At a time when large retailers like Gap, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney have shuttered their Facebook stores, smaller ecommerce merchants appear to be finding success.
In a guest article at Forbes, Rusian Fazlyev, CEO of social-media ecommerce platform Ecwid, said that Facebook commerce is growing substantially among small businesses. Fazlyev cited data from 35,000 Ecwid users — most of which are smaller merchants — and found that an average of 15 percent of overall revenue came from Facebook stores.
Search Engine Watch reported that, during the second quarter of 2012, small businesses using Facebook as a direct selling tool experienced 38 percent revenue growth.
If these numbers are correct, small businesses may stand the best chance of realizing Facebook’s potential as a social commerce platform. Here are six tips that may help.
1. Get Fans and Visitors to Share Your Content Via the Newsfeed
In a USA Today article, Grady Burnett, Facebook’s vice president of global sales and operations, said, “It’s a matter of trying to encourage your customers to communicate with their friends. Facebook enables small businesses to build connections with their customers.”
There are two ways to encourage sharing activity.
Understand that content is still king. Use helpful how-to tips, questions and polls, exclusive special offers and discounts, humorous videos, or attention-getting photos such as the one pictured below. Providing content that Fans and visitors will value and appreciate is the ticket to increased engagement through Likes, comments and shares.
Francesca Pitcher, owner of North Star Cakes, posted a photo of the birthday cake she made for her daughter in the shape of an Albino Burmese Python. So striking was the image that it was shared over 4,000 times by Facebook Fans, Liked in excess of 2,600 times, and received more than 800 comments. Since posting the image, sales for similar cakes have greatly increased, according to Pitcher.
Use Facebook social ads. Facebook provides three advertising options — Promoted Posts, Facebook Offers, and Sponsored Stories — that are affordable, highly targeted, and appear in Fans’ newsfeeds.
Perhaps the best approach is to couple content with Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories. That increases the likelihood your content will be seen by a greater number of people and stand a better change of being engaged with. “Someone is 50% more likely to remember an ad when a friend is attached to it, when it’s in a social context,” stated Burnett in the USA Today article.
2. Post at Optimal Times
According to URL shortening service Bitly.com, to achieve the most click-throughs, post Monday through Thursdays from 1 – 4 p.m.. The best time, according to Bitly, is Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.
Conversely, a study from social commerce company Buddy Media reported that posting outside of business hours may be best.
Depending on the customer base, optimal posting times may differ among merchants. The best way to determine the times that are right for you is to use Facebook’s Insights analytics platform, which tracks engagement for each post. I addressed this previously, in “Using Facebook’s Insights Analytics to Expand Your Audience.”
3. Deploy Facebook Buttons on your Website, Product Pages and in Facebook Apps
This enables customers to influence their Facebook friends directly from your ecommerce site. These could include Facebook’s Like, Send and Recommend buttons, as well as other social plugins. In “How to Install Social Sharing Buttons from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest,” I explained this.
4. Offer Exclusive, Unique and Compelling Fan-First Experiences
One way to encourage purchase activity is to provide products that are available exclusively to Fans. This could include special limited editions that you sell only from your Facebook store or new product launches that are offered to Facebook Fans first before they become available on your ecommerce website. In addition, build anticipation of new products by sharing exclusive insider information with Facebook Fans, and offer special Fan-only discounts when they become available.
5. If You Have a Brick-and-Mortar Store, use Facebook Check-in Deals
Offer Facebook Fans rewards for checking in — using their smartphones — at your physical store. Facebook users have 130 friends on average, according to Facebook, which means that if someone checks into a business offering a deal, their friends have the opportunity to learn about it through word-of-mouth marketing that is generated naturally on Facebook.
6. Respond to Questions and Comments
Whenever a customer asks for help or advice on Facebook, see the sales opportunity that comes by quickly responding and providing helpful answers. This creates goodwill and can increase customer loyalty.