Don't just stop at establishing your social identity - grow your voice with the tips presented here.
Connecting on User Profile Sites
In addition to identifying who these sites reach, it's equally important to understand how retailers typically use them. User-based profiles are where people go to communicate with one another by sharing updates and news. This format allows you to:
- Interact directly with your fans and customers. These sites present an excellent opportunity for you to build a direct relationship with customers. A simple endorsement of a user's content, in the form of a retweet or a Like, can go a long way in connecting to your audience.
- Position yourself as an industry thought leader. Providing helpful content or industry information is an effective way to quickly elevate your reputation with your customers. For instance, try sharing current industry trends or discussing the release of upcoming products. Sometimes, just providing helpful tips can endear you with your followers.
- Provide customer service. Whether you like it or not, when you create a social media profile, you're effectively adding another customer service channel for your customers. Make sure that you listen and provide solutions to customers - even the ones leaving negative feedback. Also, your responses need to be timely. Try to reply to inquiries or posts on the same day your receive them.
If you're thinking about using profile-based sites in your social strategy, make sure you consider the following:
- Being heard over the noise. Advertisers have been flocking to these sites for years. And because of that, they've become a little crowded and noisy. You're definitely competing with other companies for attention, so make sure your posts add interest and value. Otherwise, they'll just be contributing to the noise.
- Timeliness. Because there are so many posts flying around, information you share will be overlooked in a matter of hours. To combat this, consider increasing your message's frequency. Don't be afraid to repost or refresh information so you stay top of mind among followers. To know how many times you should post to each platform, you'll need to work closely with analytics. Though there is no "magic number" for how many times you should post on each platform each day, there are some loose guidelines to follow.
For example, you should concentrate on posting more and refreshing your Twitter content, over that on, say Facebook or LinkedIn, since a shelf life of a tweet is far shorter than any other platform. Also, consider your audience and time zones. The key is striking the balance between informative and annoying. You never want to spam your audience with constant posts about your product. On the other hand, you also don't want to post so infrequently that your audience drops off or disengages.
Share and Inspire
Visual-based sites are unique because people typically visit them for design or purchase inspiration. Therefore, these sites are also useful places for retailers to promote their brands or products. Specifically, you can:
- Drive additional traffic and revenue to your site. Most of these sites take users directly to the retailer's page when they click on a product image. Just make sure that your site is optimized for mobile visitors, since a significant portion of social media users will be using tablets or phones .
- Encourage sharing. A simple way to promote the sharing of product images by your webstore's visitors is to embed social sharing buttons on each product page. Make it easy for users to show off the products they like and share those they purchased.
- Reinforce your brand. Share pictures that show your company's culture. Whether you're documenting a company outing or a team celebration, give users a peek at your company's culture to let them know that your employees live out the brand every day.
If you're going to share pictures, make sure that your images are high resolution and visually appealing. Remember, quality matters. The content you share on your company's social profile is a reflection of your brand.
Building Your Profile
As you strive to be visually appealing, don't stop with your product images. The background design and profile picture you use on these sites will tell users a lot about you. Keep the following in mind:
- Your profile needs to be consistent with your branding. Think of your profile as an extension of your webstore. Make it instantly recognizable.
- Pay attention to the keywords you use in the "About" section. This will improve your standing in searches.
- Be aware that sites have character limits within profiles. One tip to get around this is to include text in the background image itself. That way, it won't count against the character limit.
- Adjust your privacy settings. You may or may not want to share all your information publicly.
Growing an Audience
Now that you have an understanding of how the sites work and what your profile should look like, you're only missing one thing: followers. There are several ways to attract new followers. You just need to determine which techniques make the most sense for your company. Here are a few to get you started:
- Promote your social presence to your existing customers on your website. It's an easy way to leverage your site traffic to tap into existing users who may already be fans of your site. Let them know which social networks you're on by sharing links to your profiles. Also, make sure your visitors can share information directly from your product pages through social media sharing buttons.
- Use incentives. People love free stuff. Don't be afraid to reward users who share your content with a discount code or free shipping. Just be careful with what you offer. You don't want to come across as a company that buys all its followers.
- Spread the love. Repost or retweet your followers' content when it's relevant. If someone includes a favorable comment about your brand in a post or tweet, reply with a thank you and share it with your other followers. This technique can quickly strengthen relationships with your audience.
- Promote with paid ads. This approach may not be an option for everyone, but if you have the budget for advertising, consider reaching new audiences with paid social ads. Promoted content allows you to target people by demographic, location and even preferred content.
- Be patient and emphasize quality over quantity. Building a sizable, relevant audience takes time. Don't get frustrated if it takes several weeks or months to develop a following. Why would you want to share content with 10,000 fans, if only 100 of them were interested in what you're posting?
No matter how you decide to use social media, the content you share is the key to your success. Always provide value to your followers. The last thing you want to do is annoy followers by flooding their news streams with self-serving noise. Remember that you're there to talk with your customers and not at them. Here are some best practices to get you started.
- Be timely and relevant. Align your content with relevant current events. Did your product line release date just happen to be when Apple's "bendgate" fiasco was in full swing? Find a way to slip that trending hashtag into your post. Not only will you capitalize on the hashtag volume traffic, but you'll give your brand that human element consumers relate with. But be careful to know what the hashtag means before you use it. Some may be about more serious topics don't lend themselves to brand messages.
- Map out an editorial calendar. You should always have content ready to share. Planning ahead will help your content stay relevant and prevent large gaps of time between postings.
- Conduct an internal content audit. Audits will help you discover the collateral you already have on hand. Just make sure that the content is still timely, relevant and consistent with the current iteration of your brand.
- Don't be tone deaf. Listen to what people are saying about you. Ideally, you can use feedback to make your social experience better for users. You may even get a better idea of how your brand is being perceived. This type of data is invaluable to your company.
It's not surprising that unhappy people are typically more vocal online. And unfortunately, negative word of mouth tends to spread faster than positive. But you can't just ignore everyone who posts a bad review about you. They still need attention and replies. To prepare for this type of communication, consider the following:
- Have a mitigation plan in place. Start a list of pre-approved responses for different scenarios and make sure that everyone responsible for sharing social content has a copy of it.
- Respond quickly and thoughtfully. Try to respond as quickly as possible. Situations can escalate and get out of hand in a matter of hours.
- Prepare an internal emergency contact list. If a scenario catches you off guard, make sure there's an internal emergency contact list in place so the appropriate people in your company can be reached at all hours. This is also when having legal help on standby is smart. You really can't be too careful. There are too many horror stories of companies digging their own graves on social because they weren't ready for a crisis.
- Use a dedicated customer service account. Many companies use separate customer service accounts on each social media platform to handle customer questions and concerns. This is an effective way to move a tough conversation out of the public eye. Also, with a dedicated account in place, you can respond under the customer service handle even if the initial question or comment was made to your standard account.
The power of digital marketing lies in the metrics that you receive from a campaign. And social media opens you up to a whole new world of data. However, it can be overwhelming if you don't have a tool or service to help digest it all. To ensure that you're not missing any critical information, consider using a social management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. These types of tools will help you schedule messaging, track popular topics and posts and identify important trends.
Remember to check out the Social Commerce how-to page on the SSC to learn the steps involved in setting up Social Commerce with ChannelAdvisor.