integral part of people’s lives and, in turn, your marketing strategy.

Consumers today are online, they’re mobile and they’re very social. And don’t think brands haven’t noticed the shift. Many businesses use social media ecommerce strategies to target their audience on social networks before consumers visit their online stores. Everything from taking a class to balancing a budget to buying a car can be done online. It’s up to brands to move to social to find new customers.

Social media has played a critical role in the evolution of online shopping. In fact, 9 out of 10 consumers turn to social media for help with a buying decision and 75% of people bought something because they saw it on social media.

If you’re still on the fence about adopting a social media ecommerce strategy, here are three important reasons why you need to do so, and fast:

1. People Are Already Talking About You

People are talking about you whether you’re using social media or not. Without an active presence, you let users control the story. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—after all, word-of-mouth continues to be the most credible form of advertising. But it’s when that story is told with negative sentiment, or when a user’s complaint goes unnoticed, that it becomes a problem.

Remember that ecommerce is driven by website traffic. Social media is absolutely critical for directing followers to your landing or product pages. If people talk about you online, they’re generating awareness. But if you talk back, you create connections and build relationships that’ll benefit you well beyond a simple link share.

Some objectives to think about:

  • How many new social media followers do you want?
  • How much social media traffic do you want to receive?
  • What’s the ideal ratio of visitors to conversions?
  • What’s the ideal ratio of audience growth and engagement to sales?

2. People Have Questions & They Expect Answers

According to the Q2 2016 Sprout Social Index, 90% of followers try to reach out to brands via social media. In terms of customer care, more people turn to social than phone or email support when they have a problem or issue with a product or service. They do so, however, with high expectations.

consumers top choice for customer care

Most social media users expect a response from a business in under four hours. Research has shown that 42% of followers expect a response within one hour, while 32% expect to hear back within 30 minutes.

It seems demanding, but it’s in your best interest to make an effort. When complaints are ignored, 36% of people will publicly shame a business, and 1 in 3 will switch to a competitor.

cost of being shunned on social

To handle the influx of incoming messages, some businesses like Amazon created separate social customer support channels.

With a dedicated support handle, you don’t have to worry about questions from followers getting lost in a series of brand mentions. Plus it’s easier to stay on message and maintain a consistent tone across the channel. Switching from promotional to conversational to support can be tricky to maintain, especially during busier times.

If you can’t swing a separate support account, make sure you’re monitoring your mentions closely. Using a social media management tool like Sprout Social can make this process easy and efficient.

Some objectives to think about:

  • What’s your ideal response time and who’s in charge of responding?
  • What’s the ratio of positive mentions to negative mentions?
  • What’s the ratio of mentions to product questions?
  • Will you offer a dedicated support channel?

3. Followers Are Your Strongest Marketing Assets

Social media is much more than a source of entertainment for most users–it’s a lifeline. It’s quickly becoming the first place people turn to for research and opinions. Almost three-quarters of shoppers rely on social media to get more information about the products they want to buy.

Sentiment can have a lot of sway on your social media ecommerce plan. Having customers talk about positive experiences with your brand on social media can be powerful.

According to global market intelligence firm Mintel:

  • 69% of people—including 82% of millennials—check online reviews before making a purchase.
  • 72% of 25-34 year-olds and 50% of 45-54 year-olds value the recommendations of social media contacts.
  • 56% said online reviews, even from people they don’t know, help them decide which products and services to consider.
  • 50% of people said they would pay more for a product with positive online reviews.

When it comes to your social media ecommerce strategy, reviews from satisfied customers go a long way. Let them do some of the heavy lifting for you. That said, we don’t recommend asking your followers to spam review sites with nothing but glowing comments. In fact, 57% of respondents to Mintel’s study said they’re suspicious of products with only positive reviews.

Instead encourage honesty, even if that means opening the door to constructive criticism and negative reviews. It doesn’t mean game over for your business. The Mintel report found 54% of shoppers said they would still try a product with negative reviews if it was recommended by someone they know.

If you focus more of your energy on developing and nurturing relationships with your followers on social media, you’re more likely to see awareness for your business increase organically.

Some objectives to think about:

  • How can you leverage influencers and brand ambassadors?
  • How many reviews will you actively seek out and collect?
  • Will reviews and ratings live on your website?
  • Should you instate a referral program?
  • How can you repurpose testimonials into marketing assets?

Build out Your Social Media Strategy for Ecommerce

As you can see, social shopping creates a lot of opportunities for ecommerce. But determining where to place your digital footprint isn’t always easy. The social networks and apps you use will depend a lot on details specific to your business. That’s one of the reasons why social media is so essential to marketers.

It gives you the opportunity to create customized campaigns based on your audience, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach. While we can’t create your social strategy for you, we can help you determine where to focus your efforts.

Demographics

One of the common social media myths is your customers aren’t on social to begin with. While this may be true to an extent–there are segments of people who aren’t active online–chances are a significant portion of your customers are on social. Here’s a look at the current users across the top social networks:

There are 7.3 billion people on Earth, and 1.71 billion of them are at least using Facebook. There’s no way that out of those millions of people you can’t find someone to engage with. If you’re just starting out, your first step is to get a better understanding of your target demographic and which social networks your audience uses the most. Once you’re armed with that information, you can target those channels and start engaging.

