You’ve built up your Facebook likes and Twitter followers. You’ve been circled on Google+ and you’ve got people following your pin boards on Pinterest.
You’re building relationships and engaging on social media, and you’re thinking it may be time to take it to the next level.
Did you know that you could actually sell from some social media channels, such as Facebook?
Social selling is a growing trend, according to Google Trends, since it first started appearing in 2012. Here are 8 steps to get your business into social selling:
1. Build Relationships First
One of the quickest ways to turn people off is to launch into hard selling from social media accounts, right out of the gate. Social selling is not something you do immediately. It takes time to build up to. Start with developing relationships and get some engagement traction on social media.
Once you have followers engaging, evaluate whether your followers are showing interest in buying from you via social sites. For example, are people inquiring about how to buy from you? Have they asked via social about the status of orders they’ve placed? Is word of mouth spreading via social media? Are your brick-and-mortar customers talking about your discounts and special deals they learned of through social media?
If this and similar activity is happening, then it suggests your customer base is ready to go to the next level and actually buy via social platforms.
2. Focus on Where Your Target Market Spends Time
Make sure you actually know where your customers, both current and potential, spend their time online — not just where you think they spend time. Are they aficionados of Facebook? Do they spend hours pinning items to Pinterest? Are they Twitterholics?
Oh, and remember, it’s not about where you like to spend time, but where they do.
Use social media analytics to analyze how much interest your social media posts on various sites have generated. Look, especially, at social posts about special offers, new product launches and similar sales-related activity. Are your followers engaged on these types of updates?
Also, check out your competition to find out which social channels they have developed and where they seem to have traction. That may give clues about where your target market spends time.
Here’s the essence of social selling: Give customers what they want, where they are. Put a store on the social site where your targets spend their time.
When a prospective customer is asked to click away from a social channel to go elsewhere to complete a sale you run the risk of losing them — maybe for good. The fewer clicks they have to make, the better.
3. Find a Storefront App Like Ecwid or Cashie.
To create a storefront on a social media platform, one of the easiest and most seamless ways is to choose an app that makes it easy like Ecwid or Cashie.
For example, you can find e-commerce apps that let you sell from Facebook, and across multiple platforms including your blog and mobile devices. Many of these are simple to set up and easy for customers to use on mobile devices.
When choosing a storefront app for social selling, look for:
- Low fees: Look for apps that tailor fees to small business pocketbooks, and charge flat fees for use of the software, so that costs are predictable.
- Customized to your industry: You want a layout and “look” applicable to your industry, not some other industry.
- Free trial: With a free trial you can better evaluate the app to see if it’s easy to use, whether it contains all the functions you need, and whether it integrates with other systems you use. A free trial that doesn’t require a credit card to set up keeps it risk free while you evaluate it.
- Centralized inventory management: You want an app that controls your inventory across eBay, Facebook, your website or wherever else you decide you want to sell. Storefronts in different places without centralized inventory is a recipe for mass confusion.
- Flexibility for growth: Look for a store app flexible enough to grow with you. How easy is it to add new product and service categories, more options and otherwise tailor it? Is it easy to upload and change products?
- Multiple ways to pay: Give your customers more payment options. They’ll give you more sales. So be sure the app you select offers numerous payment methods — credit cards and PayPal among them.
4. Test, Test, Test!
Anytime you try something new, like social selling, you want to make sure you have the glitches worked out.
Test it before you open it up to followers and the public at large. Ask family members, friends and colleagues to go through it as if they are buyers. Get at least three external opinions.
Make sure all functions work. Test usability issues, too, for stumbling blocks that get in the way of a satisfying buying experience. Some of the things to test for are whether:
- Items are saved in the buyer’s shopping cart if he or she leaves and comes back,
- A reminder email is generated to prompt them to complete the order, if they don’t return after a certain period,
- Payment goes through promptly, and
- Confirmation emails are generated
Checking these and other points will ensure your social selling effort is ready for prime time.
5. Create Great “Social” Offers
For social media, create offers that make people feel special. David Peck, head of social media for PayPal, suggests you stick to a simple rule when putting out offers on social media: “First, best, or only.” If your offer doesn’t have one of those elements, don’t post it.
Limited time discounts can also be very enticing.
Offers on social media have the added benefit of potential virality. In other words, people share great offers with friends, which helps spread the word.
Here are some special tips for social media promotions:
- Change your Twitter or other cover image to feature an item on sale, or a funny image about how time is running out on your big sale.
