9 Ways To Help Make Social Media Effective For eCommerce

Social media, it invades every part of our day. We’re checking it at work, checking in at restaurants and bars to show our friends where we’re socializing. Posting our vacation pictures to show people where we went. It is one of the main activities people take part in online all the time. So syncing a social media experience with your e-commerce store offers you the chance to help drive added value to your audience and paying customers alike. So with that said, let’s take a look at 9 different ways that will make social media effective for your online store.

#1 – Share Sonny! Share!

So outside of the horrible Sonny and Cher reference in the title, one of the no-brainer features that e-commerce sites are using today is including various social sharing buttons on their product pages. This has become increasingly more common over the past couple of years due to the improved visibility and engagement a Facebook like button or Twitter tweet button can generate around a offered product.

To add these plugins to your store, simply go to the social platforms you want to integrate into your store and they’ll have instructions on how to add them. However, there is a caveat: make sure you only add a few social plugins to your product pages.

Resources for the most popular plugins for e-commerce are listed below:

There are a ton of other options for social plugins available out there, however, these four are the ones most popular with e-commerce stores since sharing a product or service on these channels fits their target demographic’s behavior and interests the most. If you sold clothing or accessories, you wouldn’t want to add a linkedin share button would you? No, because that platform’s purpose doesn’t match what you’re trying to use social media for.

When you add the buttons, try to get them as close to the product’s image as possible, while still keeping it organized and clean. Each store integrates buttons differently, check out some of your favorite stores to see how they integrate buttons for their products.

#2 – Your Customers Are Your Best Product Reps

A lot of content around your brand and products is user generated content, from fans sharing photos, to videos or text updates on social media about your stuff, whether good or bad. One way you can take advantage of the positive content is featuring it on your site.

There are quite a few platforms out there that allow businesses to highlight and moderate content submitted by their customers, fans, and followers. Usually displayed as a photo feed, these images can be highly curated to show the best of the best user generated content. For example, online retailer black milk clothing uses a photo feed at the bottom of all its product pages to showcase customer generated photos to individual products. Additionally, they curate the photos to specific products by associating a hashtag with the product. for example, their panther maxi dress is associated with the hashtag #bmpanthermaxidress which allows the photos tagged under the hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to show up in the product photo feed if the pictures are tagged properly.

#3 – Sign in, Show off

Normally, visitors to your store have to create an account, enter their information, and sign in so they can purchase products, view their order history, etc,. Social sign-in allows customers to do all of this without having to go through the multi-step process of creating an account by allowing them to sign in using the information from their social media platform of choice.

The platform of choice that customers often use for social sign-in is Facebook, basically because its the most widely used social media platform to date. Social sign-in can be extremely beneficial to a store because research shows that customers who use social sign-in spend more time on the site and purchase more than those who don’t use a social login.

Since most people are concerned with their privacy, especially when it comes to social sign-ins, one thing you might want to do before jumping in to using social sign-in completely, is to split test between with and without the use of social sign-in.

#4 – I’m Just Here For The Comments

Social based comment systems like Disqus and Livefyre are robust tools that make the experience of commenting on content and having conversations with other customers much more engaging due to it being a live feed instead of static posts, as well as credible because of social verification to use the comment widget. These feeds are often found on an e-commerce site’s blog instead of the store itself. These social powered comment widgets require users to sync one of their social media profiles to the tool so that you can see a genuine profile linked to the comment. This helps reduce trolling, and makes the commenting process more social by allowing customers to share engaging thoughts and conversations in a user’s social channel of choice from the comment section.

#5 – Make Your Sales Funnel Shareable

If you do it right, integrating social media across your store can improve customer experience and can increase the likelihood of others doing shareable actions on your site depending on what they see published on social media. However, you’re going to want to find that right balance so as not to annoy users by over sharing, which can happen. Try focusing on sharing interesting activities of your store visitors and providing value to users that may see what your customers share on one of their feeds.

For example, Eventbrite gives people the option of sharing that they’ve booked tickets to an event on Twitter and Facebook, it’s not mandatory, but sharing events like this is something that might be interesting for customers to share on social media.

Analyzing your sales funnel for event markers like the one in the Eventbrite example can help have a positive effect on drawing in new customers as well as create repeat customers by improving the customer’s journey. As always, you’re going to want to split test these plugins and CTAs to make sure they’re not having the opposite effect that you want.

#6 – Shopping First, Social Second

What we mean by our title is, don’t forget, you’re a store first, just because you have social media pages does not mean that customers are going to flock to your door. As the name suggests people go to Facebook and Twitter and the like to socialize not shop most of the time. Social media pages for your business are a great way to aggregate reviews as well as use them for customer service and support.

