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Ecommerce | Social media

The Tactics Behind a Successful Social Media Strategy

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These tips will help you determine a strategy and make it effective

At this point, you know why having a social media presence is important for your business. But just in case, here's a stat worth knowing: According to PricewaterhouseCooper, 59% of consumers worldwide use social media as a source of inspiration for purchases.


To help ensure that your social media efforts are inspiring purchases, we've gathered some advice to help you hone your social media marketing efforts.



Start with a social media strategy

"A social media strategy helps define your online presence from both a high-level and an up-close perspective," says Melissa Andersen of A Good Yarn, a social media manager and editor/writer. "It is essentially the blueprint of your digital brand. Just as you wouldn't design a home without a plan for the overall vision of the space, the same should be true of your social identity."


This means determining what you want your social media efforts to achieve and whom you want to reach. If you sell moderately priced children's apparel, your strategy will be different than if you sell housewares, or even if you sell upscale children's apparel. If your primary goal is to increase awareness of your brand, with an immediate uptake in sales secondary, you will probably want to proceed differently than if you primarily want to increase sales from current customers and consider growing awareness less important. Aspirational images on Instagram and service-oriented content on Facebook that might go viral, for instance, might be better suited for increasing brand awareness; posting photos of specific products and alerting followers to promotions (or even releasing a promo code only via social media) are more likely to goose revenue.



Focus your efforts on just one or two social channels

Properly maintaining your presence on just one platform is demanding; to do so on a half-dozen is all but impossible. If what you sell is highly visual—decor, apparel, cosmetics—a photo-based channel such as Instagram or Pinterest will work well.

If you are targeting commercial clients, you might opt to boost your LinkedIn presence.


"Facebook is also a great channel to be on because it boosts SEO and is still the largest network by sheer volume of users," Andersen says. "And if you're someone who loves to chat and network with others in your industry, you can't beat Twitter for one-on-one engagement."



Don't be overly promotional

Forty-six percent of respondents to a survey from Sprout Social, a provider of social media management software, said that they stop following accounts that post too many promotional messages. How much is too much? Andersen adheres to the 80/20 rule: Only one of five posts should be self-promotional, with the rest of your content focused exclusively on providing value to your followers. Social media specialists Lyfe Marketing opts for the "social media rule of thirds": One third of your posts can be self-promotional, another third should be shares of relevant content from other sources, and the final third should "encourage engagement or solidify your brand as an information source."


Nonpromotional posts might include recipes if you sell food, party-giving tips if you sell tableware, suggestions on rainy-day activities if you target parents of young children. "Of course every post is promoting your brand in some way," Andersen admits, "but it shouldn't sound like you're selling a service or product but rather a lifestyle or emotion. By providing your followers with value, you become more than just an eye-candy account; you become an invaluable resource that people look forward to interacting with."


And feel free to include the occasional personal image or message, "as long as it feels natural to the brand and the tone and aesthetic you've created on your profiles," Andersen says. "Including personal tidbits is a great way to humanize your brand and allow your followers to get to know you as a person." Always keep in mind, however, that your followers are not your close friends; they are clients and vendors (or prospective ones). "A grainy photo from a concert is probably not something worth sharing with your audience," Andersen explains, "whereas a beautiful shot from recent travels, along with a caption about how it inspired you, is a great addition to your feed."



Use tags and hashtags wisely and well

Tagging refers to shout-outs to other users, with their handle preceded by @. If you're posting an image from an outside source, be sure to tag (and credit) it. Also tag any brands, artists, or vendors whose products appear in images of your own that you're posting. Not only is this a respectful way to conduct business, but according to Lyfe Marketing, tagging others on your Instagram posts increases engagement by 56%. Chances are good that those you tag will share the post on their feeds.


Hashtags are the searchable phrases preceded by a hash sign. Andersen suggests using both general (#livingroom, #sofa) and specific terms (#luxeleather, #Frenchcountrycharm). How many you use varies by platform; on Instagram you can use as many as a dozen without it turning off followers, though here some social media gurus suggest placing the hashtags in the comments section rather than in the post itself.



Post consistently

You don't need to post every day, but you do need to ensure that you regularly update your feed. "Never let an account sit unused for days or weeks," Andersen says. "Stale accounts quickly lose followers and credibility." That said, avoid posting just for the sake of posting—make sure every one of your communications has value for your followers, whether that's an inspiring image, a pick-me-up quote, or an educational tidbit.



Be social

It's called social media for a reason. "Treat social media like you're hosting a party," Andersen says. "Get to know the people who've come to see you, relate to them on their level, make everyone feel welcome, create connections and make introductions between people you think have something in common, and ensure that everyone walks away feeling like it was worth their time to stop by."



author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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