There’s no denying the power of social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become ingrained in the marketing ecosystems for pretty much any business looking to become (and stay) relevant. Even though these connective tools get a bad rap, they do play a critical role in growing revenue.
Social media provides ecommerce marketers with an inexpensive way to build brand awareness, engage with target audiences, and generate leads on platforms frequently used by consumers. A study from the Pew Research Center in 2021 found that roughly seven in 10 Americans say they use social media regularly. When broken down by percentages, the following platforms are the most popular among adults:
- YouTube: 81%
- Facebook: 69%
- Instagram: 40%
- Pinterest: 31%
- LinkedIn: 28%
While the reach and power of these platforms is indisputable, social media does have its pitfalls. Aging platforms, coupled with ongoing controversies surrounding security, privacy, and impacts on mental health has many consumers “unfollowing” their social media accounts. Additionally, brands have no control over security or availability incidents. In October 2021, Facebook and Instagram went offline for users and businesses across the globe.
To say it caused a stir is an incredible understatement.
Pew Research dug deeper and found little growth on the most popular social platforms from 2019 to today. The reasons for such marked stagnancy are constantly being unpacked by researchers with no one clear reason or cosmic event explaining why.
Though a powerful tool and a mainstay in our day-to-day lives for keeping up with friends and communities, social media might not be all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to growing a business.It’s time for ecommerce brands putting all their eggs in the social media basket to strategize and invest in other ways to reach, engage, and win over shoppers.
Evolving an Ecommerce Brand Strategy with Social Media
Let’s preface this with saying that social media isn’t the worst, and brands shouldn’t avoid it entirely, some go as far as outsourcing social media management. If you’re just starting in the world of ecommerce, social media is a great first step in your marketing strategy, especially if you haven’t narrowed down your target audience.
With more than 240 million active social media users in the United States alone, marketers can use social media to begin market research, plant the seeds of brand awareness, and start up a community around their brand or mission. Plus, it’s definitely becoming a channel for product discovery and shopping.
Common social platforms also provide a few advantages that other marketing tools do not for ecommerce marketers.
- Learn about your customers
Sure, platforms exist where you can follow the clicks and content your shoppers consume before making a purchase, but social media provides insight into more than who someone is as a consumer—it shows you who they are as a person.
With each “Like” you get on Facebook, you’ll gain insights into your customers’ behaviors and preferences, no matter how nuanced. This will help ecommerce marketers of smaller companies or start-ups quickly identify key audiences to target moving forward.
- Connect with your audience
Social media provides opportunities for you to connect directly with your audience. You can quickly respond to questions or concerns with products or services. Each interaction is personalized and a chance to build a connection with customers. Marketers can also use social media to highlight new products and promotions, or they can use it as a li’l soapbox for touting their values or mission.
- Increase traffic to your website
Posting on social media, whether that’s updating your business page or posting in similar communities, can help drive traffic to your company’s website by linking relevant sections of the site. You can even write and post blogs and other content with different action items to help generate leads. This breadth of distribution across social media could even add a boost to your website’s SEO.
- Low cost for entry
The most obvious benefit to social media is the low cost. Most platforms are free to use and advertising on common platforms such as Facebook is peanuts compared with traditional advertising. Additionally, the versatility in how much you invest in social media is great. You can test ads and markets in small doses instead of gambling a beefy part of your budget on ad spend.
With all these benefits to the marriage between social media and ecommerce, what could possibly be the downside? Why wouldn’t every ecommerce brand stick to the low, low price of $FREE.99? Let’s dip into that next.
3 Reasons to think beyond social media for ecommerce marketing
1. Social media is difficult to measure. You’ve got the likes, comments, and retweets, but what does all that mean for ROI? Another issue is that social media companies are constantly changing the algorithm, which can quickly render your social media marketing strategy useless.
Millions of impressions might be, well, impressive, but if those viral moments don’t lead to long-term scaling, are they worth much? When creating a marketing strategy that contributes to scaling and loyalty, social media isn’t the go-to for the long run.
2. Growth can be unsustainable to manage. Each social platform requires a different strategy and a level of engagement on the part of an ecommerce marketer. If you are finding it hard to keep up with your company’s social media presence, you may want to consider outsourcing your social media.
When you start a community around your brand, the bigger you grow, the more people have to say. When you start scaling and more customers flock to these channels to connect with your company, overseeing community health, mediating debates, assuaging anxieties, and answering questions can be a full-time role. This could detract from other critical parts of your business—especially facets that have a higher value.
For example, developing a new product people have been clamoring for will have a higher return than mitigating an unhappy customer on Facebook. Where would you rather be spending your resources?
3. Social media does not complete the customer’s journey and experience with your brand. Building brand awareness requires developing long-term customer relationships. Since customers use social media differently, you need to diversify your marketing strategy for maximum results. Relying on a bombardment of ads to create a comprehensive customer relationship simply doesn’t cut it.
It’s important to identify the tools that help tell a brand’s story. Email marketing, for example, continues to be an effective way to acquire customers and maintain a continuous stream of engagement. Your website is another powerful tool for reaching customers and sharing your brand with them. (Don’t be the online store that doesn’t even have a business website and relies on social media to do pretty much everything!)
If you’re counting one one channel—social media or otherwise—to connect with customers, sell products, and grow your company, you’re taking on way more risk than you should. If there’s a security breach or a global outage or an imminent ban on one platform, then relying on social media as a landing page for your brand can do more harm than good in the long term.
It may be pretty obvious if you find yourself wholly counting on social media for running your store, but it’s time to look outside the box and see which other channels you’re checking off.
When sticking your strategy under the microscope, check if you’re capitalizing on any other marketing tools popular in ecommerce:
Direct Mail Postcards
These little fliers may seem old school, but don’t sleep on them! Direct mail is hard for anyone to ignore entirely. Even if it’s going to the recycling bin, someone is still laying eyes on the mailer and learning, in the very least, that your brand exists. This tactic also sees an average 2% response rate, which is double that of email. Is it because people like tangible notes? Because the mailbox outside your door is less crammed than your inbox? Reasons for effectiveness vary, but we know thing: it works.
SMS Text Messages
SMS text messages are proactive and at your fingertips. If your target audience also happens to be one that spends hours of time scrolling their phones, SMS is a fool-roof way to pop up in their eyeline.
Another pre-internet tactic, loyalty programs like memberships, punch cards, VIP offers, and more are proven to drive customers back to your store again and again. This isn’t a strategy that’s easy (or entirely possible) to implement with social media alone, so taking advantage of this tactic will force your hand to expand your marketing horizons.
Podcasts are the relative new kid in Marketing Town, but it’s an impactful channel for engaging with an attentive, and often niche, audience. If you have your target shopper in mind, perusing the categories to place ads could be worth its weight in gold. Or purchases. Whichever is most important to you.
And remember, ecommerce is always evolving. This continuous evolution means that new channels could pop up at any minute, so it’s important to keep your nose in the trends. Route is one example of an ecommerce platform making waves in the industry by providing ways for brands to stay engaged with customers past the point of purchase.
Social Media is a solid starting block. Just Make Sure You Actually Take Off from there
Social media is a great tool in ecommerce. With customers on-the-go, platforms like Facebook and TikTok can help marketers identify targeted audiences and messaging that will generate more leads and brand awareness. But social media should not be the only tool you have in your tool kit. You should use social media to complement other ecommerce marketing tactics that align with your goals, audience, and overall brand.