Are you using social media all wrong?

Social media is just about the worst advertising vehicle for small ecommerce merchants I have found. Well, possibly advertising on a park bench would be worse, but social media is pretty darned awful.

Regardless of this fact, everybody tells you to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Google+ page, an Instagram account, and on and on. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself,”Why?”

I am not arguing that there’s not any value in social networking. Actually, I think there’s tremendous value. I simply believe you have to decide where this value lies and then use your social networking channels accordingly.

For me, social media is terrible for driving new customers. I have the stats (albeit just from my site ), but I think they’re fairly representative of other ecommerce shops.

We’ve got a survey on the site that asks paying clients how they heard about us. Here are their positions.

1. YouTube (38.0%)
2. Search Engines (24.5percent )
3. Friend/relative (18.5percent )
4. Other (10.1percent )
5. An current customer (5.0percent )
6. Magazine (1.4percent )
7. Facebook (1.3percent )
8. TV (0.7percent )
9. Twitter (0.5percent )

Hopefully that info gives you pause before using social media as a brand new customer acquisition medium. Please be aware that we don’t run any magazine or television advertising. We’re seldom featured on TV or in magazines. However, we’re extremely active on Twitter and Facebook.

Simply put, you will be hard-pressed to bootstrap your website’s traffic via social networking. People really don’t need to leave social networking websites when they arrive. They are there to be amused and connect with friends. Unless your shop deals in pure entertainment, you will have difficulty competing. You just don’t have the pull to tear them away from social networking’s powerful magnets.

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The most important thing is that I have never heard of any shop having positive ROI using a direct sales approach to advertising on social networking.

So, how should you use social media?

Social networking is the ideal platform for running a fan club. Social media should be employed to participate with your most ardent fans. These are your best and most ardent repeat clients. These are the individuals who buy virtually every time you send out an email. They are the ones telling their friends about your website. These are your apex clients. Engage them so as to enjoy the multiplying network effects of word-of-mouth advertisements.

You should only cater to your apex clients on social networking. Your best clients have opted to follow you because they like your shop, your policies, and your general approach. You do not have to sell them. They are already sold! Instead, you will need to peel back the curtain a bit and let them know more about you, your philosophy, your workers, your culture, etc.. These individuals are interested. So, give’em the products!

Do not just regurgitate everything that is on your site. Your best customers already understand your site. They have come to your social networking existence to discover more. Give it to them! This doesn’t imply that you shouldn’t announce new products, but you need to go above and beyond. Your social networking presence should not only be a facsimile of your site catalog.

Go ahead, post inside jokes! Again, this is a fan club. If people are here, they’re lovers and they ought to”get” the joke. When they don’t, even better. That means they are new and excited to learn. It is going to be a puzzle for them to fix.

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Share special coupons and deals. Just your best fans will have a look at your social networking pages, so you should reward them. Always bear in mind that repeat clients will be the lifeline of a small company. I believe this is a much better coverage than trying to sucker new clients with absurdly low prices. This merely trains them to only purchase when there’s a special.

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Get personal. The most important thing is that people buy from the person they enjoy the most. All things being equal (price, service, etc.), you are likely to buy from the website you like best. You can’t enjoy a website if you don’t know anything about these. Use social media to actually put yourself out there. Be personable. Make it very clear that there are really people running your business. Make connections with your own fans. It’s known as a social”network” for a reason.