Selling on the Social Web: Four Common Mishaps to Avoid

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It’s no secret that as a society, we’re spending more and more time on social media — in fact, the average internet user is now up to nearly two hours a day, according to a Global Web Index survey. And we aren’t just sharing cat videos. Half of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 have recently purchased products they saw on social sites like Facebook and Instagram. The social web has bloomed into a vibrant marketplace where people are busy buying, selling, and recommending products to one another.

For brands, that brings big challenges as well as big opportunities. There are now at least 16 social networks touting more than 300 million users each, and countless others with smaller followings, each with their own culture and etiquette. The social web has splintered and sprawled across platforms, demographics, and geographic locations — and if you want to reach customers, you’ll need to understand the nuances of each platform, and have a cohesive product strategy to ensure your offerings don’t get lost in the mix.

Here are four of the most common, and most costly, mistakes you’ll need to avoid when designing and implementing a social selling strategy:

Credit: HutchRock on Pixabay

1) Failing to follow site-specific requirements

Every platform has its quirks. Facebook, for example, has specific parameters for formatting visual product assets: for video ads, companies must abide by Facebook’s rules regarding their videos’ sizes, aspect ratios, and even frame rates. The rules can seem Byzantine: Facebook requires videos and images to have a 1:1 aspect ratio for carousel ads, but videos for Facebook 360 ads can have a 2:1 aspect ratio, and can also be much larger — up to 4,096 by 2,048 pixels. Other social networks, of course, have their own requirements, which can be completely different from those of Facebook.

It’s vital to get things right in order to maximize your reach: Facebook’s awkward-sounding video rules are designed to ensure that video assets can reach users across a number of environments, including Facebook’s desktop site, its mobile app, and within its messaging program. That’s an opportunity brands can’t afford to miss, so mastering the specific requirements of different platforms is foundational for selling on the social web.

2) A lack of consistency

While you’ll need to properly format your product information for different sites, you’ll also need the content itself to be consistent across the entire social web. Today, customers encounter brands online an average of six times before finally making a purchase, and they expect a consistently positive experience, with compelling imagery and — above all — accurate product details.

A well-designed product information management (PIM) solution can help you create compelling, relevant content that’s consistent across multiple social platforms, from giants like Twitter and Pinterest to emerging sites and niche social networks. PIM can also help you tailor your content to different demographics or geographic locations, while pulling from a single central repository to ensure a coherent brand identity.

3) Selling too hard (or not hard enough)

When it comes to winning over potential customers on social media, authenticity is everything. If your company tweets nothing but ads, your audience will quickly lose interest. On the other hand, if you go too off-topic and never mention your products, you’ll never sell anything. The key is to strike a balance: people expect some degree of self-promotion from branded social media accounts, but they also want a degree of humanity and authenticity to shine through.

Hitting the right note depends on the site you’re using. Twitter is meant to drive a conversation, so use jokes and clever storytelling to lighten your brand-focused content. Instagram is all about visual appeal, so there’s more leeway to post promotional content, as long as it’s genuinely eye-catching. Pinterest users, meanwhile, are a bit like window-shoppers: according to Hootsuite, more than half of the site’s users are researching new purchases, so there’s plenty of leeway for posts that unapologetically showcase your products.

4) Ignore B2B buyers

The social web is an obvious place for B2C sales, but the potential for B2B sales is also heating up. LinkedIn is still the most popular channel for B2B advertising. However, according to SproutSocial, merchants are starting to expand their strategies to include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other sites. And it makes sense, considering that 73 percent of Millennials — an age group that practically lives on social media — are now involved in B2B purchasing decisions.

Just like B2C sellers, B2B merchants can easily increase their number of prospects and conversions using social selling — they just need to find the right channels for the products they’re selling and the audiences they’re trying to reach. The most important thing is to make sure your product information works across all the platforms you’re using — B2B buyers are all about professionalism and reliability, and won’t be impressed if your product data is not precise or is inconsistent.

Don’t treat product data as an afterthought

The bottom line is that when you’re crafting the perfect tweet or cropping photos of celebrity kittens, it can be easy to forget that the whole point of what you’re doing is to sell products. But a third of consumers say they’ve walked away from planned purchases after encountering incorrect or inconsistent product data or descriptions, so social sellers can’t afford to flood the web with inaccurate information.

Social selling is undoubtedly a huge opportunity, but keeping all your product information straight across countless and ever-evolving social platforms can be a major challenge. Make sure you find a PIM system that can help you avoid the potential pitfalls and keep your social selling campaigns running smoothly.

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