3 tips to encourage social sharing on your ecommerce site

social media for ecommerce sellers

Social media is an ideal way to boost brand recognition, identify issues, share your wares, and above all – connect with your customers. So what is the best way to delve into social media for ecommerce? Check out our top 3 steps right here:

1- Create pages and identities on the social media sites Sounds like a simple instruction but this is where the biggest decision has to be made. Is Facebook the place for your customers? Or is Twitter where they can be found? Don’t forget LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.

If you are in a narrow market, figure out what niche sites exist that cater to your customers – you might be surprised to find that the smaller niche sites may be a better place for you to invest your efforts.

You can’t be on every social media site, so do your homework first and see what sites you need to be on. Don’t be afraid to register on all the major sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+), if only to reserve your name – and to keep others from using it.

2 – Use social sharing buttons on your ecommerce web site From your home page to the product pages, every individual page on your site should have social sharing buttons so that customers and potential customers can share your site with others. Make it easy for them! If your shopping cart software has buttons already configured, be sure that they work properly – many times the hardcoded buttons simply create a new page on a social site (like Facebook, for example) but they don’t post anything on anyone’s timeline which is where you want to be!

Pick and choose which buttons you want to appear on your product pages based on which social media sites you are active on. Showing 15-20 (or more!) social buttons just clutters up the page and may deter someone from sharing easily.

Don’t forget – liking (or following) a business is different than liking (or following) a product on a product page. On your home page, ask people to like or follow you so that your future posts or tweets are visible to them. Be sure that the correctly coded button is available to make it easy for them to like (or follow) you.

3 – Set aside time every day for social media tasks For many ecommerce sellers, this is the hardest step to beginning. Even if you only spend 15 minutes a day monitoring, posting and sharing content, that will give you a presence on social media sites. If you have staff that can do this for you, even better! Just be sure to set the guidelines about posting like what is appropriate messaging and what is not and how much time you want them to spend on the different sites.

If you maintain more than one identity or are active on more than one social media site, you might want to take a look at some of the social media software that is available to increase productivity and monitor results. Software such as Hootsuite can be had for free for up to 5 identities. Of course, their paid version is far more robust but if you are just starting out, their free version might be all you need for now.

ASD Educational Sessions Now Available

submitted by: Pat – West Florida Components

The Internet Merchants Association and its sponsors recently presented eight educational sessions to the ASD trade show attendees. The bi-annual sourcing show was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center with over 30.000 visitors in attendance.

Platinum and Diamond level sponsors including Vendio, Alibaba and MIVA Merchant were among the featured speakers on topics ranging from integrating social media to building effective web sites and search engine optimization.

Most of the speakers have provided their slide decks so that session attendees can review them and download them. The slide presentations are available at slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/imamerchants

The Internet Merchants Association is now accepting applications for the March, 2011 educational sessions. Speaking preference is given to all IMA Platinum and Diamond level sponsors. Interested parties can learn more about the speaking and membership opportunities by contacting Pat Pepe. She can be reached by email at pat@imamerchants.org.

Reflections on the 2010 IMA Conference

I budget a lot of money on seminars every year, I feel my education is important to me and my business. Although IMA is fairly a new trade association, I continue to be impressed with the conferences that is put on. This year’s conference, which I’m still thinking about, was no exception.

I didn’t have the opportunity to go to all of the ASD & IMA seminars (this photo by IMA president Fred Neff is of just one of the well-attended seminars).

Because I’m familiar with videos and blogging, the rest of the social media venues and networks intrigue me most. So I found this video extremely powerful, and I hope you’ll take the time to watch it.

I keep remembering what Rick Wilson of Miva Merchant (an IMA diamond member) said: social media is a “circle of life.” It’s about the three C’s: connections, then conversation, and then conversations. So if we can build a community of supporters for our businesses and give them good content, they can help us tremendously with our marketing.

Here are some free tools I learned about at the conference:

  • Backtype.com, which is a real-time tool for you to keep tabs of what people are saying about your business
  • Alterian has a freemium version of its monitoring service for you to monitor your social media venues
  • Here is a free tool that helps you with documents, www.docstoc.com
  • And another for PowerPoint presentations, www.slideshare.net

What did you enjoy most about the conference? Please share your learnings.

3 Steps To Creating Your Social Media Strategy

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions, who will be speaking at the 2010 IMA Conference next month. If you haven’t already, sign up here.

