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Social Media | 5 min read

The Growth of Social Media and Ecommerce – Does it Work?

Simon Leeming
06 November 2012 Written by Simon Leeming

social media and ecommercePurchasing behaviour has shifted over the years. This is down to technology changing, people having less time, the impact of the recession and more. So, with the trend of more people going online to compare products and make purchases, how important is Social Media for the Online Retailer today?

Earlier this year, I read some interesting information from Business Insider. It really did back up the importance of getting your Social Media Strategy in place if you are going to continue to compete online.


The information started out asking why use a mix of Social Media and Ecommerce? – also know as Social Commerce. There are a whole variety of answers to this including:


  • To Increase Sales
  • Enhancing Customer Service
  • Generating more advertising
  • Acquiring more leads
  • To keep up to date with Innovation


These are all valid answers – online retailers want to attract more customers and then KEEP them coming back to make further purchases and recommendations. It is also equally important to resolve any customer issues or queries quickly to keep customers happy. Social Channels can provide an excellent avenue for this if structured and managed appropriately. 

We hear a lot about the key online trends: More people are online, social network numbers are increasing & more people use mobile devices etc. Although, what I also found interesting from the report was some of the basics:


  • By simply adding the Facebook integrations – ‘Like’ button, to the Levi’s site, it increased web referral traffic by 40%.
  • Referrals from ‘Social Channels’ beat referrals from ‘Search Engines’ – a nice example from Rent the Runway (online fashion) estimating 200% higher conversion in Social’s favour…


There were many other examples that gave praise to the Social Media element for online retailers. Essentially, it came down to gaining a higher percentage of repeat business as well as generating more leads/interest from new buyers.


I find great case studies and stories on a daily basis regarding the move to ‘Social Commerce’, which is fantastic to see. However, these companies do put a lot of investment into creating the right strategy to make the Social Networks work for them. Taking the steps to Social Commerce may seem easy on the surface (setting up Facebook , Twitter , Youtube etc , branding the website, adding buttons) but the challenges are outside of the technical set up. Answering some basic questions:-


  • Who am I trying to attract through Social Networks?
  • What content do I create and distribute?
  • What activity outside of Social Networks do I need to do to make the Social presence successful?
  • How do I measure the success of my Social Media Activity?
  • Who owns the Social Media project in my business?


Many businesses have gone straight to setting up social media profiles and pages, then spending a lot of time creating great content. Often however, this approach lacks any sort of conversion success, and here is where the main challenge lies!

Social Commerce is a large beast but here are few hints and tips you may find useful for getting started:

Research the platforms that your prospects use


Different Social Platforms lend themselves better to different users. There are lots of statistics out there and a great example of some of them come from an article by Jeff Bullas which you can access here.


Start by describing your ‘typical customer’ – what are they interested in, where are they located, what gender & age are they etc

Research Keywords


This might sound like getting a bit technical, but at the end of the day you need to be visible on Social Networks as well as on Google! Make sure you know what keywords are important to your line of business and include them in bio’s, profile information, tweets, posts etc.

Provide Content of value – not the hard sell


Sometimes it is good to share the great deals you have in your online store – your loyal customers and social connections will certainly appreciate what you are offering at a lower investment. Consistently pushing discounts through your social networks however will eventually loose the attention of your community. You need to provide relevant, interesting and fun content to your following to keep things fresh and useful. If you sell clothing, then why not provide fashion news & stories, great pictures and videos , invite your community to take part in online competitions - accept entries for new designs to win prizes etc!

This same concept applies to all industries. Think about what is going on in your sector – share interesting, useful and interactive content to support your own products & offers.

Integrate Social Media Branding throughout…


It is vital to make it easy for people to click, to follow & to like your brand – there are a whole load of items to start with:

  • Make your Email Signature Social – add the buttons
  • Brand up your marketing brochures: make them shareable
  • Business Cards – get your LinkedIn id, your twitter handle etc
  • Make sure people can refer and share your blog posts
  • Not forgetting: add your social buttons and feeds to your website – go a step further a socialise your buttons with your product listings


The benefit of gaining a qualified following means you have two - way communication with a targeted audience for the longer term – its not a one hit approach.

Measure It

As online retailers know – it is crucial to know where your customers come from, what campaigns are working, and what is the conversion or return from the time & money invested. Social Media is no different. There is a whole industry out there providing analytics tools – some from ‘free’ right up to enterprise level commercial platforms.


The key thing from ‘Measuring’ performance is – don’t simply focus on the number of fans you have and the number of likes you have gained! Yes, it is nice to be popular and there is certain value in these numbers but the real metrics that require focus are conversion metrics. This will differ for each business but looking at the number of leads captured or tracking the source of paying customers back to Social Networks, identifying how many customer queries where answered and solved via social etc, this is how you determine any sort of ROI.

I have just scratched the surface here regarding Social Media and ECommerce - it’s a big area and many businesses are approaching it is a variety of ways. Do you see the value in making your online business Social?

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