How to Use Social Media for Ecommerce (Tips and Examples)
A social media ecommerce strategy can help you build brand awareness, communicate with customers and generate more sales for your online store.
Karolina Mikolajczyk March 30, 2021
Social media and ecommerce are a match made in heaven.
Marketers have been using social platforms to connect with ecommerce customers for a while now. And for a good reason — more and more internet users shop online and use social media to research brands.
Take a look at these recent stats:
76.8% of global internet users purchased a product online in 2020.
44.8% of global internet users use social media to search for brand-related information.
More than half of global internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 use social media to research brands (55.9% female users and 51% male users).
Most social media networks currently offer free built-in solutions for advertising, selling and customer service — a.k.a tools that can push the needle on your sales.
In this article, we will go over all the ways you can use social media to market your ecommerce store. So, if you’re building a social media presence for your ecommerce from scratch or looking for ways to refresh your marketing strategy, you’ve found the right place!
But first, let’s get some definitions out of the way.
Table of Contents
Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
What is social media ecommerce marketing?
A social media ecommerce strategy is a set of social media tactics you can use to market your ecommerce business.
Depending on your business model and goals, your strategy may focus on:
promoting an ecommerce destination, i.e. driving traffic to a website or branded app,
selling products directly on social media,
communicating with customers, both pre-purchase and post-purchase,
collecting insights about your industry (your audience, competitors, benchmarks for success)
… or combine some (or all!) of the above.
Is social media ecommerce marketing the same thing as social selling or social commerce?
Not exactly. Social media ecommerce marketing is the broadest term of the three and can include elements of both social commerce and social selling.
Let’s brush up on the definitions:
Social commerce is the process of selling products or services directly on social media, using Facebook Shops, Instagram Shops, Product Pins and other native social media shopping solutions.
Social selling is the process of using social media to identify, connect with and nurture sales prospects.
Social media ecommerce marketing can involve building brand awareness, advertising, community management, social customer service, social listening, competitive analysis, social commerce and social selling.
How to use social media for ecommerce
Here are all the different ways social media marketing can help you promote your ecommerce business and sell more products.
Building brand awareness
If you’re launching a brand new store or product, you should start building buzz around it before you are ready to go live with sales. The sad truth is that you won’t be able to make any sales if people don’t know about what you’re selling.
In 2021, social media is busy with brands. But there’s still room for newbies. A unique voice and a consistent posting strategy will help you build brand awareness and reach your target audience. For a head start, follow the tips we listed at the end of this article.
Building brand awareness is a process, and it does take some time. If you wish you could speed things up just a bit — paid social can help you do just that.
190 million people can be reached by Facebook advertising,
140 million people can be reached by Instagram advertising,
170 million people can be reached by LinkedIn advertising
… in the United States alone. (Source: Digital 2021 report by Hootsuite and We Are Social).
Of course, not all of them are your target audience, and your budget will likely get in the way of reaching that many people.
But most social media platforms offer advanced targeting tools you can use to carve your perfect audience out of this bulk — and serve them ads that will support your goals.
Speaking of goals, make sure that you set up the right objectives for your social media ads. As an ecommerce business, you will likely want to use social media advertising to attract people to your store, or a specific product or collection.
Facebook and Instagram, for example, let brands pick one of three conversion-oriented objectives:
Conversions. With this goal, you can encourage your target audience to take a specific action on your website, e.g. add a product to cart.
Catalog Sales. Use this objective to pull products from your catalog into ads.
Store Traffic. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, this ad goal is great for promoting your store to potential customers who are in the neighborhood, based on their location.
Here’s an example of an ecommerce ad with a “Shop Now” call to action on Instagram:
Source: Click & Grow
If your goal is to build awareness or engage your target audience, you can pick an objective from the Awareness or Consideration categories.
But just picking the right objective doesn’t quite set you up for success. You also need to choose the right ad format for your campaign. On Facebook and Instagram, the main format categories are:
Collection ads are designed specifically for ecommerce. They use a mix of creative copy and items from your product catalog to grab your audience’s attention and seamlessly guide them to checkout.
While Facebook’s advertising toolkit is perhaps the most robust, other social media platforms do offer similar solutions. So, if you use Twitter or LinkedIn to reach your customers on social media, fear not. You can learn more about ad objectives and formats across different platforms in our guide to social media advertising .
Selling products directly on social media
This is where social media ecommerce marketing overlaps with social commerce, a.k.a. selling your products directly from your social media accounts or “shops.”
Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest offer native shopping solutions for business accounts. Snapchat has partnered with Shopify to work out a social commerce tool of their own, but at this time, the feature is only available to a few handpicked accounts. Keep an eye out for updates if Snaps are your social media format of choice.
Using social commerce solutions has many benefits:
It’s completely free to set up.
It creates a memorable, interactive, social shopping experience for customers.
It streamlines the sales process. Users can shop directly from their feeds, without clicking through to an external website. Shortening the distance between discovery and checkout can improve your conversion rates.
It’s what social media users want! 70% of shopping enthusiasts use Instagram to discover brands and products. Why not help them discover your products?
Here’s what a product page in a Facebook Shop looks like.
Note how in this example, you have to click through to the brand’s website to complete the purchase. The on-platform checkout feature is currently only available in the United States .
If you’d like to give social commerce a try, check out these guides to setting up:
Product Pins on Pinterest
Your main social media goal may be reaching new customers — and that’s reasonable. But don’t forget about your existing customers.
Even if you have a dedicated support team who communicate with customers over the phone or through email, your social media will occasionally become an ad hoc customer service channel. Your customers may come to your profiles to find information, ask questions or give you feedback. And when they do, you should be prepared to handle the incoming comments and DMs.