Whether it is jungle drums or smoke signals, humans have always improvised methods of communications and connections to each other. Village gatherings formed early social circles and networks. Communications have always been evolving – messengers carrying messages on horseback to the pony express to railroads to today’s USPS, UPS and Fed Ex all satisfy the need of communications.

Have you noticed some of these communications means have survived?  Even though we do not use the telegraph, we use the Internet to communicate with short messages today called microblogging.

For a business it is both a challenge and a necessity to find new ways to increase the efficiency of your business.

In the past businesses could make the changes and expect the customers to adapt. In the new millennium, media is now more often in the hands of the users and businesses are beginning to adapt. The Internet, websites and social networks are now replacing village gatherings and spanning users across the globe communing together to discuss common interests, discuss products and companies.

The speed at which conversation spreads has changed the pattern of how movie reviews worked. In an August 2009 article Michael Sragow wrote in the Washington Post, “Although word of mouth could always make or break a movie, it usually took days to affect the box office. But the rise of social networking tools such as Twitter might be narrowing that time frame to hours. And that has Hollywood on edge.”

As a business owner wouldn’t you like to know what your customers are talking about when it comes to your products and your business? These new media tools also give business the same power to learn feedback almost instantaneously.

The 3-step process you could use to shape your strategy is:
1. Listen
2. Engage
3. Create

Listen

Think of the listening phase as an extension of your existing communication and feedback mechanism. The main difference is that feedback through email, phone calls, web forms and maybe even snail mail is mainly directly to you – social networks offer an opportunity to listen in on to public conversations about you. Here’s what you do:
1. Set up Google Alerts
2. Search for your brand /product or your company or your geographical area on http://search.twitter.com
3. Use a tool like Backtype to monitor comment conversations on blog posts.

Engage

In the listening phase, you have identified where the conversations relating to your business are taking place. Now, you can participate by showcasing your knowledge and thought leadership or even asking for feedback:
1. Setup profiles in at least 3 social networks which you have identified as helpful for your business (Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter could be the three)
2. Identify 3 blogs on your particular field or industry to follow. Comment when you have a opinion. In case you are mentioned in any blog post head over the blog and thank the author
3. Look at the questions on networks like Linkedin to add your expertise

Create

This is the phase where you will have learned enough about the conversations about your business and your products to be able to begin creating valuable content that is not about you but your customers and the community:
1. Make sure you have a website. You can get one for free at Network Solutions
2. Start a Facebook Page and encourage your customers to become fans of your page. Create special offers for your Facebook Fans
3. Reinforce your web presence with a blog. Make the blog personal along with writing useful tips for your customers. It does not always have to be about your products., Invite your customers to tell their stories.

You should measure the success of your efforts in terms of increased brand mentions, foot traffic or online traffic, increase in customer satisfaction or higher product awareness leading to higher customer uptake.

Remember all these tools are making human connections so you should show the personality behind your business. And make sure you remember your goals for engaging in social media for your business, since these tools can also be distracting if not used diligently.

When I speak at conferences the best reward is the communication or Twitter messages I get from the audience, sometimes even after a year, with some good news about using social tools for great success. I am hoping the same thing will happen when I speak more on the topic at the IMA conference in March. If there are some topics you would like to hear about specifically please let me know.

Recommended reading:

  • Israel, Shel, Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods. Portfolio Hardcover (September 3, 2009)
  • Scott, David Meerman, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly. WILEY, (June 4, 2007)
  • Campbell, Anita Online publication for small business owners,entrepreneurs: http://smallbiztrends.com
  • Small Business Success Index: http://www.growsmartbusiness.com
  • Women Grow Business: http://www.womengrowbusiness.com
  • Social Media news and Web tips: http://mashable.com/
  • Shashi Bellamkonda is Director – Social Media & Social Media Swami of Network Solutions, a company that works together to help small business succeed online with web hosting, do-it-yourself website builder software, online marketing tools and domain names. Visit his blog here. Shashi is a regular contributor to the DC Examiner and Tech Cocktail. This article contains the opinions and observations of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Network Solutions or its clients or partners. Connect with Shashi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or BizSugar.

    Image: Terry Hart, Creative Commons

    IMA Conference: Need a Reason To Register?

    Here is a preview of just one session from the 2010 IMA Conference….

    rick wilson

    Have you ever shopped on a website and couldn’t find the checkout link? Have you wanted to add another product and couldn’t figure out how to do it? Were you required to fill out a lengthy registration form that seemed to never end? And then you finally got to the end only to find out that the products were out of stock? Does this describe YOUR checkout process?

