Social media has evolved from just a place to share memes and smile at baby pics into a full-fledged marketplace.
And not just a marketplace of ideas, but an actual marketplace, where real money is exchanged.
This constellation of selling features on social media is known as “social commerce,” and it goes beyond just standard social media marketing.
Nowadays, social media users don’t just go on social media sites to be entertained but to also do “social shopping.”
Social commerce has transformed social media sites into 24/7 entertainment/news/online shopping experiences.
Almost every modern social media site – Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn – has some form of built-in social commerce features.
In fact, we’re kind of smack dab in the middle of a social commerce revolution. As social commerce platforms continue to streamline the buying process, it makes you wonder how much longer traditional eCommerce websites will be relevant!
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about social commerce, including how to build a winning social commerce blueprint in just seven steps.
If you’re an eCommerce business looking to leverage the power of built-in social commerce features on your favorite social platforms, this post is for you.
Social commerce is here to stay, so let’s dive in.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the use of social media platforms to facilitate the buying and selling of products or services.
This can include features such as the ability to purchase products directly from a social media post, or the use of social media influencers to promote products to their followers.
It also refers to the use of social media platforms to research, discover, and share information about products and services.
Social commerce capitalizes on creating an ultra-convenient online shopping experience by allowing online retailers to list their products, build brand awareness, and generate social proof – all on one platform.
What are the benefits of social commerce for eCommerce businesses?
Social commerce is becoming increasingly relevant for eCommerce business owners to understand because social media has been (and likely always will be) a key driver of online shopping behavior.
Consumers use social media to discover new products, research, and compare options, and share their purchases with friends and family.
By integrating social commerce into their eCommerce strategy, business owners can tap into this behavior to drive traffic and sales to their online store.
Additionally, social media influencer marketing has become a powerful tool for reaching new customers and building brand awareness.
By partnering with influencers on social media, eCommerce business owners can leverage their followers and credibility to promote their products.
Overall, an understanding of social commerce and how to use it effectively can help eCommerce business owners to grow their customer base and increase sales.
Can social media users purchase my products directly within social media platforms?
Many social commerce platforms now offer the ability for users to purchase products directly within the platform, without having to leave and visit an external eCommerce website.
This is referred to as “in-platform” or “native” social commerce.
Instagram has the “Instagram Shopping” feature, which allows businesses to tag products in their posts and stories, and users can then tap to view product details and purchase directly within the app.
Similarly, Facebook has the “Facebook Shop” feature that allows businesses to create a shop section on their Facebook page and sell products directly through the platform.
This is an ultra-convenient way for users to purchase products, as Facebook (arguably the first true social commerce platform) can store payment information and make checkout even faster (especially on mobile).
How to build a successful social commerce campaign in 7 steps
Here are the steps you can start implementing right now to build a profitable social commerce presence in your business:
- Identify your target audience
- Set goals
- Create a content strategy
- Optimize your profiles
- Utilize in-platform shopping features
- Collaborate with influencers
- Measure, analyze, and continually improve
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps in detail.
Step 1: Identify your target audience
It doesn’t matter how fast you run if you’re running in the wrong direction.
Your target audience is the foundation upon which you build the entire “structure” of your social commerce plan. Shortchanging this step will often result in a lot of headaches and wasted resources.
But simply saying “identify your target audience” is too vague to be helpful. How do you find your target audience? Where do you even begin?
Don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you in the lurch with some generic platitudes.
Here are some practical tips for finding your ideal customers on social media:
Conduct market research
If you already have an audience elsewhere, you can use tools such as surveys, focus groups, and interviews to gather data on your target audience.
This can include information on demographics, interests, and habits, as well as which social media channels they most often frequent.
Analyze your website and social data
Did you know that Google Analytics is a lot more than just a website traffic dashboard?
If you have it installed on your site, you can use it to identify the demographics of your website visitors, their interests, and even the social platforms they use.
Facebook Ads Manager can also be used to gain insight into who interacts with your Facebook page or ads.
Use social listening tools
Use social listening tools such as Hootsuite Insights or Brand24 to monitor mentions of your brand and competitors on social media.
This can help you identify patterns and trends in the conversations, and identify which platforms are most popular among your target audience.
Look at your competitors
We’re huge proponents of competitor analysis when it comes to marketing. Why reinvent the wheel?
Research how every competitor in your niche does social commerce, including whether or not they sell their products natively on the platform.
You can use this information to gain insight into the platforms and strategies that are working well for them (and potentially get some examples of what not to do, as well).
