How to Use Social Media for Ecommerce

A social media eCommerce strategy can help you build brand awareness, communicate with customers, and generate more sales for your online store.

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).

Ecommerce Activity Overview

Source: Hootsuite

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.

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?

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.

Venn diagram illustrating the overlap between social media ecommerce marketing, 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.

Advertising

Recent statistics show 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).

Instagram Audience Overview

Source: Hootsuite

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 your 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:

Conversion Ad Instagram - Click and Grow

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:

  • Image ads
  • Video ads
  • Carousel ads
  • Collection ads

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 e-commerce 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.

Facebook Shop - Lisa Says Gah

Source: LISA SAYS GAH

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:

And also! Watch our video on how to sell more products on Instagram by tagging your products in shoppable posts, Stories, and Reels:

Customer service

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 communicates 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 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.

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