    Customers want to buy your products and they want the process to be quick and easy without any hassles. Rick Wilson, MIVA Merchant will be presenting “Top 10 Tips for Designing a Great Checkout Process” at the Internet Merchants Association Conference in Las Vegas, March 2-3, 2010. This is just one topic that you don’t want to miss!

    Sign up today at the discounted Early Bird rates, but hurry – this offer ends Sunday, January 17th.

    Consumers are Going Social

    Written by Pat

    The results are in…and social media is more than just a passing phase, particularly in e-commerce. A new study by Oneupweb that was released earlier this month showed that “social sites are creating much more online traffic to e-commerce sites” which bolsters the argument that e-commerce sellers need to be involved in social media to drive traffic and business. The study showed a significant shift in traffic at the largest e-commerce sites, review sites and social sites over the last two holiday seasons. Consumers are using the social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to search for product information and recommendations. “The integration of social media and online search provides consumers with a way to quickly search for information, reviews and price comparisons,” explains Oneupweb’s Founder and CEO Lisa Wehr. “It’s clear that social media is influencing search behavior and affecting the purchases a consumer makes.” Wehr’s observations suggest that e-tailers should be “embracing social media.” Oneupweb’s study, containing examples of how some e-commerce merchants are using social media to drive traffic, can be downloaded at their site: www.oneupweb.com The Internet Merchants Association wants to know how you are adjusting your business to reflect the growth of social media, especially with the holiday season nearly upon us.

    Social Networks: Is Big Brother Watching You?

    written by Cathy,SnorkelingOnline

    This does not include only online ecommerce sellers, this involves everyone who is involved in social networking. Make time to read this report, that was released last month, On the Leakage of Personally Identifiable Information Via Online Social Networks.

    Over half a billion people are on various Online Social Networks (OSNs) and have made available a vast amount of personal information on these OSNs. OSN users make movements around the Internet can now be tracked not just as an IP address, but be associated with the unique identifier used to store information about users on an OSN. This OSN identifier is a pointer to PII about the user. Cookies and other tracking mechanisms on the Internet have been prevalent for a long time. The general claim of aggregators is that they create profiles of users based on their Internet behavior, but do not gather or record PII. Although we do not know that aggregators are recording PII, we demonstrate with this work that it is undeniable that information is available to them. Aggregators do not have to take any action to receive this information. As part of requests, they receive OSN identifiers with pointers to the PII or in some cases, directly receive pieces of PII. This PII information can be joined with information from tracking cookies obtained from the user’s traversal to any site that triggers a visit to the same aggregator. The ability to link information across traversals on the Internet coupled with the wide range of daily actions performed by hundreds of millions of users on the Internet raises privacy issues, particularly to the extent users may not understand the consequences of having their PII information available to aggregators.

    While most social networks do have a policy that state that they do provide non-identifiable information to third parties for advertisers, but what they dont tell you is that with the advanced technology, they can now allow third parties to access your user name, birth date, sex, social security numbers, etc. and other linable personable identifiable information that can identify the user. Is this violating their private policies? Be cautious of what private information you put about yourself and your business.

    Social Networking – How Much Time Do You Spend?

    written by Snorkeling Online

    Can we agree that there is 24 hours in a day. And lets hope that we get at least 6 hours of sleep and we work a minimum 8 hours a day. That leaves us 10 hours a day to spend with family & friends, get dinner, run errands and the other fun stuff that is required of an adult.

    As an online seller, an online retailer, how many hours a day are you being social? How many hours a day are you spending on the Internet Merchants Association forum?

    Ok, I admit, I am not on Facebook yet (though I have to get this done, I need to keep an eye on Burne who is very dear to me and who I highly respect). And I am not twittering, tweeting, twit, twat… whatever the lingo is. Why? Because I heard that this new social media is addictive. I understand that it is important for my business and will focus on this first, but socially, with your friends, how many hours a day do you spend chatting, not on your e-commerce business?

    I am not judging, just curious…

    A Perfect Example of “What Not To Do” in Social Networking

    Submitted by Pat Pepe

    A Perfect Example of “What Not To Do” in Social Networking….
    …And The ‘Painful’ Truth of ‘Anti-Social’ Behavior in the Business World

    I was reading a recent blog post from Matt Cutts. For the uninitiated, Matt is a well-respected google employee who maintains a widely read blog where he shares his insights on google, search spam and many other topics related to e-commerce, search and business.

