Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the social media sites most used by ecommerce merchants. Google+ and Pinterest are quickly gaining ground. However, these are not the only social platforms that can help ecommerce businesses. There are other, lesser-known sites with thriving communities, based on shared experiences and interests.
In this article, I’ll address four social media alternatives for ecommerce merchants.
Internet forums seem like a throwback to a bygone era, but they are as alive now as they have ever been. There are a huge variety of forums. Popular examples include Mumsnet for parenting and Digital Spy for entertainment.
Forums are typically tied to an interest or shared experience, which means you are less likely to correspond with people you know and more likely to communicate with strangers who share the same interest. Each forum usually has special rules that can seem intimidating to outsiders. For instance, you may need to build up a number of posts before you are given permission to post links and there may be strict moderation on where you can post about different subjects.
Forums are generally moderated by longstanding members who have been given additional permissions. As such, there is often an emphasis on giving back to the community and much attention is dedicated to ensuring its members play by the rules.
There are two keys to success when participating in forums.
- Identify the right community for your business, and then make sure you know the rules and tone of the forum before making your first post.
- Contact forum moderators via a private message to explain who you are and how you’ll be using the forum, so they know you want to play by the rules.
Reddit is a social hybrid, half social bookmarking and half traditional forum.. Reddit is not one seamless community but rather hundreds of smaller communities that operate in “subreddits” under the Reddit umbrella. When used effectively it, Reddit can drive substantial traffic to an ecommerce site.
I’ve addressed Reddit previously, at “Reddit for Ecommerce Marketers: Dos and Don’ts.”
Social bookmarking can seem redundant in the age of Twitter and Facebook, but it still has an important role to play. Bookmarking sites allow you to save favorite links, both for your own reference and to recommend for others. These links can then appear to people who follow you, or to generate a topic-led recommendation system. It’s a largely forgotten corner of social media but still important for referral traffic.
Notable social bookmarking sites include Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Digg.
Two keys for participating in social bookmarking sites are:
- Bookmark a variety of interesting content relevant to your business, not just your own;
- Focus your efforts as a useful resource, rather than as simply promoting your own content.
Question-and-answer sites are popular because they have one simple goal: to answer your questions quickly using the expertise of the community. Activity on these sites can help build your brand and showcase your expertise, as well as building valuable backlinks and generating referral traffic
Two popular Q&A sites are Yahoo Answers and Quora. Yahoo Answers is the better-known option, although the answers there can be dubious. Quora is prominent in the tech community and attracts highly influential and knowledgeable people to answer questions.
Two keys for successfully participating in Q&A sites are as follows.
- Be helpful and answer questions relevant to your area of interest. If you have a link to a relevant article, include it. But you don’t need to drop in a link every time.
- Be transparent about who you are and why you’re the best person to answer the question. For example if you’re in the shoe business, you could begin an answer on finding the best fitting pair with “I have 15 years of experience, as the owner of a shoe store, helping customers with shoes that fit. Here is what to look out for…”