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How to Put the "Social" in Social Commerce

When social media first popped into existence, there was no intention of using it to circumvent the traditional sales process. Now, it can be a place for brands to drive growth and profit, but the social element of social commerce shouldn't be ignored.

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When social media first popped into existence — your Six Degrees, your MySpaces, the prehistoric version of Facebook that looks like an entirely different site today — there was no intention of using them to circumvent the traditional sales process.

Now, with the rapid expansion of online marketplaces and a two-year pandemic that's made everyone much more tech-savvy, we're starting to see the integration of commerce and community in a way that the forefathers of social media never dreamed of — and probably never intended.

But, this is the reality that we as digital marketers and social media specialists live in. And if we want our brands to thrive on social media, we need to play by social media's new rules. Nearly every platform will allow you monetization opportunities, but that doesn't guarantee that you'll make sales. Like anything in marketing, it takes strategy to turn a profit on social media. And to be honest, the strategy for getting your socials off the ground and generating conversions isn't that different from how you'd set up a brick-and-mortar business for success. Here are some tips to follow for your brand to really thrive on social media:

Use the right platforms

First, you need to have the right location, or digitally speaking, utilize the right platforms. If you set up your lemonade stand in the middle of the woods, you're going to go home with empty pockets.

Let's do a hypothetical: You have a small business that manufactures and sells unique, bespoke furniture. If your main sales avenue is Twitter, you've goofed up. That is an Instagram and Pinterest play almost exclusively. Knowing where to build your social storefront is an integral part of generating revenue. (Pro-tip: Just don't try to sell things on Twitter).

Related: The Business of Harnessing the Power of Social Media

Spend money, make money

Next, realize that the oldest idiom in the business world applies to social commerce too. What will any Business 101 class tell you? "You need to spend money to make money."

Social media is not strictly pay-to-play, there are success stories of brands that have built up a presence mostly organically. I say "mostly," because even in those cases, they still had an advertising budget, minuscule as it might be. However, in the current landscape of social media, due to the sheer amount of competition, every industry pretty much demands that businesses who aren't household names put some amount of money behind their social channels.

Where should they be allocating these funds? In my personal opinion, you should be using them to boost your social media content to a larger audience instead of shelling out for Facebook ads. Content is what draws consumers in and turns them on to your brand. Make sure that the engaging copy and design you're producing is reaching the widest segment of your audience possible, and you'll see sales begin to steadily trickle in.

Related: Social Commerce Is the Future of Marketing. Are You Ready?

Know your buyers

And speaking of content — it really is king! But if you're trying to use it solely to generate a profit, then you're wasting it.

Let's do another hypothetical. If you live in even a modestly sized area, you probably have multiple grocery stores about equidistant from you. And yet, despite travel time being equal, you have a preferred store. What is it that takes you to Grocery Store X over Grocery Store Y?

Whatever star factor Grocery Store X has, that's what your digital content needs as well. It needs to not only be modern and well-designed, but it also needs to cater to the audience most likely to interact with your brand — your buyers.

This comes down to creating on-point buyer profiles that can precisely predict what kind of challenges your buyers are facing and how you can position yourself as the solution. Without buyer profiles, you're just casting a net into a body of water, unsure if it's a lake or swimming pool, and hoping you get a bite.

There's no right way to create a buyer profile, but to make one that helps you dictate your content, you'll need to get inside the mind of your audience. This means gaining their insights, whether that's through interviews or demographic research. Once you're inside your buyer's head, you can start to interact with your brand in the way they would start plotting content around their wants and needs that ultimately drives their purchasing decisions.

Social media has exponentially expanded since its creation, but at its core, it still maintains the town square sensibility to it. It can be a place for brands to drive growth and profit, but the social element of social commerce shouldn't be ignored. Ultimately, running a business on social media isn't too dissimilar from running a business in real life. You have to pick the right platform, provide an X factor that helps you stick out from the competition, and know your buyers well enough to serve their needs. Whether you make sales through a checkout lane or a landing page, the route there isn't as different as you might think.

Related: The Evolving Role of Social Media in Ecommerce

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