Attend industry events and networking
As digital marketers and online business owners, we can often forget that the most insightful conversations almost always happen in person.
Attend industry events and networking opportunities to connect with other business owners and experts in your field.
You can use sites like Meetup.com to find local meetups relevant to your niche.
Truth be told, this is probably one of the fastest ways to get a “pulse” on the needs and pain points of your target market, as well as have a detailed dialogue about their social media usage.
Step 2: Set social commerce goals
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
It’s old-timey wisdom, but it rings true all the same in the world of digital marketing.
So what are some reasonable goals to set for social commerce? Let’s take a look at a few of the most common examples:
- Increase brand awareness: Use social commerce to increase the overall visibility and reach of your brand.
- Improve customer engagement: Enhance the interaction between customers and your brand.
- Boost website traffic: Use social commerce to drive more people to your website or product pages.
- Generate leads: Utilize social commerce channels to generate interest in your product or service.
- Increase sales: Use social commerce platforms to promote and sell your products directly.
Regardless of which goals you choose, the most important part is that they are SMART:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound
An example of a non-SMART goal would be something like “Boost website traffic a lot.”
A SMART goal in this case would be something like, “I want to use social media to drive users to our site and increase our website traffic by 40% by the end of Q2.”
Setting clear and achievable goals will guide you in creating an effective social commerce plan that focuses on the things that matter.
Step 3: Create a content strategy
Now, it’s finally time to put together a plan of action.
Your plan should include a list of goals, your target audience, and the channels you will use to reach them.
Your content strategy will largely depend upon your goals, but here are some general principles and best practices when it comes to content creation and marketing on social platforms:
Base your content creation on keyword research
You can never go wrong with basing your content creation on keyword research from search engines like Google and YouTube.
Because you may have any idea of what kind of content your future customers want to see, but doing keyword research is like having a crystal ball into the minds of your prospects.
What people type into Google or YouTube are things they’re actively seeking information on. These are the topics you’ll want to tackle.
Not only that, but starting with keyword research means you can not only use the content on social but repurpose it to garner more organic traffic through SEO.
It’s important to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing as well.
Take a look at their social media accounts, the type of content they post, and how they interact with their followers.
This is especially helpful when it comes to paid social advertising since you can get some clues about the kinds of ads that work in your niche.
Test different types of content
Don’t get stuck in a single type of content creation.
Test out different forms and styles such as videos, stories, live streaming, polls, and quizzes.
Experimenting with different mediums will help you reach more potential customers, engage them better, and promote content from users that you can later use for marketing.
Create a repeatable workflow
The last thing you want to do when it comes to social commerce is starting from “ground zero” every time you go to create a new piece of content.
This is slow, expensive, and inefficient.
You should have a repeatable process and a checklist for every piece of content.
By having a standard process in place, you’ll save time, resources, and effort while producing better results.
Use a platform like Trello to keep track of the status of each piece of content. This will help you stay organized and make sure everything is on track.
Batch your content creation and schedule posts in advance
Creating content can be a labor-intensive process.
To save yourself some time and energy, consider batching your content creation and scheduling posts ahead of time.
This saves you from the trap of “panic posting” at the last minute every day. Do all your copywriting, all your graphics; everything in one dedicated work sprint.
Then, use a tool like HootSuite or Buffer to schedule all your posts for the week (or even two weeks if you’re feeling ambitious).
Automate whenever and wherever possible
Content creation can take a lot of time and effort.
Look for ways to automate the process as much as possible.
This could include using automation tools like IFTTT (If This Then That), Zapier, or even Facebook’s Automated Rules feature to save yourself some time and make sure you’re posting regularly.
Some examples of automation in social commerce include:
- Automatically reposting content from other people in your niche
- Automating promotional campaigns to boost sales
- Scheduling posts for optimal times
By automating parts of the process, you can spend more time focusing on the creative aspects of content creation and make sure that your social media presence is always up to date.
Follow the best practices of each social platform
Spend a few minutes on LinkedIn, then a few minutes on TikTok, and you’ll quickly notice that each platform has its own “vibe” and “language.”
Vertical videos with meme references probably won’t fly on LinkedIn. But that kind of content goes crazy viral on TikTok and Instagram.
Your audience typically has one or two places they like to hang out (it’s rare to have an audience spread across all social media platforms).
Part of having a strong social commerce strategy job is to study the overall format of that platform and emulate it with your own content.
Step 4: Optimize your profiles
Before you create content and start marketing your products to the world, it’s important that you fill out your social profiles completely.
