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How Social Commerce Creates New Customer Relationships

How Social Commerce Creates New Customer Relationships

Linsey Knerl
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Social media is more than just a way for companies to interact with their customers, it’s an effective way to sell. SproutSocial reports that 78% of consumers are more willing to buy from a brand after a positive experience on social media. This is why it’s important to use your social media efforts to update your audience on what’s happening with your brand, and to respond to consumer needs.
In this article, we explore how social commerce is changing the way buyers and sellers connect and how you optimize this approach with your brand.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce occurs when you conduct business directly through a social media platform. The advertising, buying, and payment all occur on social media. This allows the follower or fan to complete their purchase without ever leaving the social app.
Social commerce is limited as of this writing and only occurs on a few platforms, but it's growing quickly. It’s different from traditional ecommerce, where you place an ad on a social platform and the user clicks away to the official online store to make a purchase. Instead, everything happens within the social media platform itself.
You can combine your social commerce and ecommerce efforts to increase sales and build brand awareness. Different customers may prefer to use one over the other, which is why brands should embrace both for maximum results.
This social shopping experience is sometimes also called “social ecommerce.”

Top social commerce platforms

Group of People Looking at Phones
Social commerce isn't happening everywhere yet, but it's really taking off on the following platforms:
  • Facebook, where sales can happen through the brand’s Facebook shop (located on their page) or as part of Facebook Marketplace
  • Instagram, where in-platform sales can happen from shoppable posts
  • Pinterest, where a pin can offer a buy button for instant sales
Again, this is only what’s happening as of Fall 2021. As more users continue to buy directly through social media, we may see this expand to other platforms – assuming their technology catches up.

Benefits of social commerce

Social commerce can help you make meaningful connections with your target demographic, which can then turn into a strong customer relationship. Here are four of the key benefits of social commerce.

1. Reach more customers

Almost everyone uses social networks these days, and the numbers are pretty astounding. Instagram has 118.9 million monthly users, while Pinterest boasts 91.1 million monthly users. Facebook blows them both out of the water with a monthly user count of 179 million.
While Facebook’s growth has slowed considerably, especially among the youngest users, it’s still a massive market share to consider. If you establish yourself as a trusted brand on even one of these platforms, you can greatly increase your goods and services’ brand recognition.

2. Convert where customers are

You may assume that most people use social media to keep in touch with friends and share life updates, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Those are two of the most popular uses for these platforms, but the stats show that 26% of users also use social media to find products to buy. Many consumers turn to social for inspiration, which is exactly what you can do.
The best types of social commerce campaigns allow users to continue using social media in their normal way, even after making a purchase. Someone who sees an ad for a T-shirt can research sizing, pick a color, add it to their cart, and complete the purchase while never closing the tab where they post memes or share videos.

3. Increase reviews and recommendations

Shopping online can feel like a risk, especially for consumers with bad experiences. It’s up to brands to overcome those negative interactions and build up their reputation to earn the trust of new customers. One way to do this is with reviews, preferably on your social media pages.
You can drive reviews and testimonies as comments on threads, ratings on the company page itself, or by sharing individual reviews as posts or sponsored content. Whichever route you take, users are more likely to follow others who jump on a product’s bandwagon. The fear of missing out (FOMO) can work to your benefit.
Plus, you have social media algorithms on your side. They tend to favor posts and interactions from the social shopping community that drive passionate engagement, such as uses of the "love" reaction.

4. Gather data

One of the biggest perks of social commerce is the data, and we already know that data holds serious value for growing companies. You can access customers' social profiles, receive feedback on what they love the most, and obtain useful critiques to improve your brand and offerings.
If you need product feedback on items before they launch, you can get that, too. Companies can avoid costly brand messaging mistakes through social media testing.
Use your social followers to beta-test brand language and visuals well before you share them with the rest of the world. You can use a sentiment tool to capture their response. This worked well for Jot, a coffee brand that used Instagram for a pre-launch testing market.

How to reach more customers with social commerce

Social commerce can work, but there is a lot of competition. It’s no longer considered cutting-edge, and all brands should be doing it. Here are a few tips to help you stand out.

1. Price to sell

When you sell items through social media, they need to feel like a good buy, even if it’s a premium product with a higher-than-average price. You can move merchandise on social by including platform-specific promo codes, free shipping deals, and buy-one-get-one (BOGO) offers. Make sure your social users know they’re getting a unique offer that’s not available elsewhere, including your own website.

2. Show social proof

Similar to the review strategy, use social proof to make your audience feel like "everyone is doing it." Social commerce makes this easier because social platforms typically show users what their friends/followers are doing online, including engagement with brand buying pages. For example, if someone you know posts about how much they love a new purchase, that same post will likely show up in their followers’ feeds – and pique additional interest.

3. Be responsive to comments and questions

Users turn to social more and more for their customer service needs, especially to make complaints. If and when this happens to you, read the comments and posts with the understanding that your customers want a quick resolution and not a prompt to email or call to solve an issue.
If you don't have a formal training program for how social teams handle dissatisfied customers, create a plan for that now. It’s important for employees to engage in social interaction with a consistent, helpful, and brand-centric voice.

4. Include more video

Of all the social commerce trends to follow, video may be the most exciting. Almost 80% of users would rather learn about a product through a video than a written article or ad. This means you can capture their attention quickly, as long as you use video properly.
One suggestion is to repurpose content that didn't perform well with photos or text by turning it into a short video. You can even include captions to reinforce the messaging and make it more accessible to those who are hard of hearing.

5. Create urgency

We discussed FOMO earlier, and it’s definitely real. But FOMO is more than simply creating a community around a brand that outside users will want to follow. You may also have to create urgency around a specific product or service.
By setting up limited-edition or exclusive product runs, you can drive sales within a shorter timeframe and capitalize on FOMO. Just don’t do it too often or for too many products, because it will quickly lose its exclusivity.

Bottom line on social commerce

How does social commerce differ from what you’re already doing on social media? Social commerce shifts the focus of your social media strategy to create frictionless shopping experiences for your existing customers and to drive new sales from untapped markets.
Social commerce is here to stay, and you can get started today by simply looking to other brands for inspiration. You could perform a competitor audit to see how other brands in your industry sell their products on social media, and then try a few of their tricks with your own products. Plus, 48% of internet users aged 18 to 34 use social commerce to make purchases, so it’s an excellent way to reach new, younger fans.
Whether you start with Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, settle on one that you know your fans use the most. Focus on this platform until you see some results before you move on and implement your social commerce strategy elsewhere.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.

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