Social media advertising once acted as a cost-effective way to drive business to your product because of its organic reach. You didn’t need to spend a penny to get eyeballs on your product–a free post a couple of times a day worked to drive brand awareness and lead generation. Not anymore. Once the platforms realized how much money they were leaving on the table, they started scaling back organic promotions, so businesses had to pay advertising to get their products in front of customers.
That’s why a social media marketing strategy for eCommerce is essential for marketing any business. Today, it’s not uncommon for a pay-per-click (PPC) ad to run $5 or more dollars. Compare that cost to when PPC and social media advertising launched, and digital advertising isn’t as cheap as it used to be.
Not all businesses can afford to pay $12 or $15 for a click that may not convert. The news isn’t all gloom. Social media marketing remains the best way to target your potential customers and promote your product. A few tweaks to your e-commerce marketing plan, and you can make a significant impact on a tiny social media marketing budget. Here’s a few low-cost or free ways to advertise on social media.
Lean on social proof
It costs nothing to leave a product or company review on a social network.
People rely on referrals to choose products to buy. They are more inclined to trust the feedback of someone not associated with the company than any money-back guarantee. You need to make the most of social media reviews and referrals to get more people to buy your product.
Get more social media reviews by directly asking your customers for their feedback on the specific platform you want to use. Do this every time you sell a product. Throw in a note with the packaging or send an email a few days after the product’s arrival. Make it extremely easy for them to leave feedback.
Sometimes someone writes a glowing and specific review you feel captures your brand values and demonstrates the product’s benefits. See if you can use it as recorded feedback in a video or if you can get their picture. Important note: always ask permission first! Create a social post using that video or photo in their feedback. Tag the customer to reach their audience, and people can see a reviewer is a real person.
Another way to get more social referrals and feedback is by offering a referral program. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Offer something like 5% off their next purchase of the product. It incentivizes them to give the referral and encourages them to be a repeat customer–a win-win for you.
Be an active community member
Social media was created to network and meet new people, not to be a digital billboard.
Constantly pushing content and advertising is a huge turn-off. Your brand accounts must be an active “person” on social media, even if you are in the business selling products.
Create a social brand persona with a unique voice to engage with others on the platforms. Your eCommerce marketing strategy should detail this brand persona, such as identifying their values, things they would say, and things they wouldn’t. It may be helpful to assign the posting to a single person to ensure voice and tone consistency.
Next, search hashtags that are relevant to your product and the people who use them. Follow the conversations. Look for opportunities to make comments related to your brand values or how your product could solve the person’s problem.
Create a Google Alert on topics that matter to your product. Make one alert for your product and brand name. The alerts clue you into what your audience is talking about.
Finally, join industry-related social media chats and conversations. Make your presence known to the broader audience to promote product awareness on social media.
You are advertising on social media to get your product before as many possible eyeballs in hopes they convert.
It’s hard to do that without paying for advertising, but brand partnerships offer a cost-effective avenue to introduce yourself to a new audience. Social media brand partnerships leverage their existing audience to grow yours. The key to the brand partnership is their audience should also be your target audience.
Find another company that offers something that compliments the products that you offer. For example, a FinTech company offering payment services could partner with a Small Business Accelerator to host a webinar about ensuring data security in credit card transactions. They could have a live chat about setting up payment capture systems or an Ask-Me-Anything for entrepreneurs.
Brand partnerships could involve co-hosting events like these webinars and chats, but another option is a brand partnership giveaway. When a client buys a product from company A, they also get a perk from your company. The key is to make this something useful for the client but inexpensive on your end. Content-based options could be a free downloadable report or maybe a free consultation with your brand.
Brand partnerships are great to grow your network and business. Whatever you offer your partner, make sure it has benefits for both of you.
Rely on user-generated content
Rather than solely relying on your team to create social media content, look at what your clients are creating about your product. Let them make content and posts for you. Like a brand partnership, the idea is to use your client’s audience to grow your audience.
You can encourage user-generated content by running a social media contest directly asking for users to create content. Some companies create branded hashtags to run user contests.
Another option is to simply ask your product users to make posts and use your branded hashtags. Some brands use paid influencers to promote products on social media, but it’s more impactful if the audience knows your brand didn’t pay the person for creating the post.
If your brand engages in social listening, you’ll find their branded content and see what they’re doing. Re-share their posts on your social media feed and make sure to give them a shout-out to build customer goodwill and loyalty.
Create videos, and hopefully viral ones
Content marketing research shows video social marketing is better for traffic and customer retention. Videos make a deeper impression on your target client base. You can’t effectively promote a product on social media without a video content strategy.
Utilize various video types, like product demonstrations, how-to videos, behind the scenes, and testimonials.
If you can go viral with your videos, even better! The problem is it’s hard to say what makes something go viral. Generally speaking, viral videos tend to be trendy because they:
- Have something we’ve never seen before
- Elicit a strong emotional response like humor or empathy
- Create a controversy
If you do want to try to make a viral-style video, be careful about crossing the line. You probably don’t want to create a controversial video just to get product sales. The attention may be significant at first, but it might harm your brand more than do good.
Focus on education
Chances are, you’re not going to get a ton of significant new customer sales from your social media work. Why? Because people aren’t using social media to discover you.
Think about it. When you are looking for a product or solution, are you going to go to social media to find it, or are you going to go to a search engine? Chances are, it’s a search engine.
Social media’s primary aims should be nurturing your relationships to create repeat customers. How do you do that? Through education.
Use social media posts to enrich the lives of the other human beings in your circle. Spend less time talking about your product and more talking about the greater industry niche and the issues that matter to your brand.
It’s fine to throw in some humor that you think your audience would appreciate. Social media is how we break down the corporate walls and show the human side to our business. Empathy in marketing is crucial to a successful eCommerce marketing strategy. Think of ways to make your product relate to people and to make your company sound more human and likable.
Some working inside digital marketing will say to use the 80-20 rule where only 20% of what you post is directly related to selling your product. Some prefer the ratio closer to 10% of all your social media posts.
Whatever ratio you opt for, the point is to build relationships by posting less about you and more about things that will benefit your target audience.
Advertising e-commerce on a budget
Each of these six steps has little to no cost to your overall e-commerce marketing plan. Partnering with the brand may not cost you anything but the time invested in promoting your partnership. Interacting with your audience or making social media posts that educate your target audience should be part of any eCommerce content strategy–and are free. User-generated content and reviews are also free and may help boost your sales by exposing you to new customers.
Need more advice? Talk to Digital Time Savers about how to promote a product on social media. You can market without paying for ads! We can craft a budget-friendly plan that involves low-cost social media marketing strategies.
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