How to More Easily Market Your Products on Social Media

Casual businessman working at office desk, using mobile phone an

Like most technology, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are in a state of constant change. And while these changes are often undertaken for the end user’s benefit, they can often throw your marketing strategy into chaos.

How are you supposed to promote your products and reach your customers when you don’t know if what you’re doing today will work tomorrow? And how can you tread this uncertain landscape when chances are that none of the platforms you’re on will operate the same way a year from now?

Change is inevitable. But though you may not know what’s coming, you can prepare all the same. Here are three tips to more easily market your products on social media, and handle the occasional curveball.

Keep on Top of Changes

If you want to use social media, you have to understand the platforms. Yes, change is inevitable, but you need to know what’s changed and how it’s changed, when it changes. By understanding what’s happened and how it will affect your business’ social presence, you can craft a plan of action to address the changes now and keep your online presence on a path of growth.

You can’t get ahead on social media if your strategy is based on information that’s years behind. Check out sites like Social Media Examiner to keep on top of the latest in the world of social.

Aggressively Target Your Audience

Knowing who your audience is is Marketing 101. But that audience changes. They browse different websites. Their interests change. They watch different TV shows and like new bands. And if you want to reach out to them and talk to them where they’re at, you need to keep up.

Do what you can to strengthen your audience research. You can then take this data and use it for better-targeted advertisements. Social media platforms are nothing more than giant data sponges, and their ad programs can each be heavily targeted at certain segments of that data. Be sure you’re on top of who you’re talking to when you’re using paid media.

Build Your Community

You know what convinces people to buy things, more than anything else? It’s not the big elaborate commercials. It’s not the hilarious advertisements you put up around town. It’s not even your totally awesome website. No, it’s people – friends, colleagues and even acquaintances who enthusiastically promote your product.

You can help build this community of potential brand ambassadors by starting on social media. Engaging with your customers and your community, and being a company that is seen as really, truly, actually human, is the best way to turn customers into advocates for your brand. Make sure your social presence is as engaging as possible.

Of course, the presumes that you have a product that’s worth raving about. If you do, there’s no better way to get your product in front of potential customers than Shoppost. And the easier it is to share your product with their friends and family, the better your word-of-mouth buzz will end up being.

What about you? How have you responded to the changing social media landscape?

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Boost Their Online Sales

Woman Working At Flower Shop Smiling

Sure, ecommerce platforms work fine for the large retailers who already have a built-in customer base and following. But what about the small business or new startup? How can you establish an online foothold in an increasingly more complex and difficult sales environment?

We’ve got you covered. Here are our five tips to jumpstart your online sales.

Set Up a Website

If you haven’t done that yet, stop reading and get one set up!
Okay, that wasn’t much of a first tip. Let’s call that one a freebie.

Get Mobile

Mobile is the wave of the future, and it’s either time to ride that wave or get out of the way. According to StatCounter.com, mobile web usage is at approximately 30 percent, up from just 3 percent in 2010. If your online presence only caters to desktop users, you’re missing a huge—and growing—part of your audience.
Always optimize your site for mobile users, and consider launching your own app. Engage this growing section of your customer base.

Be Social

Recently, we talked about how you could use Facebook to drive sales. This just underscores the need for your business to have a social media presence. It doesn’t have to be every single social media network, but you should know which networks your target audience is using and make sure you’re active and engaged there.

Focus on the Customer

Companies like Zappos have become legendary for their devotion to customer service. And in a world where everyone has a story about being routed to a call center halfway around the world, only to wait on hold for what seems like hours, this Business 101 staple should not be overlooked.
No matter your platform, you should have clear means for the customer to contact you with any issues, and a plan in place to satisfy customer returns, complains and questions as quickly and effectively as possible. Buying from an online store is one thing – knowing what to do when that item is returned is another. A lot of companies spend all their time on the buying part of the equation, and not the post-sale customer service aspect. Don’t be like a lot of companies.

Identify Trends, then Jump on Them

You should always have an ear to the ground for “the next big thing.” The Internet is a fast-changing place, and new ideas, memes and methods are popping up every day. The now overly-clichéd Wayne Gretzky quote is nonetheless apt here: “Go to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”
What are some of the trends that might affect your small business? Digital couponing, for one – this sales tactic jumped 141 percent in 2013 to 66 million digital coupons redeemed. Retailers with a strong digital coupon strategy are the ones reaping the rewards. Another is video, which is projected to generate more than two thirds of all Internet traffic by 2018. While not all businesses need to utilize video, those that do are opening themselves up to a much larger potential audience.

Use Shoppost

Come on, you didn’t think we wouldn’t put this in, did you?