- Share your offer across platforms, and use the special cover image you created, as part of what you share.
- Use a “secret discount code” in a follow-on update, just for those who read your updates. They will feel like they found something in a treasure hunt.
6. Enable, Encourage, and Share Customer Reviews
Customers like to be heard. And buyers today expect to see reviews.
Don’t be afraid of negative customer reviews. It can provide helpful feedback for you to improve. Also, a fast response to an unhappy customer is an opportunity to show that you pay attention, that you care, and that you’re willing to do what it takes to satisfy the customer.
Here are some tips for getting more positive reviews:
- In confirmation emails, provide links to review pages.
- Offer random prizes for those who complete reviews (note: not prizes for positive reviews).
- Send automatic follow-up emails after the buyer has had a chance to experience the item, to encourage reviews.
- Share customer reviews on social channels as updates, such as a Facebook update. This will help prompt others to leave reviews.
7. Get People to Your Social Media Store
Keep customers coming to your online storefront with “followers only” specials. In other words, provide special discounts and deals only on Facebook or Twitter, and no where else. This will get people to follow your social account in order to get the deals.
Here are some other tips to remember:
• Make it easy for customers to find you. For instance, remember to include links to your store everywhere customers might look for information on your brand. This includes your Twitter and Facebook profiles, of course. But it also should include every piece of company email you send.
• Keep in touch even after the sale. Let past customers know you’re still thinking of them and give them an incentive to return. For example, you can email past customers with updates on your current specials. You might also supply them with “secret discount codes.” This rewards them for their support in the past and offers them a reason to become a repeat customer.
• Don’t be afraid to advertise. Consider buying some ad space or investing in sponsored posts on social media channels. Make the buys conservative at first. Consider them an experiment to see whether advertising on social media is an effective strategy for your business. Depending upon the results, you can invest more heavily and hone your campaigns.
• Make your customers the stars. Collecting customer feedback is one of the major benefits small businesses get from social media. But you can also repurpose that feedback and use it to market your social selling efforts. If customers share photos of their favorite product or service, ask to post them to your Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook channels. You can then tag these photos so your customers’ social connections can see and tag them too. What a great way to draw more traffic to your store!
• Give to Get. Customers like freebies too. But don’t worry. You’ll more than make back your investment in the long run. Offer perhaps “10 gift items” from your store and watch the spike of new likes on your Facebook page. Some of those will surely translate to sales in the future.
8. Measure Your Success
In order to capitalize off successful techniques and discard what’s not working, you need to measure your results. That can be easier said than done with so many strategies in play. Luckily, there are some tools that can help you collect the metrics you need:
- Adobe Digital Marketing Suite helps you get the most out of your marketing campaigns by using key performance indicators to measure the efficiency of your marketing efforts.
- Google Analytics helps you measure sales and conversions. What could be more important when figuring out which of your efforts are actually generating revenue? Boosting your brand is fine, but this will let you know what campaigns are working for your bottom line.
- Bluefin Labs, a Twitter property since 2013, measures campaigns in another way. It looks at social media mentions to figure out how customers are engaging with online marketing campaigns. But it also looks at viewer engagement with things like TV shows and TV ads, too. In this respect, it probably offers most small businesses a wider perspective than they might ever need.
- Most social selling app developers — Cashie Commerce and Ecwid, for example — have their own analytics, too. Use these to figure out from where exactly your sales are coming.
Social selling can be a very successful way to market your products online. But effectiveness depends upon taking the proper steps.
For more information, download the PayPal eBook “Your Guide to Social Selling.”
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Your post is excellent. Can you direct me to a consultant that can work with me.
Thank you. Ross Mollard
I never thought of selling from a social media platform before, the goal has been just to get potential customers back to the main website but maybe I should rethink. Thanks!
This is a good read shawn. It will help me a lot in customer engagement, more like a brand building, understaning customer preferences and familiarizing what’s in our market nowadays. Great!
Excellent writeup on social selling. I agree with all the pointers that is mentioned. Any company that plans to pursue social selling, needs to take into consideration all the mentioned factors. While each one is important, the most essential is building relationships. Instead of jumping into hard core selling right from the start, companies need to develop relationships and get some engagement traction on social media. One of the best tools that can help accomplish this is CRM.
The modern days CRMs are all integrated with social media management capabilities. Using which, sales, marketing and customer service agents can keep a round-the-clock track of their customers’ and potential customers’ posts to understand their preferences, needs and wants. Accordingly, the agents can devise strategies to interact and engage with them.