Practical Ecommerce

4 Alternative Social Sites for Ecommerce Merchants

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.

Mumsnet is a popular forum for parenting-related discussions.

Mumsnet is a popular forum for parenting-related discussions.

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

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.

Q&A Sites

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…”
Samantha Collier

Samantha Collier

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  1. Elizabeth Ball August 30, 2014 Reply

    Apart from promoting yourself (after some time, of course), forums are a great source of questions to find out what your customer base are asking to turn into useful blog posts.

    Quora is good but I still miss LinkedIn’s Answers section, which was particularly terrific for businesspeople getting feedback and seeking help on issues until it was discontinued.

    • Samantha Collier September 12, 2014 Reply

      Great point Elizabeth! I miss LinkedIn Answers too, I don’t think there’s anything that replaces it for that particular niche.

  2. Robert Millar August 31, 2014 Reply

    And don’t forget private, niche-focused Q&A sites that you can get from providers like

  3. Rich Spaulding September 1, 2014 Reply

    Forums still rank very high for me. I was surprised to see social bookmarking as a good Ecommerce social site alternative. I’m still not convinced. Anybody still use social bookmarking? If so, are you successful in generating interest in your website?

    • Samantha Collier September 12, 2014 Reply

      Hi Rich, thanks for the comment. I still find social bookmarking useful but tend to focus on the likes of stumble upon. Personally I’d avoid any bulk submissions as I’d be dubious of the quality of sites you’re submitting to.

  4. Carole Rains September 2, 2014 Reply

    Can you suggest some ways to mention your product in a forum (if it addresses the problem the person is having) without sounding spammy and self-serving? I’d like to do this with some eczema forums.

    • Samantha Collier September 12, 2014 Reply

      Hi Carole, I’d start by introducing yourself and explaining your background and why you’re an expert in the area. Then I’d go on to offer one or two tips on the issue followed by a mention of the product. The important thing is to be honest and add value to the conversation. I hope this helps!