Social media has proven to be a great way for online businesses to reach new people, encourage purchases, and gain customer trust and loyalty. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Many of us know what it feels like to spend time and energy crafting a social media post, only to have it fade quietly away with seemingly nothing but a few likes and nary a comment in sight. Or perhaps you’ve been working on your social media all year and you have some followers, but no business growth to show for it.
You’d be forgiven for wondering if there’s magic involved in doing this successfully.
Well, there is a formula, but it doesn’t require any magic. Read on to learn the building blocks of a stable social media presence that you can use to drive traffic to your online business.
Carve out your space in social, and create a content strategy you can stick to
Contrary to what statistics such as ‘follower counts’ would have you believe, the main focus of your social media should not be the sheer number of people following you. Your goal should be to reach and retain quality followers – people that are genuinely interested in your business’s niche. These are the people who are most likely to convert ($), most likely to remain loyal followers, and most likely to tell others about your business or brand. Your following can grow organically from there.
Big picture planning
Start by putting yourself in your follower’s shoes. What would you find most engaging about your business? What types of content would you want to see from your business on a regular basis? What kinds of posts would you find boring, or overly-salesy?
Driving traffic to your business through social media is different from a lot of traditional advertising in that it is a slow-burning strategy. If you can provide content that people appreciate even when they’re not necessarily in a shopping mood, they will be more likely to continue following you, develop loyalty and/or trust in your brand, and think of you the next time they are looking to buy.
As an example, let’s say you sell rare coins. You could present your brand on social media as “The Coin Guru”. Your social media strategy could be regularly sharing appealing pictures of coins you sell, along with fun or interesting facts about the coins in the captions. Passionate collectors may not be clicking ‘buy’ every time you post, but they will enjoy the extra knowledge you’re sharing in the caption. They gain something by following you. As a result, there is an increased likelihood they will think of you the next time they are coin shopping, making a recommendation to a friend, or have a question.
Now let’s consider a different business – a physical restaurant that uses their ecommerce store to sell and ship their homemade line of hot sauces. A repetitive social media posting strategy like the coin collector example might not work as well here, as the restaurant only has 30~ sauces and dishes total to share.
Instead, the restaurant could spice things up (see what I did there?) by curating a mix of content that foodies will find interesting. For example, ‘behind the scenes’ tours showing how they source their sauce ingredients, recipe ideas to use with their sauces, food-related quotes or memes, ‘meet the staff’ posts – the only limit is their imagination, so long as posts fit into the overall image of their brand. Brainstorming creative ways to entertain and appeal to people online can be one of the most fun parts of social media, actually!
Hone your imagery and your voice.
Once you’ve settled on a consistent content strategy that you can stick to, you’ll also want to do some planning regarding your visual style and your copywriting style.
Quality, high-resolution imagery with a consistent style can go a long way towards cementing your brand in your followers’ minds – don’t neglect this aspect of your social media. Color, mood, and composition are important, learnable, and fun techniques to practice. There are countless resources like guides and tutorials available online, and powerful image editing software is more accessible than ever. (Shoutout to Instasize!)
Similar principles apply when it comes to writing the captions for your posts. Develop an intentional voice and stick to it. Will your business use humor to reach people? Interesting facts, or perhaps inspiring ideals? To a follower who has never met you, your words will be one of the most important ways that they get to know you and your brand.
Keep in mind the fast-paced, scroll-able nature of social media. Your image and first sentence must draw the reader in. Strive to get your point(s) across quickly and succinctly. Longer captions can be fine, provided they are that way for good reason.
Pro tip: Study businesses and brands that you admire to learn how they are endearing themselves to their followers.
Learn techniques to attract and sustain interest
So you’ve decided how to position your business on social media and you’re consistently creating quality posts. Now how do you ensure people find them?
There are strategies for attracting people to your posts that work on most, if not all, social media platforms, such as a caption that encourages people to share your post with their friends. Example: “Tag another coin collector who needs to see this!”
Then there are techniques that work best on certain platforms, like #hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. There are also particular traits that make a social media platform’s algorithm more likely to show your post to people, and these tend to change over time.
With all this in mind, you’ll want to periodically research the current best practices for the platforms you’re using. You can search “2019 Instagram Hashtag Guide” and find a wealth of advice on how to make the most of hashtags today, for instance.
