Navigating the Online Storefront - Part 2

This is part two of a three part series. The three parts will be:

  • Website

  • Social Media

  • Reviews

Social Media

The second pillar of an online presence is Social Media. Simply put, social media involves creating a page on a platform which allows you to grow a community of users on said platform. We all know of the typical social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and now most online services try to integrate some social elements to bring in new users. In my experience, I have noticed that business leaders are often skeptical of the actual benefit social media has on businesses. Will it lead to more sales? If we join social media platforms will it simply open us up to criticism and toxicity? Which platform should we use? Let us explore each question individually.

Will it lead to more sales?

60% of small business owners are unable to track their return on investment (ROI) for their social media activities. For this reason, this is the important question that I have heard all the time and it has a very simple answer; It depends. The reason it is not a guarantee is that most businesses treat it like a side project. The reality is much different, businesses must pay close attention to it, they must create a plan for how often they will post, what they will post, who will be managing it, etc. A metric to keep in mind, 86% of people prefer honest and authentic dialogue. Once a plan is created and a business starts cultivating a community on whichever platform they choose, spontaneity and authenticity become important. With over 2 billion users on Facebook, 1 billion users on Instagram, 500 million on LinkedIn, etc. if you are unable to get one new sale, you are doing something wrong.

To get more sales through social media, companies have gone to influencers to advertise their products/services. Influencers are social media celebrities, if you will, that have a large following of people. Influencers, as they are so rightly named, are meant to influence their followers to buy into something. Typically, influencers will charge a fee to advertise their products or service. What I have found and that many companies are now doing, is that they are targeting micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are individuals which have a lower number of followers, but that are fans of your products/services. They will typically advertise to their followers for no cost at all, for the chance to win products/services or a small discount. Many companies have found great success in leveraging influencers to quickly grow a customer base.

Getting sales is great, but if a business is unable to track them, or worse misattributes them to some other medium, they may get discouraged by all the effort they have placed on building a presence on social media.  In my experience, the issue is not that companies are not getting sales from their social media activities, but that they do no understand how to properly set themselves up to track customers from the micro-moments to the final sale. All the major platforms allow for an in-depth look into the statistical data of its users, but to track users from the digital world to the physical purchase is typically where the disconnect occurs. To be able to bridge this gap, processes must be created and utilized, otherwise you may be misattributing sales.

If we join social media platforms will it simply open us to criticism and toxicity?

The reality is that social media is meant to be personal. It is meant to create communities, joining friends and like-minded people all over the world to talk and share their thoughts on whatever subjects they wish. As this is the internet, some people will be rude, callous and downright destructive. This should not frighten business leaders. Businesses need to take the criticism and toxicity in strides and try to resolve any situation that was not the excellent experience they should aim for. If a business does so, users will know when other users are being unreasonable and will think no less of a company for to trying to be better. What a growing business should truly be scared of is not that they can finally see and respond to the criticism and toxicity, but that they are unable to.

Which platform should we use?

There are many different approaches to properly choosing a platform. Depending on a company’s resources and its overall motivation, I typically recommend focusing on one or at the most two platforms in the beginning. This ensures that businesses stick with it, otherwise I have found that it becomes too much for most business to consistently manage their communities.  Once a business has decided on how many platforms they will actively utilize, the next question becomes which one? I have found that choosing a social media platform depends on who your customers are and what platform are they using. With hashtags (octothorpe symbol), it is possible to go on most social media platforms and see how many users are talking about a particular topic. Searching for your company can help give an idea of where you have the most potential customers. Facebook and Instagram are always great options. Their user base is incredibly large and as it is possible to share text, images and videos, it allows businesses to connect to users in many ways. LinkedIn and Twitter are often seen as more business-oriented which can be a boon for business to business sales.  If you have the resources to create videos, YouTube should potentially be your primary choice as it has over 1 billion users. There are many other options then simply the ones I have listed, though the important part is to remember to choose the one where your customers are and to stick with it.

Having explored the three questions posed by business leaders about social media, here are some tips and things to keep in mind when building a successful community:

  • Make a social media plan.

  • Be active, available and authentic.

  • Reward your loyal customers, by making them influencers.

  • Create a process to track conversions.

  • Stick with it.

The second pillar of building an online presence entails a lot of persistence. There will be plenty of trial and error to find what authentically fits a business’s culture and ethos. I am a firm believer that when done properly, social media can be a strong pillar of success.

We hope you have enjoyed this second part of Navigating the Online Storefront. Next week we will explore Reviews.