PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Using Social Commerce to Generate Revenue and Grow Your Business

By at 13 October, 2020, 10:49 am

By Barbara Weltman-

Social commerce is the activity of using social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, to promote your products and services. Social commerce is growing and it’s likely that online shopping habits formed by customers during the pandemic won’t change once the ability to revisit bricks-and-mortar stores becomes safe.

More consumers are moving to online purchases and many are using social media platforms to search for new brands and products. A September 2020 Deloitte global report for Facebook, found that “40% of consumers have increased their use of social media and online messaging for product and business recommendations.” Of those who said they had started shopping at new businesses or switched brands, “60% said they switched to a small business that was local to them” and [in developing nations] “respondents were 50% more likely to discover small businesses through social media.”

Making Social Commerce Part of the Marketing Strategy

Even prior to the pandemic, SBE Council reported that online advertising and social media tools were driving significant revenue growth and savings for small businesses. Given the shift in the past months to online commerce, we can expect to see continued revenue growth – in fact accelerated growth – due to the effects of COVID-19.  Therefore, it is essential for small businesses to make social commerce part of an overall marketing strategy. This means employing various tools and programs that are part of social media to find and retain customers, build your brand, and conduct business.

Which Platforms to Consider?

What is the best platform to sell on? There’s no simple or single answer. Facebook and Instagram (in the Facebook family) are very popular sites for social commerce. You can easily learn how to build an online home for your business on Facebook and Instagram as free ways to share your business information and connect with customers and prospects. In mid-September, “Facebook Business Suite” was announced, which allows businesses to save time and stay up to date by managing their pages or profiles across all the company’s apps. As noted by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, in a blog post:

“It allows them to post to Facebook and Instagram at the same time, and manage and receive messages, notifications and alerts in one place. They can also easily see what’s working and learn what’s resonating with customers with Facebook and Instagram insights.”

The Facebook Small Business Resource Guide (above) walks a small business owner through various steps for using Facebook tools and products. You can also view a video to determine if these platforms are for you.

You can use these platforms to conduct business. For example, you can use Facebook to hold paid online events, such as conducting classes online. And you can sell products, including gift cards, through these platforms and communicate with customers through messenger. Given the pandemic’s impact on small businesses and the desire of customers to support them, these sites have stickers you can use to “Support Small Business.”

But you don’t have to limit yourself to these platforms. Other options include:

Dedicated selling sites. Depending on the type of products you offer, you may want to sell on eBay, Etsy, Amazon.

Your own website. Having your own website from which to conduct business has several benefits. It helps establish the business’s credibility. This can be done by offering valued content that customers appreciate. And it’s another channel from which to sell. You can create your own site or use Shopify or other options to develop a website for your business.

Other options. You can use YouTube (a Google company) for social commerce. Advertise, provide content, and drive business to your website or other channels through YouTube. You can also monetize your content through the YouTube Partner Program where other businesses advertise on your videos. Pinterest lets you feature images to help consumers make buying decisions. And you can use Product Pins, such as Rich Pins, that can be added to a Shopify Store.

What Does Social Commerce Cost You?

What’s your marketing budget? While you may be able to jump on social commerce for free, to utilize it well and see returns, you need to consider paying for it. Review your budget to make room for the following social commerce costs:

Advertising. Posting your ads on various platforms can cost a lot or a little, depending on what your budget allows. Test the waters to see whether initial efforts produce results and then adjust your advertising…and your budget…accordingly.

Website development and maintenance. Depending on whether you DIY or use a professional, costs vary widely.

Online shop costs. If you use eBay as your “store,” there’s a monthly subscription charge. Also check transaction costs through online sites.

Your time and effort. Obviously, this is priceless. But don’t ignore what it costs you to develop and maintain efforts in social commerce.

Social Commerce Versus E-Commerce

While social commerce is limited to conducting business and activities on social media sites, ecommerce is broader. It is buying and selling online, which can involve using your own website to conduct business through another channel.

You can create your own site or use Shopify or other options to develop a website for your business and integrate social commerce with your ecommerce efforts (e.g., using postings to drive traffic to your own site).

Final Thought

One of the key benefits to social commerce is the ability of businesses to tailor the shopping experience to customers, based on demographics and other factors. To do this, you need to take things to the next level. Don’t hesitate to engage experts who can help.

Barbara Weltman is a member of SBE Council’s advisory board, and has been a leading consultant for small businesses of every kind for over twenty years. She’s the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business® and has written numerous books on small business operations, including J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, and The Rational Guide to Building Small Business Credit. Follow Barbara on Twitter @BigIdeas4SB.

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