Social media and eCommerce advertising have been getting quite cosy, with 78% of consumers relying on social media to influence their purchase decision, and where there are potential buyers to be swayed, there are bound to be a lot of businesses competing to do the swaying.

On the one hand, this has brought what seems like a never-ending stream of sponsored content, ads, and self-advertising posts, and on the other, and more to the benefit of the user, an increase in the importance of branding and authentic communication from businesses active on social media.

As users gradually develop ad blindness and become more discerning, advertisers have to not only focus on the quality of their campaigns but that of their overall communication strategies. Often times, the casual Facebook user can be more knowledgeable about platform trends and best practices than the brands they follow, or rather, than the people managing brand pages, leading to sub-par communication, deterioration of the brand’s image and, ultimately, a decline in sales or, at the very least, well below the eCommerce store’s full potential.

If you manage an eCommerce store’s social media account or have someone who’s doing it for you, here are some of the things you might want to keep an eye on if you want your investment to pay off.

Stop asking people to Like and Share your posts

It might have been relatively effective 5 years ago and tolerable 2 years ago but, at this point, asking people to Please like and share every single one of your posts is right up there with panhandling and here’s why; if people like what you’ve posted they’ll like or share it without you having to tell them to do so and if your content is rubbish or simply doesn’t relate to your audience, they’re not going to react anyway. Some repeat offenders confuse this spamming-type of behaviour with a call to action but make no mistake, it is nothing more than spam.

If you’re not getting the engagement you’re looking for on your posts, targeting, audience and post quality are the first things you should be looking at, not whether or not you’ve asked people to react to your posts. No, spelling it in all caps, doesn’t help either, it does however make it sound like you’re screaming your lungs out at your audience. The issue isn’t just that you’re wasting valuable content real estate but that you’re likely annoying your audience with spam, rather than replacing it with clever calls to action.

I don’t know about you, but I think Desigual is doing pretty good without asking people to “LIKE and SHARE”.

No-one is too old for fairytales…

Posted by Desigual on Sunday, 10 January 2016

Use hashtags properly

Because we’ve gotten so used to them, people tend to use hashtags as a statement or to highlight a state of mind, as a fun sort of way to garnish their posts. Where it might be fun to do this as an inside joke, when brands start to do it on a regular basis they not only miss the entire point of using hashtags but tend to look clueless. Contrary to popular belief, hashtags are not the hip equivalent of punctuation. In very simple terms, they are labels that identify things that relate to each other, making it easier for people to find them.

A simple analogy would be to think about them as distinctive labels that correspond to all of your spoons, forks and knives, with other subsets which, in turn, correspond to teaspoon spoons, fish forks and stake knives and so on. Following the analogy, the purpose of the fork hashtag is to help you find other content related to forks and the subsets allow you to discover more specific types of content.

Using hashtags effectively involves understanding not just what they are and how they work but their popularity. Twitter offers a list of trending hashtags from the get-go but there are plenty of tools to help you discover what hashtags people are using.

Therefore, coming up with your own hashtags can be an asset so long as it relates to something people understand and you’re not the only one using it. Event or campaign-specific hashtags are great if awareness is built beforehand and you encourage people to use them during the event as well, allowing you to track updates related to the event and engage with participants.

Last, but by no means least, the key to effectively using hashtags is moderation. Depending on the social media platform you use, pick 3 to 5 relevant hashtags, and don’t try to use every single broad one you can think of in the faint hope of getting a few extra impressions. It’s blue, it’s confusing, it’s the social media equivalent of keyword stuffing and it makes the poster look like they’re grasping at straws.

Give your posts a second thought

I think we’re well past the point where we naively believe brands are active on social media to help us do anything other than buy their services and/ or products, and that’s perfectly fine. On the other side of the fence, most brands have understood that they have to deliver something other than products on social media in order to grab and, more importantly, keep the attention of their audience focused on them.

You don’t have to be a yogi to twist this cookie. Show us how you twist with #PlayWithOreo.

A photo posted by OREO (@oreo) on

eCommerce stores, in particular, seem to suffer from a chronic case of limited time offer-itis, huge sale syndrome and, considering their post alternatives, are convinced that the way to treat these conditions is through #dailyinspiration. How many times a week can you seriously expect posts “borrowed” from Google images to provide any sort of engagement, especially if you’re selling hubcaps and you’re constantly posting e-cards.

Posting for the sake of posting means you’re delivering content with the goal of populating people’s feeds rather than communicating with them, therefore, the quality of your messaging will be sub-par. What’s more, even if your post is successfully engaging your audience, like memes often do, unless they’re in any way related to your business or product, you’re providing non-branded entertainment that’s working for your audience but not for your business. In this case, it won’t make any difference whether they’re getting it from you or the next brand, so what’s the real value of delivering it in the first place?

Social Media covers are not billboards

Driven by their desire to advertise every chance they get, a lot of brands try to use every single piece of content real estate they have to deliver promos, discounts, coupons and whatnot. The saddest victim of this insatiable desire to use up every inch of available space is the social media cover, most frequently the Facebook cover.

For many, Facebook is the first social media channel they used for advertising and there really was a time when Facebook covers worked as a surrogate billboard…4 years ago. Then Facebook was gracious enough to let us pick and choose the ways we want to advertise on the platform.

The point of having a nifty cover on Facebook, or any other social media account for that matter, is to enhance your branding. There are so many clever ways of showcasing your brand’s personality and creativity through social media covers and, hopefully, small and medium brands will start to use this asset to their advantage, as well.

Do check the end dates of your ads

Since we’re talking about advertising, do make sure you check your seasonal or limited-time campaigns. Have you been advertised fashion-forward brand pages by means of visuals featuring nice, warm mittens? In May?

If you know yourself to be forgetful, set an end date to your ads, especially if they feature seasonal products or visuals. Most often, page managers forget to update visuals advertising the page itself, since they might have multiple versions running and it’s relatively easy to miss a tiny thumbnail featuring a beach, promoting your page and its boatload of seasonal ski trip offers.

Similarly, make sure you sync the start date of your sales campaign with that of the one advertising it, otherwise you’ll be paying to drive people to your website only to slap them with a 404 right across their open wallets, and a disappointed potential buyer, might not be a returning visitor.

The Bottom Line

Specialists have been warning us for quite a while now – social media platforms can no longer be treated as simple advertising environments. They have become effective channels of communication between businesses and individuals across all industries and levels of digital competency and communication strategies have to be adapted accordingly, if businesses have any hope in building authentic relationships with their consumers, lasting beyond the occasional scroll through their newsfeeds.

© 2016 Shoestrings & Fancy Things. All Rights Reserved.