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The UPS Store Small Business blog
  • 21 June 2021
  • Leo Covey

Secrets of Social Commerce: How to Turn Your Social Media into a Valuable Sales Channel

Social media continues to innovate the way we connect with people, communities, brands and businesses across the world. At the same time, e-commerce continues to flourish as more and more customers turn toward their mobile devices to shop. And now these two transformational forces have a natural meeting point: social commerce. With a solid foundation of established social media platforms, billions of built-in followers and potential purchasers, and a steady infusion of new technologies and innovations being added every year, social commerce has the potential to be a viable sales channel for your small business, if it is not already. 

person baking and taking photos

Not only do you have the ability to pinpoint the right audience, tempt them with your products and then close the deal “in app” with a sale, but with the “social” part of social commerce, you also have the added benefits of the trust level and cultural influence that are inherent in these platforms. If you are looking to start your social commerce journey, here are a couple of basics to keep in mind.

Start with Facebook® and Instagram®
Facebook and Instagram are the two logical platforms to start with when ramping up your social commerce due to their size and scale, and by sharing a parent company (Facebook), they create efficiencies that stretch your media investment dollars further. As the biggest players in the world of social media, Facebook and Instagram have invested many millions of dollars into developing tools that make it easy for small business owners to get their social commerce up and running easily and effectively.

  • Both allow you to create shoppable posts with tagged products that can lead to in-app purchases or link out to your e-commerce website.
  • Both also allow you to create and optimize highly targeted paid ads with a “buy now” feature. Not only are you creating social commerce units that are reaching the right audience, but you are also providing a frictionless way for shoppers to both learn about and purchase a product with one piece of content.
  • The new Shops feature allows you to customize and create a vibrant virtual storefront that works seamlessly between Facebook and Instagram.
  • Live Shopping combines the best of livestreaming video and commerce. Think of it as your own personal TV shopping network channel for your fans and targeted prospects. With Live Shopping in your social commerce mix, you can demonstrate products, converse with your customers and answer questions in real time.

Experiment with innovative social commerce players
Snapchat® and Pinterest® both continue to play to their core strengths while they roll out interesting and innovative social commerce tools for small businesses. Snapchat as a digital “camera company” and Pinterest as an online inspiration board have stayed true to their original positioning while finding ways to convert their own unique brand of shoppers into purchasers. And before you think that is the end of the list, TikTok® has now entered the social commerce playing field.

  • In addition to its own suite of rich, shoppable ad units, Snapchat’s built-in augmented reality features give shoppers the power to virtually “try on” everything from clothing to jewelry. For anyone who wants to see what they look like in a new dress, watch or hat before they buy it, Snapchat makes it possible with this amazing and amazingly practical technology.
  • Pinterest allows you to easily turn your entire product catalog into shoppable Pins all at once, as well as integrate seamlessly with Shopify. Pinterest also allows retailers to create “shop the look” Pins that allow them to tag up to 25 shoppable items in one photo.
  • TikTok has capitalized on their viral video fame and begun their pivot toward social commerce, with easy plug-ins and connectivity with Shopify as well.

Optimize your organic social commerce reach
Beyond unleashing some of the paid advertising reach and special features of the top five social commerce players, there are a number of things you can do to tighten the bolts on your existing organic social media footprint.

  • Make sure you are linking to your e-commerce websites in your profiles.
  • Analyze your engagements. If you find that certain products are performing well in organic, extend that love with a paid media push and a social commerce “buy now” call to action.
  • Use your organic social media to converse with your shoppers, ask questions and mine for insights. One well-placed comment could uncover an unmet consumer need, leading to a product innovation and a whole new revenue stream for your social commerce.

Think visual-first
No matter what social commerce platform(s) you choose, there are a number of best practices that they share in common. Perhaps none is more important than thinking in terms of “visual-first” because social media is an extremely visual media. The basic premise of selling merchandise, whether it is featured in-store, in a catalog or on social commerce, is to make it look as appealing as possible. The analogy of a catalog is apt. It is the image that evokes an emotional response and pulls you in, not the words that describe the product. To that end, here are some ways to dial up your visual game when it comes to your social commerce.

  • Make the product the hero and feature it prominently in your social shopping ad units.
  • Consider investing in a product photographer who can make your products shine.
  • Conduct a little online research about purchasing your own equipment to create your own mini product photography studio.
  • Emulate the brands who do social commerce well. Study their photography style as well as the way they create collections, carousels, static ads, videos and more. Social media is, after all, a world of inspiration at your fingertips.

Turn influencers into your social commerce sales reps
Today’s tastemakers in the world of social media and social commerce are always on the lookout for brand partners and products to promote. After all, influencers need to influence something, and at the end of a funnel, all that content generally points toward a purchase.

As a small business owner, you do not necessarily need to go after the megastar influencers. A micro- or nano-influencer who fits your shopper profile may be easier to work with and more willing to engage with potential shoppers at a deeper level.

  • Inspiring content is the name of the game. Supply your influencer with the materials they need for entertaining unboxing experiences, interesting product facts and creative ways to showcase how your merchandise can make their lives better (once they purchase it).
  • If possible, provide an exclusive promotional or discount code that they can offer to their fans and followers and that you can use to track performance.
  • One size does not fit all. Get to know your influencer’s unique style and approach and give them the freedom to be authentic while remaining in service of your social commerce goals.

With these incredibly powerful social commerce tools at your disposal, you now have the ability to target, reach and convert millions of potential shoppers on your social feeds. Social commerce will undoubtedly continue to evolve as platform technologies improve and consumer confidence in the medium continues to grow. Consider this article a quick primer on where to start looking for solutions in the world of social commerce. The real expertise will come when you dig a bit deeper, explore the wealth of tools available to you and experience the world of social commerce firsthand for your small business.

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