If you are a business owner or entrepreneur selling products online, by now you know that a lack of social presence can equate to a lack in potential revenue. With any audience, social media should play a critical role for ecommerce marketers as a channel to build awareness, share positive stories and encourage influencer sharing with the billions of people who spend time online daily.
However, the ability for brands to gain significant visibility through organic social engagements has been in decline, with Facebook announcing that they are de-prioritizing organic brand content in newsfeeds being the latest blow to marketing team results. To reach the significant potential audience that social networks represent, more and more online retailers are looking to paid social marketing, such as boosting posts or creating ad campaigns, to get in front of their ideal audience.
Particularly for SOHOs and SMBs, which make up more than 98 percent of online retailers, social advertising can be intimidating. Building a social media campaign can be overwhelming, particularly for a store owner who is already tasked with the responsibilities of all the other aspects of the business. I'm here to tell you that it is possible and worthwhile to work paid social into your marketing activity, even if you only have a small budget and limited resources to allocate.
Below are a few tips to put you at ease, get you started and optimize your budget for successful social promotion of your online store.
Getting it done
The thing about social media is there is basically no limit to the amount of time you can sink into managing, monitoring and optimizing your social channels; it's essentially never-ending. How much time is enough? An upside to paid social is that it is more structured than managing an organic program that requires continuous monitoring and engagement to make an impact. Most paid campaigns can be planned in advance and scheduled over designated periods of time. Analytics tools make it easy to understand performance and optimize your ads; some can even automate this process. That said, successful paid social campaigns will still require some commitment of time and resources.
The easy answer? Hire someone. There are many freelancers and students out there who are familiar with the platforms and would love to get some experience in a highly competitive job market. Not ready to delegate elsewhere, or hoping to keep all available cash for the ad buys? Focus is key. Find a few hours to drill down on one channel at a time and learn the basics. It's easier to focus on individual channels than to try to learn everything at once. Money sprinkled haphazardly across multiple channels is money wasted. Prioritize channels by those that are most likely used by your target customer. There's plenty of information online about user demographics for all the different networks.
Finding and paying for your audience
Another benefit of paid versus organic social marketing is the ability to be very specific about who is seeing your ads. With organic outreach, you are relying on your network of followers to interact with content and share it, hoping that their own reach includes people who fit your customer profile. Most platforms now allow you to segment your audience in many ways, that go well beyond just age or job title. Most of the networks have dedicated advertising dashboards with guidelines and tutorials that simplify the segmentation process and make it easy to make decisions and arrive at the ideal target group for a specific campaign.
These same dashboards will let you set budget allocations, limits and KPIs, meaning you can keep cost in check and have a continuous understanding of performance to optimize ads and move money to the content, segments, timing and other variables that are delivering the most promising results.
Creating valuable content
If you haven't invested in video before, now is the perfect time. Video is key right now, especially on Facebook, which has published information stating that their algorithms are now favoring video. Yes, video is another effort that can be time consuming and costly, but good video does not necessarily require a professional grade studio and production team. Tell a good story that will be interesting to your audience. If you just can't create video content right now, using formats like GIFs and other more dynamic media is a great substitute. It's easy and free to create GIFs online. Facebook and Instagram are also preferring content that gets natural engagement - encourage your followers and customers to communicate with your content in a non-salesy, more human way. It will pay off for your brand in the long term!
Automation for everybody
As a store owner, you have a long list of responsibilities, many of which are critical to keeping your store up and running. Marketing, while important, often slides down the list as a non-essential. If this is a regular occurrence for your business, it will ultimately come back to hurt you. Great products and a perfect website will only get you so far if you aren't proactively marketing your business to potential new customers. Luckily, with social, there's a long list of automation tools that make it easy to schedule content in advance and set up triggers for analysis and notifications. Customers of our Social Hub love being able to plan out their content a month in advance and easily make changes and adjustments based on performance metrics. There are tools ranging from simple and free to complex and expensive. Decide what you need and what your time is worth to determine the best fit.
A lot of store owners have recently asked about platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, which are incorporating direct buying into their platforms. While providing potential buyers with more places to view and purchase your products could give you a competitive edge, don't stress about implementing this feature. You can still get plenty of value through traditional paid social channels. If you don't have the time to ensure that a shopping experience through a social tool is cohesive with your brand and website, it probably isn't worth it, as it could damage your overall brand in the long term.
Always keep experience top of mind
As with any other decision you make regarding your online business, your social media marketing choices should always be rooted in the expected customer experience. Keep that in mind as you create content and plan campaigns. If you put yourself in your customers' shoes and feel good about what they will see and interact with, you are on the right track. Social media buys can be an affordable and efficient way to market to your ideal customers online. Even small budgets targeted with one or two networks can be highly effective if you take the time to create the right content and deliver it to the appropriate audience.
About the Author: Erika Jolly Brookes is the CMO at Springbot where she leads all brand, product, marketing campaigns and communications.