Pro tip: If you sell your products/services through an ecommerce store builder or marketplace, check to see if they provide tools to help with self promotion. For example, Bonanza.com enables sellers to create custom coupon codes that shoppers can input to receive a discount. You could entice and reward your social media followers by giving them early access to coupon codes in your posts.
Again, it’s beneficial to get in the habit of studying what other businesses are doing to increase engagement with their posts on the same platforms you’re using. Be sure to balance this with a dose of creativity, though. If we all followed what everyone else was doing all the time, social media would become one giant echo chamber. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with your own ways of attracting attention to your posts, too!
Step 3) Optimize your use of links
Optimize your use of links
At this point, you might be thinking, “OK, but how do I turn all this attention into sales?” Great question!
Social media is your golden opportunity to direct people straight to your product or service using links. When it comes to convincing people to actually click on those links and complete a purchase, however, there are a few nuances.
Determine the best way to share links on your social media platforms of choice. For example, Instagram only lets you share one clickable link, and it is contained within your bio. (The one exception being if you have over 10,000 followers – in that case you can share links through Stories, too). You can, and should, update your bio link frequently in accordance with your business’s social media strategy. If your post of the day is about a particular item, you could change your bio link to go directly to that item in your store, and mention ‘link to shop in bio’ in the caption.
Check with your ecommerce platform to see what kind of linking options they offer – they might be useful. For instance, Bonanza.com has a shortcut on item listing pages that lets you share your item direct to social media, but – even better – they can also create a custom URL extension for you that is unique to your business. If someone arrives at your items by clicking this custom URL, and then completes a purchase from you, you pay zero listing fees on the sale. Therefore, it’s smart to use your custom Bonanza URL when sharing links to your products on social media.
Ensure your link matches up with the viewer’s expectations. If your social media caption says that the link goes to a particular item, but it actually leads to your homepage and the shopper has to search around your site, they are less likely to complete their purchase. In a similar vein, ensure that your site looks up-to-date and trustworthy. Otherwise, shoppers might leave as soon as they arrive.
Experiment with ads on social media
Online advertising may seem complicated or costly, but it’s actually pretty simple to advertise your business on social media these days. All of the major social media platforms offer built-in advertising options that you coordinate using your account, and they are customizable in terms of price, style, target audience, and reach. Some advertising options on Facebook and Instagram are so cheap that your business has (almost) nothing to lose by trying them!
Another unique aspect of advertising on social media is that these platforms have access to data about their users, enabling them to show your ads only to specific demographics you believe you will be most interested in your business. This can be a much more targeted and cost-effective approach than, say, paying for an ad on the side of a bus.
The specifics of each platform’s advertising options are too in-depth to go into here, but you’ll find all the information you need by searching online for your particular platform.
Study results and adjust accordingly
Remember to treat social media for your business as a marathon, not a sprint. It might take a while to hone your social media to the point where you have a committed following that is generating sales. Having said that, you can speed up the process by analyzing the results of your posts over time, and making adjustments to your strategy accordingly.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Make note of what people are responding best to, and do more of that. This goes for all aspects of your social media, including traits like your copywriting style, hashtags, photography, illustrations, time of day you shared the post, etc.
- Trying a new promotional strategy, like a contest? Take time to analyze the results after, and reflect on what you might do different next time.
- There are a variety of ways to shorten or customize clumsy-looking links so that they perform better on social media. Search online for “link shortener”. Some of these also offer the ability to track stats like how often and when a link is clicked – a helpful gauge for measuring what’s working and what’s not.
- Consider investing in social media account manager software. For a monthly fee, you get access to in-depth statistics about the performance of your posts, and the ability to schedule posts in advance. Many people find this makes it easier to post consistently and frequently.
Time to take your social media further
As you can see, you don’t need magic or luck to be successful on social media. With strategy and long-term consistency, you’ll be driving more traffic to your online business in no time!
About the Author
Brian works at Bonanza.com as a graphic designer, content writer, and social media account manager. When he’s not writing about ecommerce and tech, you can probably find him at his cozy home music studio, surrounded by guitar pedals. He swears he doesn’t have a problem, and this next one will be the last one he buys.