How you answer inquiries on social media is as representative of your brand as the content you post. Opinions from happy customers serve as social proof for customers who are still in the consideration stage of their customer journey. By engaging with comments, you can show your audience that you value your customers and appreciate their feedback.
And what if the feedback you receive is negative? Treat negative comments as an opportunity to provide solutions and, again, showcase how seriously you take your customers’ opinions.
In the example below, Bailey Nelson did just that — they apologized for the problem the customer raised and provided them with a way to contact customer service to resolve the issue.
Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
The bottom line is: don’t neglect social media as a customer service channel and give social media inquiries all the TLC they deserve (which is exactly as much as all other customer service interactions).
Social listening is the process of scanning social media for mentions of your brand or products and conversations related to your brand.
Why should it be part of your ecommerce social media strategy? Knowing what people are saying about your products online is an invaluable source of insight. It can help you understand:
Which of your products people love the most
Recurring problems or issues with some of your products
The public’s overall sentiment towards your brand
Keeping up to date with what your audience has to say about your brand is also a protective measure. If you ever mix up some orders or accidentally release a series of defective products, chances are that the affected customers will take their grievances online. Awareness of the problem will help you react quickly and possibly avert a full-blown social media crisis.
6 essential social media ecommerce tips
At this point, you should have a good idea of how you can use social media to promote your ecommerce store and reach new audiences. Here are 6 bonus tips that will help you add a little bit of oomph to your social media ecommerce strategy.
1. Showcase your personality
Or, as the youths are saying, add a little bit of spice.
Brand awareness is all about someone seeing your product (or Instagram ad, or Facebook post) and saying “Oh, it’s That Brand! They’re the ones who do The Thing!”
You will make it infinitely easier for potential customers to remember and recognize you if your brand has some personality to it. It can be humor. It can be engagement in a social cause. It can be anything that represents you and your values.
In the example below, bidet producer Tushy known for their quirky and lighthearted approach to marketing combined a cute picture with tongue-in-cheek copy to promote their toilet stool (or, as they call it, “your butt’s best friend”).
2. Collaborate with others
Pairing up with a social media influencer your audience love or another brand from your industry (not a competitor, of course) can expose you and your products to new audiences.
But don’t just do it for the reach. Think about how a collaboration can benefit your potential customers — and how it fits in with your brand’s values.
Here are some ideas you can use to promote your ecommerce store through purposeful collaborations:
Invite an influencer to test your product and ask them to share their honest review with their audience.
Partner with a couple of other brands who cater to similar audiences, and put together a high-value giveaway for your combined audiences. Promote the giveaway on all participating brands’ accounts.
Host a Q&A session on Instagram Live with influencers affiliated with your brand.
Take a look at how Fig., a Vancouver-based skincare studio announced a giveaway they organized with another local business:
3. Use short-form video content
We talked about how your content should be representative of your personality. But not all content types and placements were created equal. To save your personality-filled ideas from getting lost in busy news feeds, experiment with popular interactive content formats like:
Over 500 million people use Instagram Stories every day, and the platform is continuously adding new sales features to both Stories and Instagram Live. Brand Stories have an 86% completion rate .
Other social media platforms have been taking notes. Facebook implemented Stories in 2020, Twitter now has Fleets. Even LinkedIn jumped on the bandwagon and introduced their version of Stories. Add TikTok’s aggressive growth to the mix, and it becomes clear: across demographics, people love short-form video content.
How can you use this knowledge to engage your audience? However you please! The only limit is your creativity.
Remember: not all of your content has to be directly related to sales. You can use Instagram Stories, live broadcasts, or TikTok to just entertain your audience and build a stronger relationship with them.
Here’s an example from clothing brand Lazy Oaf. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been sharing funny, heart-lifting TikToks to their Stories every day. The curated series is called “Live, Laugh, Lie Down. Our Social Distancing Care Package,” and it’s a sweet and thoughtful daily dose of fun.
Source: Lazy Oaf
4. Post user-generated content
This is a big one. We already mentioned that positive reviews and comments from happy customers are a form of social proof. But you know what’s even better? User-generated content.
Encourage your customers to share pictures and videos featuring your products to their social media, tagging your brand. Then, re-share these to your own profiles (crediting the author, of course). That’s what Vancouver-based delivery service Legend’s Haul do on their Instagram Stories:
Source: Legends Haul Grocery Delivery
Making your customers feel seen builds a stronger relationship between them and your brand. And having customers proudly show off your products on their social media makes you more credible to new visitors (aka potential customers).
But wait, that’s not all. Every time a customer shares a picture or video featuring your product, their followers can see it and interact with it. What better way to get introduced to new audiences than through such genuine, organic recommendations?
5. Post often
Once your social media presence starts gaining some traction and you build a following, you’ll want your audience to keep you top of mind.
A regular posting schedule will help you stay visible and relevant. Also, how would you expect potential customers to interact with your brand without any content to interact with?
6. Work smart
All of this might seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re a marketing team of one. The good news is that you don’t have to post everything manually and constantly keep your eyes on all of the individual networks and accounts that you manage.
Hootsuite’s social media management platform can help you manage your entire social media strategy from one place. This includes:
Composing, scheduling and publishing posts to all of your social media accounts
Finding the best time to publish your posts to best fit your goals
Boosting organic posts and promoting them as ads directly from your dashboard
Managing incoming messages from all of your social channels and delivering timely responses
Monitoring social media for mentions of your brand and engaging in relevant conversations
Analyzing your performance across networks with easy to read, customizable reports
Manage your entire social media ecommerce strategy from one place and save time using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage the audience, and measure performance. Try it free today.