Take Facebook for example. There are the basics, like having a professional banner image, profile picture, and description.
But there are also dozens of other fields concerning things like contact information, hours of operation, and your website link.
Make sure all these fields are filled out for each social media platform you use.
This will let customers know that your business is legitimate and that you’re actively engaged with your followers on the platform.
Step 5: Utilize in-platform shopping features
The next step is to register your products on each social media platform.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have shopping features that allow customers to view and purchase products without ever leaving the platform.
This can be a great way to hook potential customers and generate sales quickly and easily.
Each social platform has a different set of guidelines when it comes to getting set up to receive native purchases, but here’s a basic rundown of how to setup a shop on both Facebook and Instagram.
Step 6: Collaborate with influencers
Influencer marketing can be expensive (and often a lot of work), but it’s one of the best “growth hacks” for building up your social media audience.
By collaborating with influencers in your niche, you’ll be able to get the word out about your products and services.
Start by searching for influencers who have an audience that aligns with yours (bonus points if it’s a local audience). Then reach out with a proposition that includes some form of compensation or trade.
You can also consider teaming up with other local businesses to offer discounts and giveaways in exchange for exposure.
Step 7: Measure, analyze, and continually improve
It’s not enough to just create content and post it on social media. You need to measure, analyze, and continually improve your efforts in order to get the most out of your social marketing.
Tracking data such as engagement rates, click-throughs, impressions, website traffic and sales will help you determine how well each piece of content is performing and where you should focus your efforts.
You can then use this data to optimize the content you share, target specific audiences, and develop new campaigns that will keep your followers engaged and excited.
These steps should give you a good starting point for creating an effective social commerce plan. Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient and stay consistent with your efforts.
A hypothetical example of a well-executed social commerce campaign
Let’s play out everything we’ve discussed so far in a hypothetical example.
Let’s say you’re an eCommerce business that sells eco-friendly and plant-based cleaning products.
You’ve determined your ideal customers are 25 to 35-year-old environmentally-conscious females who work full-time.
You realize that this demographic hangs out mostly on Facebook and Instagram (too old for TikTok and not interested in Twitter).
First, you follow every single cleaning brand you can think of, as well as all eco-friendly brands. You spend several hours studying all of their posts and how they engage with their followers.
Then, you start by choosing a topic based on keyword research, like, “eco-friendly cleaning tips.”
You start by creating a comprehensive blog post on the topic, then repurpose bits and pieces of the post into six or seven bite-sized posts, which you couple with high-quality images or videos and schedule ahead of time using Buffer.
Next, you register your products on both Facebook and Instagram so customers can shop without ever leaving the platform.
You’re not pushy, but every so often you’ll mention or pitch your products within the content when it’s natural and relevant.
As you begin to automate this process, you can then reach out to eco-friendly influencers with an offer to collaborate. You offer them a free product in exchange for sharing it on their platform and tagging your business profile.
Finally, you set aside time every week to measure, analyze, and improve your efforts. This helps you adjust your strategy to better target potential customers who fit the profile of your ideal customer.
Not a bad social commerce roadmap, if we may say so ourselves! It certainly requires some hustle, but the results will absolutely be worth it.
It’s also worth mentioning that while these social channels would love to have all your customers do their shopping online (on their platforms), you should always have a plan for funneling customers back to your eCommerce site.
Yes, Facebook Shops are nice and very convenient. In-app checkout makes the customer experience a breeze, especially on mobile devices.
Staying on top of social commerce trends, leveraging Instagram shopping, and using your social network to promote products to highly targeted audiences is awesome.
But just like with social ads, you’re only one algorithm change away from losing all your existing and potential customers.
That’s why you should not only be utilizing Facebook Shops but providing an offramp to your own sales funnel and encouraging customers to go to your online store.
The top social commerce platforms
You often won’t have that much of a choice of where your audience hangs out, but here’s a breakdown of each social platform, how they handle social commerce, and what kinds of businesses they’re best suited for:
As mentioned throughout this post, businesses can create a Facebook Shop on their page where they can list and sell products.
Customers can also make purchases directly through the business’s Facebook page or Instagram profile using the Checkout feature.
Facebook is best suited for businesses that have a large following on the platform and want to leverage that audience to sell products.
Signing up for a Facebook Shop is simple, free, and can be completed in a matter of minutes.
Businesses can use Instagram’s Shopping feature to tag products in their posts and stories, making it easy for customers to discover and purchase products.