What are your online selling strategies? Has your small business had success selling online? We invite you to share your stories with us in the comments below.

3 Ways Your Business Can Use Facebook to Drive Sales

Thumbs up or like symbol in coffee frothAh, Facebook. It’s long been the place you could go to connect with estranged high-school classmates, if you needed a cat video fix, or if you were just dying to find out that the Star Wars personality quiz Aunt Matilda just took says her closest match is Jabba the Hutt.

Of course, you already knew that.

But the one thing Facebook wasn’t was a place you go to buy or sell things. Sure, you might find a coupon code here or there for 15 percent off, or even a sponsored link, but a sales platform it was not.

“Was” being the key word.

Today, Facebook has significant potential as a place to sell your products, which is one of the reasons why we created Shoppost. We believe that the surefire way to turn people off from your products is to make the sales experience clumsy and unintuitive, so we focused on making Shoppost a seamless experience that fits right in with the existing Facebook news feed. The less disruption from the traditional Facebook experience for the customer, the better. And we believe that Shoppost can help you provide that experience to your customers.
What are some other ways your business can use Facebook to drive sales?

Actually Use Posts and Photos to Your Benefit

Sure, you have photos and posts. Chances are that you have a great designer who put together your awesome Facebook profile picture and cover photo. But are you really using your photos and posts to your full advantage? Cover photos can and should be changed regularly to promote particular products, with a direct link to the product page in the caption of the image – not to your general website, but to the product itself.

Jon Loomis has some suggestions on how to improve the reach of your posts, as well. He recommends creating your post as a link share while using an appropriately-sized image to display prominently in news feeds – thus getting the benefits of an image-focused post while still maintaining a link to your product. He also suggests limiting the text to 90 characters, so that your call to action shows up on mobile devices.

Fully Optimize Your Approach

We are in the age of big data, and if there’s one thing that Facebook generates, it is a mountain of data. In scouring over this information, we can glean some ideas on how to approach a Facebook strategy. For one, Adobe’s Social Intelligence Report recently found that engagement on video posts is up by 785 percent from last year. It used to be that video based posts didn’t see much traffic – that seems to be changing.

But when to post? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best day of the week for Facebook engagement is Friday between 2 and 3 p.m., when a sizable segment of the workforce has begun to mentally check out for the weekend. Tuesday would appear to be the worst day to attempt to engage with your audience. But in order to get your product onto somebody’s newsfeed, you need to…

Utilize Paid Promotion

Like it or not, recent changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm mean that brands basically have to utilize paid in order to reach customers. (You can count Eat24 as one of the “nots.”) But there are advantages to this. You can reach a more engaged audience by not only tailoring your content, but also defining the reach of the promoted post to an audience that you define. And after you’ve seen results, you can further optimize the paid reach through tweaking and testing, in order to get maximum value for your dollar.
Need more proof? Adobe found that the click-through rate on Facebook ads in the U.S. has increased by 160 percent over the past year alone, even as the costs per click have declined slightly. Those are two trend lines going in positive directions for your business’ bottom line.

Have any Facebook selling tips? Share them with us in the comments below!

5 New Ways to Reach Your Customers

A blue nametag sticker with words Hello I Am Your Customer to re

Be where your customers are.

It’s a simple concept, yet one that marketers have struggled with since, well, long before they called it marketing. How can you find an audience, and once found, stay engaged with them? After all, customers change. Their interests shift. Where they congregate and what they do in their free time is always in flux. And marketers are always trying to stay one step ahead.

In today’s increasingly fragmented and media-driven world, driving sales is harder than ever. But it can be done as some enterprising companies have shown. Here are five new and unique ways that businesses are reaching customers today.

Social

Social media is the next great frontier in e-commerce. Brands have already been connecting with their customers directly – the extremely popular Taco Bell Twitter account and Oreo’s “you can dunk in the dark” post during last year’s Super Bowl being two standouts – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the popularity of social media, this is the ultimate example of “be where your customers are.”

And this is why we created Shoppost, a free, easy-to-use app that gathers your product information and pulls it into a beautiful presentation window that posts to your social channels in just a few simple clicks. At its heart, it’s a way to make your products a natural and seamless part of the social experience. After all, customer X may never go to his local bike shop’s website with the fancy online store, but he definitely will spend time on Facebook. And if he sees that bike he’s been looking for at a great price, and all he has to do is click “Buy” while browsing in his Facebook stream., It opens up a whole new (and easier) world of e-commerce for buyer and seller alike.

YouTube

Many brands have jumped on the video bandwagon, which we love and highly recommend (in fact, check out our latest video – we think you’ll like it). But if you don’t have a knack for creating viral content, getting your video in front of eyeballs is a difficult proposition at best.

