The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Ecommerce

Once upon a time, social media was just a place for angsty millennials to congregate. Thanks, Mark Zuckerburg. You too, MySpace Tom.

Facebook was an app for status updates and selfies. Instagram was the go-to for a grainy, over-edited picture of your Starbucks frappuccino. Pinterest boards were full of waterfall braids and wedding gowns. We can never forget the early video creators on YouTube. 

Let’s get some shoes. 

And Snapchat? Don’t even get us started. 

Fast-forward to today, and Facebook has a net worth of $527 billion. Instagram upgraded its status from sepia photo maker to a full-on marketplace with its Shop tab. Video content is having its moment with the rise of TikTok and micro-influencers. 

The fact is, 72% of adults in the US use social media. And you should, too. For ecommerce brands, social media presence is the internet equivalent of foot traffic to your store. You don’t have to pay an exorbitant number of ad dollars to drive people to your site to create brand awareness anymore. 

For ecommerce brands, a combination of organic and paid strategies will get you a long way. In this post, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about social media for your ecommerce store. 

Why You Need an Ecommerce Social Media Strategy

An ecommerce social media strategy is all about building brand loyalty, increasing organic traffic, and driving sales. 

People need to interact with your brand before they make a purchase. And every interaction matters. Your social media presence is an opportunity to show off your personality, and make an impression. 

81% of Instagram users use the app to research products and services. Shoppers want to know more than what product you sell. They want to know who you are, what you stand for, and what your story is. 

It’s not just about brand loyalty. 61% of DTC brands say that social media is their top acquisition channel. Your social profiles are the breadcrumbs to your website, and onto your email list. Getting people onto your email list is the golden ticket to owning the relationship and creating long-lasting loyalty. 

Ecommerce marketers should use a combination of organic and paid ecommerce social media strategies to increase their organic reach, drive website traffic, and get more sales.

Organic Ecommerce Social Media Strategies 

An organic ecommerce social media strategy generates traffic to your business naturally over time. Anything that you don’t spend money on directly (blog posts, tweets, Instagram posts/ stories) is an organic strategy. 

The more organic traffic you can generate, the better. Nobody is going to be walking by your store at a mall, so ecommerce brands need to find other ways to drive digital foot traffic. 

Here are organic ecommerce social media strategies that every brand should use. 

Use hashtags to increase your reach and discoverability. This is how most social media apps surface and recommend content to users, so it’s worth doing some research into which hashtags to use. 

Posts on Instagram with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag. Using relevant, targeted hashtags on your posts and stories is one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram. 

When you’re just getting started, it’s better to use hashtags that have less volume, are more niche, and super relevant to your industry. The more niche the hashtag, the more relevant the audience. 

For example, if you’re a pet brand posting a picture of a Goldendoodle, use the hashtags #goldendoodlesofig and #doodlesofig in addition to #dogsofig. The benefit of hashtags is that you can make your audience as niche and relevant as possible.

Fable Pets instagram post.

Source: Fable Pets

Post product reviews. 90% of buying decisions are based on online reviews. I can’t think of a time recently where I purchased something without looking at least a few reviews first.

Trills Paws product review Instagram post.

Source: Trill Paws

By periodically sharing reviews on social, you’re decreasing the steps a prospective buyer needs to take to figure out if they’ll like your product or not. You’re also sharing user-generated content, which we’ll dive into next. 

Share user-generated content. The best content out there comes from your customers. And guess what? 40% of consumers find new brands from their network, and 32% from word-of-mouth

People love to post unboxing, ad-hoc reviews, and pretty pictures of the products they buy on social media. Your mission is to take advantage of that.

User-generated content plays to people’s positive emotions. When they see real people using your products, they’re able to envision how they can experience your product and be part of your community. 

Away suitcase instagram post.

Source: Away

Keep an eye on your mentions, and repost content that people share of your products. When newcomers see that, they’ll be much more motivated to make that first purchase and share their pictures of your product.  

Paid Ecommerce Social Media Strategies

Paid ecommerce social media strategies target people based on their interests, intent, or previous interactions with your brand. These are strategies that you spend money directly on, like paid ads, post boosts, or influencer campaigns. 

The benefit to a paid strategy is that results are typically faster than organic strategies, which are built more slowly over time. Paid social media strategies are also targeted, meaning that you’re only showing your ad/campaign to a specific set of people based on their interests or other data you have about them. 

Here are paid ecommerce social media strategies that every brand should use. 

Run targeted paid ads. For ecommerce marketers who already know their audience, Facebook ads are your best friend. Custom and lookalike audiences let you reach your customers, and people who are similar to your target audience. Facebook uses data like website visitors, engagement, and offline customer data (info that you import into Facebook from another source) to get your ads in front of the people who are most likely to be interested in them. 

If you’re just getting started, and you don’t know much about your audience just yet, don’t sweat it. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s best to understand your audience before you start running paid ads. Any paid strategies that you do are targeted, and it’s hard to message to people effectively if you don’t know who your audience is. 

Take a page out of DTC guru Nik Sharma’s book, and use a tool like Quantcast to understand your audience better. According to Sharma, early-stage ecommerce brands can and should benefit from an approach that’s not scalable.  