#7 – Don’t Just Tell Them, Show Them

Videos are great sales tools. Customer’s love seeing a product in action or being showed off. Like the post above about using customer generated content, you can apply that with videos as well. Not only does it improve sales, but people get to see the product, “in the wild” so to speak. Additionally, it adds another social factor that can be found on video aggregators (i.e. YouTube).

#8 – Customer Trust Is Key

Giving back to your customers helps to build trust with them, which is paramount for your brand. Find out ways that you can help out your customers outside of your store. Share local news and tips, ask their opinions, give out coupons, find ways to interact. The most important thing is that you’re visibly trying to be helpful ti them. The more useful you can be, the more loyal they’ll be to your brand.

#9 – Don’t Forget About The Rest Of Your Marketing Mix

Social media is often viewed as a silo of marketing that can be done separately from other marketing activities. Instead,  view it as an extra layer that integrates with the rest of your marketing mix instead of being a separate part of it. For example, with email marketing, integrate sharing buttons with your newsletters or e-blasts. This will help encourage people to sign up for your email list or check out what you’re offering. Also, don’t forget to share your posts to your social media following, this goes hand in hand with #8 above, if it’s useful to them, they’ll read it and possibly share it with friends and co-workers.

What creative ways have you integrated social media into your e-commerce store? What works and doesn’t work for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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The 3 C’s of Content Marketing

Content marketing has become the new buzz phrase in the digital space. It refers to the creation and distribution of media and published content in order to attract and engage a clearly defined target audience.

Most website owners understand the importance of unique web content. However, producing unique content that not only captures your audience’s attention, but also holds that attention, converting folks into profitable customers is still a budding concept. While most ecommerce websites do not rely heavily on content, they do use it to promote return visitors and customer loyalty.

The idea of content marketing is that you can communicate with potential customers without hard selling. Instead, you have a conversation with customers, giving them the information they need to make their own purchase decisions. In the process, you deliver a valuable message to customers who should reward you with their business and loyalty. The nuts and bolts of content marketing include social media, video and web.

You can develop an effective content marketing strategy by using, what we call, the “three C’s”: conversation, creativity and consistency.

Be Conversational

First things first, conversational content is jargon-free. Customers do not need to understand your industry, therefore they do not want to decipher your lingo. You should always write in a style that is straightforward and to-the-point.

The purpose of having a conversation is to engage in dialogue. Your content should stimulate a response from customers. Do this by asking your audience questions that will make them interact with you on a personal level. This will be rewarding to both you and the customer.

Get Creative

As a PR and SEO specialist, I get to wear many hats. One of my favorite hats is being able to get creative. Content marketing is the art of storytelling. The purpose of telling a story is to get the customer to take action. Unlike traditional advertising or sales, marketing is about soft action, like visiting your website.

Keep in mind, most customers visit a website for a particular reason. And when they do, they expect to be engaged in a business conversation (refer to C1). Therefore, if you can be entertaining and provide value, you can build customer loyalty, ultimately keeping customers coming back for more.

Practice Consistency

Probably the most difficult of the three C’s is being consistent. Constantly producing quality content while still meeting performance goals can be quite a challenge. We know. However, it’s important to develop a schedule that dictates when you should produce and publish content. We refer to this as an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar will hold you and your team accountable and ensure the work gets done.

In addition to increased online visibility and web traffic, the biggest benefit of being consistent is that you can establish yourself as an industry thought leader. And keeping your content fresh and consistent is the quickest way to portray yourself as an expert in your niche.

Content marketing is taking the digital world by storm. Don’t be left behind; educate yourself on the benefits of using content marketing. Become familiar with its tactics and most importantly, be consistent!

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The Basics of Google Authorship Markup

With another impending Google update seemingly just around the corner, Internet marketers worldwide are now scrambling to see if they can’t figure out what the “next big thing” in SEO will be. It seems to most web professionals that Google is working to maximize their own social media platform use by incorporating Google Authorship signals into its algorithm when determining search engine rankings. So, what does this mean for small businesses, bloggers and webbies alike? It means we better get familiar with Google Authorship, and we better get familiar with it now.

What is Google Authorship?

Google Authorship is basically Google’s way of making their social media platform more significant to search engine results than any other social platform. It’s also a way for Google to identify “authors” with authority. What Google Authorship does is identifies an actual human being associated with a page or blog post on a website. And since Google loves humans and users, of course this is going to quickly become a major factor in signaling a “good” page to Google. The fact is, if a real person is associated with a page in cyberspace, it’s likely to be more reliable than a page without the author linking, as those pages might as well be run by robots as far as the search engines are concerned.

