As our economy is ravaged by uncertainty as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, it can be easy to find ourselves in a downward spiral of doom and gloom. From hotels to fitness centers to restaurants and more, industries across the spectrum are bracing themselves for unprecedented changes that no one can quite yet predict.
It’s vital to the health of our businesses - and ourselves - to look for opportunities and silver linings. Ecommerce business owners are in a unique position to leverage new opportunities and stay afloat in a rapidly changing marketplace. In an age of social distancing and sheltering in place, online shopping offers a sense of safety, comfort, and peace of mind.
Our customers need us now more than ever. If there were ever a time to get creative, this is it.
And what better place to adapt to our new reality than social media?
Even in the best of times, social commerce is an excellent way for ecommerce stores to make themselves visible to their target audience. And in the absence of face-to-face connection, more and more people are flocking to social media to virtually connect with friends and loved ones.
Here are three reasons to consider using social commerce to amplify your social media presence during these trying times.
Grow your audience. With more eyes on social media platforms, more eyes will be naturally drawn to the content and products you share.
Life has slowed down for most of us, and people have more time on their hands. Focus on catching their attention, rack up the likes and shares, and you just may find yourself connecting with people like never before.
An added bonus: From tweets to Facebook pages to Instagram business accounts, most platforms make it easy to track these metrics and tweak your message accordingly.
Create customer loyalty. The state of the economy is affecting us all. People are clutching their purse strings tightly, and understandably so. No matter how enticing an ad may look, even the most eager customers may be focusing on more pressing essentials.
Even though sales may be sluggish, social commerce lets businesses connect with people in a myriad of other unique ways. You could focus on offering entertaining, thought-provoking content, or you could focus on communicating and building rapport. Whichever strategy you choose, now is the time to make a mark on people’s minds so they’ll remember you when they’re ready to buy.
Become a beacon of hope. Simply put, people are terrified. They’re afraid for their families and their finances.
Engaging with customers with social commerce offers business owners a special opportunity to be a calming, soothing presence for people amidst all the chaos and uncertainty.
We - our customers, our suppliers, our businesses, and ourselves - are all in this together. A common thread connects us all.
You and your customers can help each other through this. Communicate this to them.
Whether it’s promoting your work with local charities, providing easier access to comforting essentials, or simply offering some reassurance, people will remember the businesses who helped them through these unprecedented times.
These will be the businesses who weather the storm.
If you have woven Facebook into the menu of social media platforms you use to engage existing customers and attract new ones, you’ve noticed their somewhat annoying trend of endless alterations to both policy and offerings. The Mother of All social media networks, Facebook is, for all intents and purposes, a social media monopoly. That won’t be changing any time soon.
No one feels sorry for them, but it’s fair to acknowledge that Facebook executives who need to continually balance the need for revenues while keeping users happy face their share of challenges. And for an online platform that is now regulated by Federal and state entities because of its heavy volume of political content, it creates an ongoing need to shift gears.
In 2011, Facebook started forwarding only critical notifications through email, so as to cut down on high-volume inbox flooding. Photo tags, security, payment, and privacy notifications made the cut. Business owners who are accustomed to a high volume of email communications, but not having to access Facebook several times per day, will have made that adjustment.
Now there’s a new revision that business users need to be aware of. Beginning March 4, 2020, access to supported “Message Tags” after the standard 24-hour window (following the last customer contact) whittled down from 17 supported tags to three, plus an additional tag in beta. Message Tags facilitate one-to-one interactions with customers, including updates, customer service questions, promotions, and pretty much anything relative to your customer relationship.
With that pathway narrowing, it’s critical to build in adjustments that will maintain your presence on Facebook and keep you in good standing with the platform. In order to bypass the allowed 24-hour period, you must use these remaining tags with your messaging.
How to leverage Instagram for your benefit
Have you wondered where all your Facebook followers have gone?
If you’re a retailer – or just an average user – you may notice that you’re seeing more ads, political content, and puppy pictures than usual. And most important, fewer younger users.
That’s because the graphics-based social media platform Instagram has swooped in and begun dominating social users.
Instagram claims over one billion monthly active users. ONE BILLION. That’s a tough figure to ignore, and it illustrates why so many smart retailers are taking notice.
Instagram’s early days offered a somewhat rudimentary vertical display of pictures. Period. Ultimately its potential grew, and combined with forward-thinking strategizing of its leadership, it now has become a major player in advertising and marketing.
What drives most of Instagram’s appeal are “influencers,” or celebrities and others who have massive followings. Not willing to mess with the litany of issues that keep making Facebook more of a chore than a pleasure, these high-profile dazzlers maintain captive audiences. Some may be compensated to plug a product, but others are self-financed, and they honestly promote their favorite clothing, cosmetics, household décor, and just about anything they think of.
