Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Know-How: Social Media as a Marketing Tool

An integrated social media marketing strategy can help you and your ecommerce site increase brand visibility, improve customer loyalty, and gain important insights about the markets you serve. And with the dramatic growth in social media traffic, ecommerce merchants would be smart to invest at least a portion of their advertising and marketing efforts on it.

Recently, I have been working on a new ebook for Practical eCommerce. As part of the research for the project, I came across an interesting webinar from Omniture, a web analytics company, and 97th Floor CEO Chris Bennett. The webinar was called Between SEO and Social Media. Although the webinar spent a lot of time discussing the benefits of Omniture’s social media tracking and analysis software, it also offered some good advice about using social media (especially blogs and social media news sites like Digg).

In this “eCommerce Know-How,” I will explain how you might use a store blog and other social media sites to (1) promote your store’s brand and increase site traffic, (2) gain loyal, repeat customers, and (3) find some useful insights about what your customers really want.

Blogging to Build Brand and Increase Sales Video

A Social Media Content Campaign for Brand and Conversion

Adding a regularly updated blog to your online store is an inexpensive way to build your brand and improve conversion rates by developing a loyal cadre of repeat customers.

At first blush, it might seem strange to have a blog associated with an ecommerce store, but I don’t believe that is the case. Every sort of product from toys to tools to furniture represents a particular way of looking at the world. For example, if you sell classic vinyl records, your customers value not just classic music, but a classic media. They might have something of the treasure hunter in them, and a blog that shared those same interests and motivations would be a real asset to potential customers and a boon for the record stores business.

If you need a real world example, take a look at the blog on Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe. The site has customers with a very particular focus (vegan products) and the while the blog often discusses new products or inventory alerts, it also covers topics that are of interest and value to Cosmo’s customers apart from the products. Specifically, the blog recently had an announcement about a “Vegan Night” at the Graveyard Tavern in Atlanta where vegans could meet and dine on Tofurky Italian sausage and other animal-product-free cuisine.

Vegans who read Cosmo’s blog, went to the Graveyard Tavern, and had a great time now associate that experience with Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe in general, and they next time that they want some faux meat, they will be sure to go to Cosmo’s site—typing the URL directly into the address bar on their browser. In this example, Cosmo’s blog helped improve the stores brand and boosted traffic by generating repeat visitors that come directly to the store.

But the blog might generate even more buzz. If one of Cosmo’s readers shared the blog post on a social media news site, a flood of traffic could be on its way.

Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Other Social Media News Sites

Social Media news sites let users post links to news articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, and other web content. Then other site users can vote for that content, potentially sending it to the front page of the news site where millions of web goers are likely to see it and click through.

A blog or other non-product content can send hundreds, thousands, or even millions of visitors to an ecommerce store. The much ballyhooed Will it Blend? video series from Blendtec, a maker of high-quality blenders serves as a classic example. Blendtec’s videos regularly appear on social media news sites like Digg, garnering as many as 8,900 votes and thousands of click-throughs for a single video.

To try this for your store, just start writing about the things that matter to you and to potential customers that share your values. If you have a pet supply store and you have a real heart for homeless animals, write about it. If you have a specialty book store, consider generating content about that specialization. Once you have good content, your readers will take care of the rest.

Gaining Loyal Customers

A store blog also gives online shopkeepers that opportunity to build relationships with customers, and those relationships can amount to much better sales.

By writing your blog posts in a conversational tone, sharing what is important to your company and to you personally, customers will respond. They will begin to view your store not so much as a company they do business with, but rather an organization of people who share their worldview.

Gain Useful Insights About Your Customers

Finally, you can use social media, like a store blog, to gain valuable information about your customer’s behavior.

In many ways, blogs are the best of social media. They allow you to post content and your customers to post comments. They let you link and connect. They let you share. With all of that interaction, you can learn quite a bit if you step back and just watch what is going on. For example, if you start to get comments on your blog, read them carefully. If a customer is complaining, respond to that complaint and write about it in a blog comment or a blog post.

Consider following activity on the aforementioned social media news sites like Digg. Take just 15 minutes each day to search for keywords related to your products or your brand. If there is content showing up on Digg related to your industry, read the comments. How would your potential customers respond to that Digg content? Are there new keywords that you should be using for your pay-per-click campaigns? Are there trends coming that you could take advantage of?

Monitoring social media both on your store blog and off, will help you gain a better understanding what really makes your customers tick.

Summing Up

Having a store blog is a good way to promote your store’s brand and increase site traffic as some customers come back to your site again and again either looking for tasty vegan foods, for example, or information about the latest vegan get together in Atlanta, just like what Cosmo’s does. Your store can also gain loyal, repeat customers by building relationships with them through social media. And finally, monitoring social media can help you find some useful insights about what your customers really want, giving you an opportunity to improve your store and your business.

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Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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Comments ( 6 )

  1. RichApps February 10, 2009 Reply

    Nice work!

    Thanks!

  2. Fred Campbell February 11, 2009 Reply

    Good work! I am constantly amazed how few clients realize the potential of social media.

  3. Sherra Scott February 14, 2009 Reply

    Wonderful article. Social Media is still seen by most people as just a place to hang out and see what your friends are doing. They don’t realize what a powerful marketing tool social networking can be.

  4. Lea Charlton October 18, 2009 Reply

    Awesome article – thank you.

    I would like to suggest The Payer Player as a social media marketing tool. It is a portable social widget that you can download to your desktop, integrates with other social networks and bookmarking sites (including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube), plus provides Live Broadcasts, VOIP and PCMobile2Chat. This is still in development but the features I mentioned are available now. Extremely viral – kind of like ooVoo, Skype, Tweetdeck with social networking / bookmarking features and Shaquille O’Neal is endorsing it … this is a serious post in regard to new social media marketing tools.

    Thepayerplayer.com/pittsburghseo

  5. Trevor Legwinski January 15, 2010 Reply

    Great article, and a social media presence is so important in our day and age. It still amazes me how blind companies are in this area. Customer’s appreciate transparency inside of your company. They want to see who makes the products they purchase and also be an active voice in the development process. Also, Twitter is still relatively new and the ROI is unknown to retailers.

  6. Hangil Kang October 16, 2012 Reply

    Please also consider including SocialMotus. We’re a new, free social management tool platform for businesses and individuals. We’re building some innovative and powerful conversion tracking and social management features including priority messages inbox, targeted Twitter followers discovery, sales conversions by posts and much more.

    You can review it by signing up for free here http://www.socialmotus.com or emailing me for more information.