So in a digital world of user-friendliness, it actually makes a lot of sense that Google’s next update would put a shift in focus much heavier on the actual users themselves. Visitors to websites want to see content and read words written by humans. Google Authorship is Google’s way of identifying those pages that comply with this idea.

How do you implement Google Authorship?

There are a few basic steps to follow to make sure you implement Google Authorship markup correctly. First, you need to decide where you’ll be implementing the authorship markup – will it go on a page of your website or on a post on your blog? Using Authorship markup on a blog is probably the easiest way to start, as it will identify the actual author of each and every blog post and put more trust in that post when it appears in search engines. Each author who writes for your blog should have their own Google+ account, complete with a photo of themselves that’s simple and professional (the photo itself will actually show up in search results if the markup is implemented correctly).

If you’re going to associate Authorship with a page of your website, you need to choose someone to be the “face” of your company, or choose a photo that reflects your brand. This person (don’t use a company page – I’ll explain why in a moment) should have a Google+ page that they are comfortable associating with your entire website.

The next step is to link the Google+ profile of your author to your actual blog or website. This part is easy – just log in to your Google+ account and click through to your “About” section. There should be a box labeled “Links” that gives you an opportunity to link to other profiles of yours, websites that you own or pages that you contribute to. Click “Edit” in this box.

You’ll want to focus on the “Contributor to” section of the next edit screen. If you’re an author for a blog, just enter the blog’s name and its URL path.

Save changes, and your Google+ profile is now linked to the blog for which you are an author.

Implementing Authorship Markup

The next step gets a big technical, and that’s why I thought it would be important to outline it in an easy way to understand. Now that your Google+ profile is connected to the site to which you are contributing, it’s time to add Authorship markup to the post itself that you’re linking your author profile to.

It’s easy on most blogs – all you have to do is include a link to your Google+ page at the end of your blog post. Here at Mountain Media, we like to add a little line at the bottom of each of our blog posts that simply says “Connect with [author name] on Google+!” Of course, you could get more creative or more in depth by adding links to your other social profiles (namely Facebook and Twitter), as well, but we like to keep things simple.

In order to add the Authorship markup to this statement, you need to switch to the HTML editor of your content management system for your blog and enter the following code:

Except instead of using the link that’s in this image, insert the link to your Google+ profile that’s connected to your blog. Change it to your name and you’re all set. This is called a <rel=”author”> tag, as it’s simply an HTML link that contains a tiny bit of additional markup to signify that the author of the post is also on Google+.

The Result

After you’ve linked your Google+ profile to the page you’re contributing to and you’ve implemented your rel=”author” tag, here’s what a standard search result for which your blog post is found will look like:

That’s considered a rich snippet search result, and it might soon become the most important type of rich snippet result you can implement yourself with the next Google algorithm update. It shows that I’m the author associated with that particular post, which signifies to Google that the post is trustworthy and truly written by a human.

Additional Things to Remember

While this is considered Authorship in its most standard and basic form, there’s a lot more to it than just linking your Google+ page to your blog or website. For starters, the more Author Rank you can build, the more trustworthy the posts with which you are associated will become. That means that if people +1 your posts, share your posts and interact with your Google+ page on a regular basis, your Author Rank will improve. Make sure you stay an active user on Google+ if you want to improve your Author Rank.

Additionally, Google doesn’t exactly allow you to link a brand to a blog post or web page as easily as they allow you to link a person. In order to link a business Google+ page to a post or page, you’ll have to implement a <rel=”publisher”> tag, which, at the moment, isn’t quite as powerful as a <rel=”author”> tag. Remember, Google likes people. So, if you wish to associate your brand page with your website, just remember to use <rel=”publisher”>, but for a more powerful “human” link, try to choose an individual person to represent your company that will link their own personal page to your blog or website.

If you’re implementing <rel=”author”> on a blog, make sure each author, or contributor, to the blog has their own author page. With WordPress blogs, this is easily accomplished and simply requires each author to have their own unique login information to the blog. That way, when each author’s posts appear on the blog, if you click on their name in the byline, you’re directed to a page of posts authored by that contributor only. This helps Google distinguish between authors on your blog and helps strengthen the link between your authors’ Google+ pages and your blog.

So fear not the impending Google algorithm change! Just be sure to be aware of and familiar with Google Authorship, what it means and what it does. We’re still conducting research into the topic here at Mountain Media, and we have to say, the best way to learn something new such as this is to just try it. See how it works. Then research a bit more and tweak your approach from there.

This should help you get started using Google Authorship linking and markup, so pick a page on your website or a post on your blog and get started experimenting before the next Google algorithm hits!

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