Eric Siu over at Forbes recommends jumping into YouTube advertising, listing a host of different benefits. We like this idea a lot – YouTube has worked hard to make sure its advertisements are as unobtrusive as possible, and you won’t be competing for spots the same way you might with Google Adwords.

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is all the rage these days with hundreds of projects being funded via Kickstarter campaigns, which is great for small businesses and startups. This has limited application for larger businesses that already have sufficient capital to fund new projects and R&D. However, crowdsourcing remains a viable and potentially hugely profitable play for these companies if they shift their focus to something else entirely – ideas, rather than capital.
My Starbucks Idea is probably the best example of this method – a quick glance shows tens of thousands of ideas for new drinks and in-store ideas. While not every idea is bound to be a good one, it’s a great way for brands to actually engage with their customers – not just sell to them. And who knows – one of those ideas may end up in your cup one day when you’re blinking sleep out of your eyes at 7 a.m.

Branded Content

What’s the easiest way to win over your customers? Give them something that’s actually useful and relevant to them. That’s the essence of content marketing. An increasing number of brands are making use of this method, from consumer brands like Red Bull, to B2B companies like Ricoh. As a brand awareness tool, this is an outstanding means to reach potential customers who might have never even heard of your business.

Native Advertising

When the New York Times is doing it, you know that there’s something behind it. Advertorials have been around for a while – take a look near the back of your in-flight magazines – but the increasing use of native advertising online has renewed focus on this customer outreach method. Advertisements designed to look a part of the site took off with the exploding popularity of BuzzFeed, and an increasing number of sites (primarily in journalism) are utilizing this method. While this method has met with some criticism, there’s no denying its effectiveness.

What do all of these have in common? They’re focused on the customer and their experience, rather than the product itself. They’re also seen as tools of engagement – to connect and really have a conversation with the customer. Somewhere along the line, companies figured out that they actually needed to listen to what their customers were saying. And when there are a million different things competing for the customer’s attention, it’s the companies that can cut through the noise to establish a real connection with their customers that will end up being most successful.

A Brief, Brief, Brief History of E-Commerce

Online Shopping ConceptIt was only a few short years ago that “people in the know” were telling anyone who would listen that nobody would ever buy products on the Internet. And they had good reason to think so. The Internet was an untested medium. The security involved was poorly – if at all – understood. People thought of the web as nothing more than chat rooms and email. The Internet might end up being a B2B e-commerce destination, but for consumers? Hardly.

But things changed. Today, e-commerce is a more than $1 trillion a year industry, with millions buying everything from pineapples to paintball guns online. How did we get here?

It’s been a long road since the very first e-commerce transaction, back in the early 1970s. But e-commerce as a whole really didn’t take off until the 1990s.

The growth of the World Wide Web, spurred by online services like America Online and Prodigy, exposed most consumers to the idea of spending money online for the first time. 1994-1995 saw the birth of both Amazon.com and eBay, which today top $90 billion in yearly revenue. Their initial growth came during a time when investors were pouring money into tech startups. This exuberance of the late 90s led to IPOs for a number of companies that had never made a profit, and in many cases, had never even created a single product. In some cases, like Google, Yahoo! and others, they were able to ride out the dot-com crash of the late 90s, a bubble that shuttered more than half of all dot-coms and saw more than $5 trillion disappear from the stock market in a matter of months.

The growth of companies like Amazon and eBay following the dot-com bubble is indicative of the recent explosion of e-commerce across the entire web. Amazon’s growth has been remarkable, but even they were recently challenged as the #1 e-commerce retailer in the world by Alibaba, a Chinese company that in 2013 handled more transactions than both Amazon and eBay combined.

This explosion of e-commerce has also inspired a number of new business models – one that’s founded on convenience and fulfilling on-demand desires. Groupon, LivingSocial and a gamut of food delivery sites have enabled local businesses to significantly extend their outreach past their website. Sites like Etsy have enabled anyone to be their own small business. And ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber have turned the existing transportation industry on its head as taxi companies scramble to compete.

E-commerce is also expanding into the social media realm as companies continue to try to reach customers where they are congregating socially. Just a few days ago, Amazon announced a partnership with Twitter to create “#AmazonCart,” a tool that allows Twitter users to put items into their Amazon cart without ever leaving the site. And last year, Starbucks took to Twitter for its “Tweet-a-Coffee” program which lets you buy a $5 gift card to Starbucks for a friend via Twitter.

In later blog posts, we’ll expand on the growth of social media and e-commerce, why social networks like Twitter and Facebook are the future of online selling, and how we created Shoppost as a way to bridge these two worlds in a way that has never been done before.