Social Media Selling
Millions of people go to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs every day to interact with others who share their interests. When they see something they like (or dislike!), they share it instantly with their friends, who share it with more friends, making it a very fast way to communicate. Stories abound of how messages have been propagated out to hundreds of thousands of people in just hours.
Tapping into this powerful media to communicate with your customers and attract new buyers isn't difficult or costly—but it does require some knowledge and planning. Social media is mostly free—no monthly fees, no subscriptions. Just set up an account for your business and start posting and responding to your customers' posts. Here are some tips for putting the power of social media to work for your business.
General tips and best practices
- Evaluate the available tools before you start. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube have different attributes and audiences. In a nutshell, Facebook is for staying in touch, Twitter is for "breaking news," blogs are for telling the story, and YouTube is for videos. Explore each one carefully before deciding where to start. Find out where your customers are—look for groups within these channels that might be interested in your listings, like camera buffs or fashion mavens.
- Genuinely contribute to the conversation. Consider your target audience and how you can build your relationship with them.
Budget time for keeping your presence fresh. You need to create original posts at least several times a week, and respond quickly to comments from your online friends and followers.
- Create a separate account for your business. Facebook rules require you to create a separate fan page for your business. Post about your eBay listings on your fan page, instead of on your personal Facebook page. Plus you'll look more professional!
- Start small. Start with one channel and build up your presence. Social media can be a valuable tool to enable online commerce, but it's important to focus your efforts on those activities that are most likely to provide a good return on your time investment.
- Listen and engage. Take the time to listen to what your social media fans and followers are saying about you on social channels. Responding promptly and engagingly to your customers helps you take advantage of the power of social media to cultivate loyal customers.
- Cross-promote your social media channels. Use your social media channels judiciously to cross-promote your content. For example, post your YouTube videos on your blog. Post a Facebook update when you have a new blog post, and include the link. Consider linking your business Twitter handle to your Facebook fan page so that your tweets are also auto-posted on your Facebook page—reaching both audiences at the same time. But be selective—you don't want to duplicate information on the same channel. Point your Twitter followers to your blog. You get the idea!
- Don't expect instant results! It takes a while to build a presence on any social media channel. As long as you post interesting new content on a consistent basis, visitors and customers will keep coming back for more.
Tips and best practices for key social media channels
What is Facebook?
People use Facebook to connect with friends, build relationships, and stay in touch. People "like" businesses on Facebook, but don't want to be spammed.
How Facebook can help your business
- People who "fan" you on Facebook are interested in what your business has to offer.
- Engaging your Facebook fans by sending them updates about new inventory and promotional offers encourages repeat business.
- You can learn what your customers are looking for by asking them to respond to polls.
- Your customer base will grow when your Facebook fans tell their Facebook friends about your business.
How to get started on Facebook
- Create a Facebook fan page (separate from your personal Facebook page) for your eBay business.
- Invite your customers and your friends on Facebook to become a fan of your Facebook page. Mention your Facebook page in your customer emails and other customer touch-points such as your blog. Encourage your customers to Like your fan page to stay in touch and get the latest updates about your eBay listings and deals.
- Engage your fans with compelling content.
- Get your fans to interact with and participate in your content.
- Encourage your fans to share your content with their Facebook friends.
Tips for using Facebook
- Exclusive Facebook promotions. Provide a unique coupon code for your customers on Facebook.
- News about your selling categories. Treat your Facebook page like a mini-blog. For example, if you're selling sports equipment, occasionally post interesting sports news, optionally linking to your eBay inventory.
- Polls. Use the Facebook Questions feature to ask your Facebook fans questions on what inventory they'd like to see, when they typically use eBay (so you know when to end your listings for maximum exposure) or any other questions that can help you understand your customers better. Use their responses to fine-tune your offering.
- Respond to your Facebook fans promptly. Reply to questions or Wall posts with a quick, friendly comment. When your Facebook fans see you engaging with them, it goes a long way toward enhancing your online reputation.
- Strategize your posting. Post updates on your page only a few times a week, but think through every post and make it count. We recommend posting no more than once or twice a day, on average. Occasionally, if you have something relevant or news-worthy to say, you might try increasing the number of times you post a day. But be careful—post too frequently and people might leave your page.
What not to do
- Don't spam your fans! Be selective in sharing your listings. Share one or two a day that are representative of your offering.
- Don't be controversial. Remember, your business and personal Facebook pages are different for a reason. Your customers may not share your views on topics such as religion and politics. Stick to posting updates that have a broad appeal and wouldn't upset your customers.
- Don't appear to be unresponsive, indifferent, or rude. Your comments are visible to all your Facebook fans, and your response to your fans shapes your reputation on Facebook.
What is Twitter?
With only 140 characters per message, Twitter attracts people who want fast updates about their areas of interest. They follow their favorite brands, share others' content through "retweeting," and add a hashtag (#) to keywords (e.g. #baseball) to help users search by topic.
How can Twitter help your business?
- Learn what potential customers are talking about by searching Twitter hashtags for the products you sell.
- Encourage your followers to retweet your news about promotions and new listings.
- Build up a great reputation for customer service by responding quickly to customers' questions.