Through Sprout’s social media analytics report, you can get a detailed breakdown of your current audience demographics. This is an excellent way to gather some initial data on who to target.

sprout social audience demographics report

If you’re starting completely from scratch, we’ve already done some of the work for you. Here’s a round-up of demographics for the most popular social media platforms. It’s important to be where your customers are engaging, but you don’t have to be active on a platform that doesn’t make sense for your brand. See where your target audience is most active and establish a presence there.

Popular Social Media Platforms for Ecommerce

Not all social networks are created equal. When it comes to driving sales and increasing your ROI, some platforms are better than others. For instance, Facebook dominates as the lead social commerce platform. The social network accounts for half of all social referrals and 64% of total social revenue. Does that mean other platforms aren’t worth your time? Absolutely not. It just means that you need to know the strengths of your most active networks.

Facebook:

  • Massive audience.
  • Great source of traffic and testimonials.
  • Highly targeted advertising.
  • Built-in tools for event promotions.
  • Low barrier to entry for social media contests.

Twitter:

  • Real-time communication and updates.
  • Great for customer service.
  • Targeted and effective advertising.
  • Integrated Buy Now button.

Pinterest:

  • Great source of referral traffic.
  • Targeted demographic.
  • Excellent promoter of products with visual appeal.
  • Growing ad platform.
  • Integrated Buyable Pins button.

Instagram:

  • Strong focus on high-quality visual content.
  • Go-to app for millennials.
  • Offers Facebook-esque advertising options.
  • Offers compelling call-to-action buttons.

Snapchat:

  • Very popular with teens and millennials.
  • Attracts bold content creators.
  • Growing as an ad platform.

These are just a few of the advantages of some of the social platforms available to you. You’ll have to do your homework when considering a new option. If your followers are engaging with long-form content, don’t focus all of your attention on a platform where brevity is favored like Twitter. Instead, use Twitter as a way to drive traffic to your website.

If you want to be creative with how you showcase your products, experiment with different types of photos and videos by using apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Want to give followers a look behind the scenes? Periscope and Facebook Live are great tools for the job.

Check out our social media marketing guide for more tips on how to effectively utilize each platform.

Social Marketing Trends for Ecommerce

Once you’ve selected the social platforms where you want to build a community, you’ll need a plan. Every social network and app comes with its own unique set of features. So ensure you’re up to speed and familiar with the network before you start building.

Each social platform changes overtime. And in addition to the standard toolset, there are a few features and tactics currently trending among marketers and advertisers. Here are the five you should be watching:

Mobile Is Key

Mobile devices changed the way people live, work, play, socialize and shop. In 2016, numerous ecommerce and social shopping integration apps such as Instagram’s ‘Shop Now’ button and Pinterest’s ‘Buyable Pins’ became available to marketers.

pinterest buyable pins button

By 2017, it’s expected that smartphone revenue will overtake desktop revenues. The mobile share of global ecommerce transactions was over 40% at the end of 2015 and is expected to grow to 70% by next year.

Not only are you expected to take advantage of mobile commerce features, but you need to support multiple devices. According to Google, 85% of online shoppers complete a purchase on a device other than the one where they started.

This means that your website, blog, product pages, content and advertisements must be optimized for a variety of screen sizes. It’s a lot of work, but your effort will pay off. Multichannel shoppers not only shop more often, but spend over three times more than single-channel shoppers.

Home Depot has an impressive multichannel approach with support for smartphones, tablets and desktops. But the driving force behind a $1 billion revenue increase might surprise you. According to Kevin Hoffman, Home Depot’s senior vice president and president of online, nearly half of its ecommerce purchases involve in-store pickup.

That’s not to say that hope is lost for ecommerce brands that don’t offer in-store pickup. Rather it’s a reminder that you can’t focus all of your marketing efforts on just one platform. A holistic approach is a successful one.

Carousel Ads

The purchasing journey might begin on social media, but most people don’t log on with the intent of shopping. People don’t want to be sold to on social networks. So how do you get followers to notice your ads without being turned off? By keeping the experience social, interactive and contextual.

Carousel ads give marketers an opportunity to tell a story and showcase products in the process. Available on Facebook, Instagram and soon Twitter, carousel ads enable multiple images to be posted as one ad, and viewers can swipe through. They can be used to highlight multiple products or tell a story around a single product.

wayfair carousel ads

When Wayfair, one of the world’s largest online retailers, needed to showcase a variety of images from a massive product catalog, it turned to carousel ads. The company created a series of carousel ads that featured up to five photos from different product lines. As a result, the company saw 88% higher click-through rates and 20% lower cost-per-acquisition than standard ads.

Measure & Analyze Results

If you don’t have an active presence on social media, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage followers, drive awareness and increase sales. Regardless of what your social media ecommerce strategy ends up looking like, as you develop it, you need to define how you’ll track your progress. The only way to know if you’re on the right path to achieving your objectives is by tracking your efforts.

With a social media management tool like Sprout Social, you can monitor and measure analytics for multiple profiles across social platforms in one easy place. Track your efforts, analyze your results and use those insights to influence future social marketing campaigns.

sprout social analytics

There’s a reason many of the most successful brands online are using social media for ecommerce. It works. Use the tips and tactics you’ve learned through this guide, and you’ll be able to grow your brand, build a loyal following and increase revenue.