Having dedicated myriad blog entries to the intersection between ecommerce and the largest (and perhaps oldest) social media platform ever, we now pivot to discussing a new development that may solidify its strength as a go-to space for advertising.
Facebook is no longer floating the pretense that its primary goal is social networking. While that’s the carrot on its stick, the California-based company is creeping into every sector it sees as a potential revenue target. After buying up several ancillary companies and applications, it is now set to revolutionize electronic payments through a newfangled offering featuring currency of its own. It’s called Libra.
There are countless factors that apply, from regulatory, to profitability, to projected success. But the clear picture takes a shortcut for ecommerce vendors, and that is one that makes Facebook rise again to the top of the list of advertising venues you should consider.
The Bitcoin-like currency, which may be called Facebucks or Coin, won’t be exactly like crypto. And it won’t be shady and underground, susceptible to nefarious use. Libra will be woven into a payment system designed for the 2 billion worldwide Facebook users to centralize a monetary source within the Facebook platform by purchasing “tokens” to use for purchases outside of Facebook.
The good, and the better
For vendors who peddle online, this is intriguing. It means that in addition to the bevy of payment transfer options now in place, this is accessible through an app they may be using for multiple hours per day.
But payments may be made to any participating vendor, and if you’re smart, you’ll consider getting on board with Libra. Here’s why:
Facebook says it intends to eliminate the conventional transaction fees associated with credit card and debit card use. This will need to be absorbed into Facebook’s revenue structure, and presumably they have confidence that is doable without taking a huge hit.
It’s a windfall for merchants who are already comfy advertising on Facebook, and an enticement for others to hop on board.
Envision a Facebook user perusing their news feed, and coming across your sponsored ad. They see the photo; they click through to your site. Already having accessed you through Facebook, they may, according to Facebook, be in a FB State of Mind, and have no qualms remaining signed in and making a purchase using their Facebook currency.
Ecommerce vendors attempting to keep up with a litany of challenges in practical, technical, and non-tangible realms share a common objective: attracting attention and acquiring customers. Seasoned veterans have adapted organically, watching trends unfold over time. Newcomers scramble to digest a flux of information in a cost-effective manner, hoping to make investments that count.
This third in a series of blog entries establishes the importance of social media behemoth Facebook as a compelling place to market your goods. As with everything, there are pluses and minuses, and everything in-between.
With that out of the way, there is no discussion of advertising in 2019 that does not begin with Facebook. The giant of social media platforms is entering its 12th year as a pastime for a general audience, having started as a fun and easy way to connect with college classmates. Its exponential growth has myriad explanations, and one of them makes Facebook an utterly irresistible place to throw your ad dollars.
It’s called domination.
Monopoly may be too strong a word, but the US Department of Justice is targeting the California-based firm for anti-trust violations. It’s a familiar tune with Facebook stockholders; governments have come after Mark Zuckerberg’s company before and collected big fines. It’s also not news to those in the know. Zuckerberg faced protracted, high-profile litigation when he was accused of appropriating the idea earlier this century from a pair of twin brothers, and was forced to pay them handsomely in a landmark civil settlement.
How the granddaddy of all social media platforms may be your best advertising bet
Whether you’re a seasoned, high-volume ecommerce vendor, or a rookie who’s just starting out, chances are you will devote a significant amount of time toward mapping out an advertising strategy that hits the right balance of effectiveness and affordability. Visual advertising is the go-to for ecommerce; unlike other business models, consumers have little chance of finding you in the traditional ways. Social media—the center of all ecommerce, for obvious reasons—is the most effective method of moving your merchandise.
The name recognition of Facebook is practically indisputable. Though it’s a mix of positive and negative, it seems to be the cyber gathering spot they just can’t quit. With an estimated 2.4 billion active users worldwide, there is little doubt it will be a big draw for small- and mid-sized vendor companies for the foreseeable future.
We’ve already covered the recent shift in ad mechanics Facebook is imposing: The Incredible Shrinking Ad Size. Some businesses aren’t terribly concerned; others fear their strongest attribute to product depiction is its photographs, and if those are scaling down, it may decrease interest among potential customers.
But if the social media giant is still your favorite target for ad dollars, or if you’re still on the fence, here are some relative stats, and ways you can make the platform work for you. The essential difference between Google Ads and Facebook ads are searching vs. direct hits. Paid searches help customers find your site, while paid social advertising hopes to rope in new customers based on a specific product.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but words are powerful, and changes that hit the Facebook platform may be painful.
So say analysts reviewing new policies freshly implemented by the behemoth of all social media, and it could be a gigantic headache for those who write ad copy.
This shift in ad sizes was announced at a recent F8 conference, but the company has been somewhat stealth with respect to public information. Ad revenue is their bread and butter, naturally. And with more than 2 billion worldwide users, they are sharply focused on building a venue for paid advertisers, often at the expense of user experience. Nonetheless, the company continues to tweak its advertising options.