All you have to do is register for a free Instagram business account, and you’re off to the races.
Instagram is best suited for businesses that have a strong visual presence and benefit from social proof, such as fashion and beauty brands.
While Pinterest doesn’t have any native online shopping features as of this blog post, businesses can create product pins that link to their website, where customers can make a purchase.
Pinterest is best suited for businesses that have a strong visual presence, such as home decor, fashion, and food brands.
Businesses can use Twitter’s Buy Now feature to include a purchase button in their tweets. Twitter is best suited for businesses that have an existing following on the platform and want to use it to drive sales.
Twitter’s social commerce features aren’t quite as rich as a Facebook Shop, and certainly no replacement for a full-fledged eCommerce site.
Businesses can create shoppable live streams or use in-app shopping features such as the “Shop Now” button in their videos.
TikTok is best suited for businesses that have a strong visual presence, such as fashion, beauty, and home decor brands.
TikTok is also great for showing social proof due to its high emphasis on user-generated content.
Most TikTok users are millennials or Gen Z, and therefore may not be the most ideal online shoppers.
Businesses can include a purchase link in their snaps and stories, allowing customers to purchase products and conduct social shopping directly through the app.
Snapchat is best suited for businesses that have a strong visual presence and target a younger demographic.
Businesses can include a purchase link in their video descriptions and use the YouTube Shopping feature to list products.
YouTube is best suited for businesses of all shapes and sizes, as it’s the second-largest search engine in the world.
Businesses can use LinkedIn’s Product Pages feature to list and sell products to their business network. LinkedIn is best suited for B2B companies, such as software and consulting services.
Most important metrics to track in social commerce
With such a bounty of datapoints in social media marketing, it can be challenging to parse the “vanity metrics” from the things that actually move the needle for your business.
Depending on your goals, you’ll want to track different key performance indicators (KPIs). Here are some of the most common ones for social commerce:
- Conversion rates: The percentage of users who click on your post/ad and purchase a product.
- Revenue per impression: How much money each user spends after viewing your post or ad.
- Average order value (AOV): The average total amount spent by customers on each order.
- Return on investment (ROI): The amount of money you make in relation to how much you have spent on marketing (usually only relevant for paid social ads).
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): A measure of the total revenue generated by a customer over their time as a customer.
You can use analytics dashboards and insights tools from the social media platforms you’re using, as well as third-party analytics and reporting software to report on these metrics.
By tracking these metrics, you can identify patterns in customer behavior, adjust your strategy accordingly, and optimize your social commerce efforts to get the most bang for your buck.
Best practices and tips for even more profitable social commerce campaigns
Here are some tips and lesser-known best practices for succeeding in social commerce:
Use storytelling to build a narrative around your products
People are more likely to buy products if they can connect with the story behind them.
Use your social media platforms to share the story of your brand and products, highlighting the values and mission behind them.
Leverage social proof and user-generated content (UGC)
At a loss for what to post? There’s nothing better than hearing kind words about your products from your customers.
Repurpose content like reviews, testimonials, and customer photos into graphics and video to build trust and credibility with potential customers.
Encourage customers to share their experiences with your products on social media, and then repost or share those experiences to further promote your products.
Use retargeting ads to reach people who have interacted with your brand on social media but haven’t made a purchase yet.
Use chatbot and messaging services
Use chatbot and messaging services to interact with customers and provide them with personalized assistance during the buying process.
You can do this both on your website and use automated chatbots on Facebook and Instagram Messenger.
Use Instagram Live, IGTV and Snapchat Live
Live streaming on Instagram Live, IGTV and Snapchat Live is a great way to connect with your audience in real-time and give them a behind-the-scenes look at your products and brand.
FAQs about social commerce
What are online collaborative shopping tools?
Online collaborative shopping tools in the world of eCommerce allow multiple users to share and contribute to a single shopping cart or list. These tools can be used for group gift-giving, shared event planning, or splitting the cost of a purchase among a group of people. Some examples of collaborative shopping tools include Honeyfund, Splitty, and GroupCart.
These platforms are considered a subset of social commerce, as they leverage the social aspect of online interactions to make it easier for people to shop together.
Social commerce is a powerful tool to reach, engage, and convert customers. When used correctly, it can be an effective way to boost sales and grow your business.
By leveraging the features of each social media platform, creating engaging content, using retargeting ads, and interacting with customers via chatbot services and live streaming videos, businesses can create a winning social commerce plan that drives results.
Good luck, and thanks for reading!