When running paid ads on social media, the goal is to make your ads not look like ads. 

Joyful Jax Instagram ad.

West Willow pet portrait ad.

The benefit of advertising on social media is that ads look more authentic. If your ad looks like something someone would actually post, it will resonate with your buyers better. 

Strategic influencer campaigns. 35% of people find new brands from influencers they follow. With the rise of celebrity and micro-influencers, this is no surprise. Influencer campaigns are effective because they use word of mouth marketing and social proof to influence people’s buying decisions. 

Do we recommend shelling out $500K for an influencer to promote your products? No. 

When it comes to influencers, choose partners strategically. If it’s not authentic to your brand, it won’t work. 

For direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, working with micro-influencers is the way to go. Micro-influencers have lower follower counts (1,000- 25,000 followers) but are super niche. The benefit? Their audience is super engaged. 

Markerly found that as an influencer’s follower count rises, the rate of engagement (likes and comments) with followers decreases. They analyzed 5 million Instagram posts and found a clear downward correlation between follower sizes and post likes. 

Working with micro-influencers who already have engaged audiences is a great way to increase awareness and drive conversions. And it’s relatively easy to do, too. 

Create a list of influencers whose values align with your brand. Search hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to find and follow people who are posting relevant content. See what kind of YouTube videos are out there, and start subscribing to channels if you haven’t already. 

Once you have your list, write a DM or email to send to them. Introduce yourself and your company, and tell them what you’re sending them and why. 

After you get approval and send out your product, follow up and ask them to share their thoughts on social media. You don’t want to tell people exactly what to say or put words in their mouth, but it is okay to send over some tips. Things like how to shoot the video, length, and any specific questions you want them to address are all helpful to specify. 

How To Use Each Social Media Platform 

When you’re thinking about how to use each social media platform, the most important thing is to stay true to the platform you’re posting on. 

Platform-appropriate, high-quality content on a consistent basis wins every time. Here’s a rundown of each social media platform for ecommerce brands.

How to think about each social media platform.

Source: DTC 101 — Nik Sharma 

Facebook 

Another helpful page out of Nik Sharma’s book—the purpose and bottom line of each social media platform for DTC brands. For Facebook, the purpose is to connect with your audience. Post content that’s emotion-driven, and lets people know how your brand thinks/feels. 

Askov Finlayson appeals to your emotions with their story-based content. Through their posts, you get an understanding of who they are and what their mission is. 

Askov Finlayson Facebook post.

Askov Finlayson Facebook post.

Askov Finlayson Facebook post.

Instagram

Instagram is where you put your best, most trendy foot forward. Everything from your bio to your stories highlight tells people who you are, and what you’re for. 

At-a-glance, Blume’s Instagram profile tells us who they are, what they stand for, and who they’re founded by. They’ve also done a great job of tagging well-known publications for social proof. 

Blume's Instagram profile.

Here are some more ways to capitalize on Instagram: 

  • Connect your ecommerce platform and tag your products in your posts. 

  • Use Instagram stories to show your products out in the world. 

  • Use Instagram Live to engage people; live class, Q&A with a founder.

  • Follow hashtags to keep up with what’s going on in your space. 

Pinterest

Gone are the days of waterfall braids and wedding dresses. (Well, that might not be 100% true.) 

Today, Pinterest is known for discovering and researching new products. Use Pinterest to inspire, and show people what they can do with your product. What would inspire you to pin something on your board? 

Article curates their mid-century modern furniture items in people’s homes. You can get your home decor fix and picture their products in your own home. 

Article's Pinterest feed.

YouTube

Video content is not only where it’s at right now, it’s on the rise. People watch an average of one billion hours of video on YouTube per day and counting. 

Whether it’s reviews, how-to content, this versus that, ASMR, unboxing, a day in the life, the list goes on and on; there are endless trends to try out. The hugely popular quip toothbrush pivoted to a YouTube referral program, which drove their most engaged with content in 2019 and 2020.

Quip Youtube content.

TikTok

Get 👏 that 👏 organic 👏 reach.

As a marketer, “throw things at the wall and see what sticks” is generally not a phrase you want to hear. 

TikTok is the exception. These short, bite-sized video clips get billions of views per day, and the organic reach potential is huge. You won’t find an easier way to connect with niche audience segments today. 

Creating TikTok videos requires very little time and budget. It’s worth doing a little hashtag research; I speak from experience when I say that the algorithm is VERY good. They just.. know exactly what you want to see. 

On TikTok, anyone can go viral. Skincare brand The Ordinary gained 250,000 followers from one TikTok video, and now they’re valued at $2.2 billion. 

Drive organic traffic on TikTok by posting behind the scenes, product reviews, product applications, or product hacks. 

Sienna Studios started posting videos on TikTok using the hashtags #smallbusinesscheck and #artistsontiktok during the pandemic and gained over 20K followers in 24 hours.

Sienna Studio's TikTok profile.

Now they’re living every small business’s dream: selling out every launch and getting love from Shopify. 

For direct-to-consumer ecommerce brands, it’s all about using a mix of authentic organic and paid ecommerce social media strategies to build brand loyalty, and drive more digital foot traffic to your website.