    The post I was reading had to do with his frustration over a bad experience with US Airways Dividend Miles . Normally I might have skimmed right over that post, but since I too have a ton of US Airways Dividend Miles, I took a look.

    The story was very interesting. Matt had a bunch of unused miles that were expiring. Instead of using them to fly, he decided to cash them in for some magazine subscriptions. To make a long story short – none of the 8 magazine subscriptions were filled and he lost his 15,000 Dividend Miles.

    Ouch.

    Good job, US Airways. Way to take care of your most valuable asset – your repeat customers.

    I have an interest in social networking as it relates to businesses and reputation management, so I was curious to see if his blog post had been mentioned anywhere on Twitter. It had – Matt tweeted when he published his blog post and it was re-tweeted about 8 more times.

    Matt Cutts Tweeting About US Airways

    Then I checked to see how US Airways responded on Twitter to that post and the subsequent Re-tweets.

    …..crickets……

    Nothing. No response about ANYTHING from US Airways.

    US Airways doesn’t have a presence on Twitter. OK, that’s not completely accurate. They have a presence, but it’s a pretty ‘anti-social’ presence. In fact, since US
    Airways secured their name on Twitter, they’ve tweeted a total of 3 times. All on the same day which was more than 6 months ago when a US Airways plane landed in the Hudson River in NY. Remember that day?

    US Airways Popular Twitter Page

    Once again out of curiosity, I checked to see how many tweets have mentioned US Airways (in a good or bad light) in the last 24 hours. I counted about 40 tweets directed @usairways and an additional 400 or so that mentioned US Airways.

    Most were news stories like these:

    US Airways on Twitter News Stories

    Some were positive mentions:

    US Airways on Twitter - Happy Customers

    (Perfect time 4 yr honeymoon or wedding in the Caribbean. Jetblue, American, USairways gr8 rates)

    But most of the ones that were sent to @usairways were negative:

    US Airways on Twitter - Not So Happy Customers
    (USAirways is sucky pooh. stuck in Philly on my way to Newark, flight delayed 3hours no reason given, clear skies above)

    Not one response from a US Airways employee.

    Can I tell you how much they are missing out on here? Where do I even begin? The opportunities to connect with their customers are endless. The chances to right a wrong are being handed to them on a silver platter. But no sign of US Airways. Their employees must be off somewhere munching on all the tasty goodies they always pass out to their customers in Coach.

    So now here is where the story gets REALLY GOOD….or EVEN WORSE, if you’re US Airways.

    Take a look at US Airways Facebook Fan Page. Apparently, US Airways employees might be in need of some immediate help in the social networking space.

    One response from a US Airways staffer to a customer complaint:

    Sofia, Im sorry you had to go through that but…. this IS a U.S Airways FAN PAGE and your negative comments aren’t welcome here.. this page is for fans of US Airways and is NOT to be used as a complaint hotline.If you feel so strongly against… us perhaps stay in Canada and fly your local airlines…… THANX.
    June 2, 2008 at 8:12am


    US Airways Facebook ONLY FANS ALLOWED

    O….M….G

    Can you imagine someone in your company publicly responding to a customer comment like that? And that remark has been left up on that page for over one solid year. I am outraged, and I’m not even related to Doug Parker, CEO of US Airways.

    For the record, that ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out’ remark is one of only 4 comments ever posted by US Airways on their Facebook Fan Page in response to dozens of comments left for them.

    Do you get the feeling that US Airways has forgotten to join the rest of the world in the 21st century? Customers are out there talking. They’re talking about businesses. They are probably talking about YOUR business. It is incumbent on businesses to respond (…in a civil manner…) and make every effort to manage (…not destroy…) their reputation.

    The employee that responded to that Facebook comment? They should be removed from their position. STAT.

    US Airways, repeat after me: We COMMUNICATE with our customers. We DIALOGUE WITH THEM on social networking sites. We DON’T SLAM customers in public; we ACKNOWLEDGE OUR MISTAKES AND CORRECT them. And, above all, we don’t leave our mistakes up on Facebook for the world to see.

    Ouch.

    Social Networking – What Every Business Needs to Know

    Written by Pat

    Social networking in an online setting is dramatically different than in-person networking.

    Traditional networking involves swapping business cards at monthly meetings and having occasional lunches with a few new acquaintances.