Here’s what’s happening: Facebook feed ads viewed in mobile mode (and let’s face it, few are using full-size computers these days) are shrinking. These “creative restrictions” make the image size and the amount of text smaller, with images reduced to a 4:5 aspect ratio from the current 2:3. Along with that is a text reduction from seven sentences to three – a tremendous drop by any measure.
Prioritizing ad copy words
Though users will be able to access more lines by clicking a “see more” link, the game is now changed. As anyone who has written for limited space platforms knows, the visible text is critical for engagement, and if that text is cut in less than half, it will be more important than ever to employ an economy of words with the most benefit.
With mobile devices already small in scale, that means even a typical one-liner with an inducement – the bread and butter of marketing lead-ins – won’t fit. And that hurts.
Beyond the written word, you’ll be dealing with a shrinking graphical allotment. This will require image redesigns, along with the judgment call on how small to make your overlay text.
The good news is that Facebook prepped for this sea change, perhaps to quell the tide of resistance. Their Video Creation Kit tool allows for a semi-automated process to make it easier through scaled image resizing. The kit also offers more templates that ostensibly provide flexibility to accommodate this curtailed space issue.
There are 2.7 billion people that utilize social media through various channels, connecting them like-minded users and business based on their interests. For businesses, it has become an essential tool in the way they communicate to their consumers. Everything to the images you choose to the captions you write determine a specific tone and voice that is talking to you followers. You have to have a clear, concise vision when it comes to your social media strategy.
Using social media for business differs greatly from using it for personal usage; every post has a strategic push behind it. So, here are a couple of useful strategies to implement in your social media marketing.
Identifying Industry-Specific Hashtags
Hashtags help draw users that do not follow to your page. It is very important to identify popular hashtags that are used in your sector to maximize your overall reach. This is what helps your post land on someone’s explore page or search results easier if they are looking for content similar to yours. It is important not to overuse hashtags that are too board and general so it can reach your target niche audience.
Create a Constant Brand Voice
It is important that your brand voice is the same on all your platforms. You want all your pages to sound like the same person, now three different people. Lay out a clear guideline on specific vocabulary and style that matches your brand aesthetic or vision. Brand voice is what connects you on a personal level to your audience and it is important to maintain a true, authentic tone that forms a relationship with users.
Even if you are sworn to avoid being swallowed by the social media craze that consumes an inordinate amount of time and energy from a growing number of everyday people, you are a de facto participant if you run an ecommerce business. At the outset of Facebook’s transition from strictly a college kids’ platform to a worldwide social gathering place, few took it seriously enough to consider investing in marketing there. After all, it’s primarily for catching up with high school friends, developing a love life, and commiserating with fellow NFL fans when your team is on a downslide. Right?
Not anymore. Like any other viral entity, Facebook and other social media venues have fine-tuned the art of pitching to businesses. Meet Facebook Analytics, a handy tool provided by the social media platform that crunches data to specifically introduce you to interested parties by way of measuring visitor activity on your page.
The bad news first. Recently Facebook began limiting its “Audience Insight” feature with a new algorithm that restricts this data to users who have liked your page. It’s an unfortunate move in that it delineates potential followers and customers. This privacy-driven decision goes hand in hand with the company’s response to regulatory and consumer discontent. Rolling out Facebook Ads was a big step for the company, albeit to the dismay of many users hoping to escape incessant commercial advertising. But like you, they need revenues, and business owners should look seriously into the unique opportunity they present.
The ability to narrow ad targets to an appropriate audience is huge. You sell a line of hipster cosmetics for young’ns, so why waste your time placing ads on the news feeds of men in their 60s? Unless your role is to advertise jobs or housing, and you were caught up in the very recent debacle in which Facebook is facing charges by Federal authorities for suborning discrimination through demographic targeting (another story altogether), you’re free to select an audience most likely to warm to your goods.
Yet aside from advertising—or rather to supplement it—your Facebook page itself can yield important information that helps refine product offerings, gauge interest, and stay atop of a marketing plan that works.
Just when you thought social media was on the verge of being tapped out on its aptitude for ecommerce vendors, Google is out with a fabulous new feature that makes shopping fun for consumers and fruitful for those of you who hawk wares online.
The “Shoppable Ads” feature is linked to search results from Google. In a Pinterest-style formatting feature, the commerce giant is rolling out a shoppable screen that allows sellers to tag multiple products on each ad. Mousing over a product reveals its price and brand.
Not intrigued yet? You should be. Young shoppers, especially, are keen on the Pinteresting layout of Pinterest, and the ability to move quickly from a visual image to information on what the product is, where to buy it, and how much it costs.