- Learn from "thought leaders" about latest trends in your areas of interest.
How to get started on Twitter
- Create a Twitter handle (separate from your personal Twitter handle) for your eBay business.
- Invite your customers to follow you on Twitter.
- Engage with people who regularly tweet about topics related to your business.
- Make your posts interesting so that your followers will want to retweet your posts.
Tips for using Twitter
- News and updates. Because of its "real-time" nature, Twitter is a great channel to announce new items, a new promotion, a new post on your blog, or news about the type of products you're selling.
- Discounts for retweeting. Provide an incentive to get people to retweet your posts. For example: "Check out the new items in our eBay Store. 5% off to the first 10 people who RT this post."
- Retweet other people's content. Retweeting raises your profile in the Twitter-sphere.
- Tweet often, but tweet strategically. Twitter has more of a "breaking news" feel. If you have something new to say, tweet it! In fact, you can break up your Facebook posts or the high points of your blog into individual tweets. 3-5 tweets a day is a good start.
What not to do
- Don't spam your followers with tweet after tweet of your eBay listings.
How people use blogs
People rely on bloggers to help them stay informed on news and events in areas they're interested in.
How a blog can help your business
- Blogging consistently and knowledgeably establishes you as an expert in your area.
- Blogging raises your visibility in search engines, so more people can find your eBay Store and listings.
- A blog also helps you provide more detailed information about your products, your policies, and your customer support.
What to do
- Set up a blog through a free blogging service, such as WordPress or Blogger.
- Start blogging regularly. Develop your own engaging style of writing - make your blog posts friendly, welcoming, and informative about the area you're blogging about (for example, classic Hollywood movies).
- Cross-promote your blog through your Facebook and Twitter channels.
What works best
- Informed and well-researched opinions. People read blogs to get informed opinions from experts in the field. When you consistently blog about the latest news and product reviews in the areas of your interest, you build up a reputation for yourself.
- Devote each blog post to a specific topic. Blogging is an ongoing expression of your opinion. You don't have to cram everything you know about your subject into one blog post. Craft each post to one (or a few) aspects of the area you're blogging about.
- Develop an engaging style. Good blogs have a distinctive voice of their own - you may have to invest some time discovering your "blogging style."
- Follow blogging etiquette. Blogging has evolved its own unwritten rules, like giving credit when you quote information sources, responding to comments from readers, and more. Spend some time understanding the rules and etiquette of blogging. (Here's an example we found online from Melanie Nelson, a professional blogger: 5 Blogging Etiquette Tips for Beginning Bloggers.)
- Use keywords wisely. One of the most powerful aspects of blogging is the ability to raise your visibility in search engines. Make sure you include the right mix of keywords related to your ebay business in your blog posts, but using them inappropriately could result in search engines giving you lower visibility for "keyword spamming."
How often do I post?
Post at least once a week to start with. When you hit your blogging stride, you'll find yourself blogging more frequently. Posting 2-3 times a week is usually adequate. The important thing to remember is not how often you post, but making each post count. Remember that posting consistently also gets your blog noticed by search engines.
What not to do
Don't spam your readers. Don't try to sell products in every post, and don't write too many blog posts about the same topic.
Don't start a blog if you don't like writing! To keep your blog fresh and attract regular readers you need to post often about a variety of subjects. Stick to Facebook or Twitter if writing isn't your thing.
How people use it
YouTube is a great channel to provide your customers with more information about your product through video. People visit YouTube to get a visual experience—such as how-to product demos, video tutorials and product assembly and usage instructions. Consider creating YouTube videos if you sell complex items and your customers could benefit from getting more information via video.
How YouTube can help your business
YouTube works best when you have the resources, skill, and time to shoot and edit high-quality videos. Before you start shooting video, consider the following:
- Does your area of selling justify a video channel?
- While shooting and uploading videos to YouTube with an ordinary camera is getting easier, not everyone can create professional quality videos easily.
What to do
- Set up a YouTube channel for your business. It's free and easy on YouTube.
- Research the internet for tips on shooting low-cost yet effective video, including tips on technique, lighting, editing, captioning, and music.
- Consider investing in video editing software to give your finished videos a professional look.
What works best
- Plan your video before you start shooting. Making a good video involves lots of pre-production planning, such as figuring out your camera movements and angles, lighting, backgrounds, and, of course, knowing the "story" you're going to tell through the video and the voiceover.
- How-to demos. If the items you're selling are complex and require assembly, there's no better way to win customers' hearts than to have video demos on how to assemble your products. For example, if you're selling camping equipment, create videos on putting up a tent, starting a campfire, even cooking s'mores!
- Cross-promote your videos. Promote your videos on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter channels to maximize reach to all your followers.
How often do I post?
- Unless the content of your video has a definite "shelf life" (after which it's no longer relevant), you can keep your videos up on your YouTube channel for an extended period. Create new videos only when you have new content - for example, a new product demo.
What not to do
Don't create low-quality videos (for example, videos with poor lighting and editing). Videos are another extension of your brand, and your customers should get the same level of professionalism on your YouTube channel as they would if they met you face-to-face.