    In an online setting, social networking is about forming a vast community of people with common interests, and meeting on a platform where you can interact frequently with the use of online resources and tools. Through the platform and tools available from the social networking sites, users can submit content such as blogs, videos, and photo albums that help bring large numbers of like-minded people together quickly.

    The more open nature of social networking sites is in contrast to the anonymous forums and bulletin boards that were very popular earlier in the decade. Those sites are rapidly losing users to more social outlets like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

    Since MySpace first came on the scene, social networking has exploded. All businesses, particularly online businesses, should be watching and reaching out to their customers through social networking sites.

    So, the question is: Why should a business be represented on social networking sites?

    It’s about reputation management.

    In the past, consumers had limited avenues to publicly discuss a company or its products. Their outlet was to complain to the company and maybe a few friends. Now everyone with an email account can be their own publisher and write a post on their blog about their experience. In fact, many people think nothing of jumping on twitter or myspace and complaining about the meal they had last night at Chili’s. They have an instant audience. Now what if Chili’s has a corporate rep that scans the major social networking sites to find opportunities like this. A smart business would use this information to:

  • reach out to the consumer
  • make changes to improve their business
  • If handled correctly, the positive effects would become amplified many times over by the viral nature of online networking.

    It’s about trust.

    Think about it. When you were going to buy a new digital camera, where did you look for information and guidance? Chances are you looked online at product reviews. You are not alone. In 2008, according to a study by PowerReviews and Forrester Research, 68% of online shoppers read at least four reviews before making a purchase. That’s a lot of people putting faith in the user-generated content of social networking.

    Here’s the hard truth: The consumers are making decisions without your influence. The consumer no longer has to rely on your marketing messages when they are shopping. They have their ‘friends’ and their ‘network’ to turn to. A savvy business will become a part of this process. If there’s a ‘tweet’ on Twitter about you or your product, reach out to the consumer. You now have a chance to dialogue with your customer and maybe an opportunity to gain some new customers while making changes to improve your business.

    It’s about change.

    My kids have never known a world without the internet. There’s never been a time in their lives when they couldn’t go online to research a product, find an answer or contact a company for support. They play games on Xbox Live, sometimes with people they’ve never met in real life. They are used to reaching out and having new people become myspace ‘friends’. They don’t understand why some people hide behind anonymous user IDs on bulletin boards while their own real name and pictures are on their facebook pages.

    This generation expects more when it comes to interactions with people online, but businesses haven’t embraced Web 2.0 practices like videos and blogs and they are struggling to keep up with the growth in social networking environments. The fact is they need to pay attention because interactive marketing is quickly replacing traditional marketing efforts. Once businesses understand the shift, they can be more innovative with their efforts, taking the conversations online with their customer base.

    So I’m ready to get into social networking. Where do I start? What are some social networking sites?

    You’d be surprised how many different places you can network and interact with people on the internet. There are as many social networking sites as there are interests. Are you into music? Become a DJ of your own station at www.blip.fm and chat with people with similar music tastes while serving up some tunes. Want to join an art related networking site? Try www.deviantart.com where artists and those that appreciate art interact. Need a site where you can network with folks from your local geographic area? Try www.meetup.com. There’s bound to be a meetup group with a focus area that you are interested in.

    Want to know the best social networking sites for businesses? Here are three of the most well known social networking sites that businesses should have a presence on:

    www.myspace.com – Still the largest online space in terms of visitor traffic; this is the site that began the trend. Here you set up a page for your brand or store, upload pictures that might include your logo and product shots, and write blog posts. Once you’ve set up, you start searching for ‘friends’ to add to your network. These friends might be people you already know or those who you want to reach out to like potential customers. You can even use your MySpace page to display some of your products. You have the potential to attract new customers by becoming ‘friends’ with many people and growing your network. MySpace is geared to the younger crowd; however, the latest demographics show MySpace gaining traction with the over-30 set. More than 75% of their users are under 35. MySpace is a great outlet to have a presence if your products are suited to that demographic or especially if you are in a music-related niche. Warning: busy myspace backgrounds may trigger migraines.

    www.facebook.com – This site appeals to a slightly older crowd; almost half (48%) of the users are in the 18-34 range. Facebook shares a very similar user base with Twitter, however, Facebook has substantially more visitors (51.6M for Facebook vs. 2.4M for Twitter). Originally started by a Harvard student, Facebook was first open only to students at Harvard and then to a limited number of other college campuses before becoming a mainstream site. Now anyone over the age of 16 can join Facebook. On Facebook, you connect by joining networks of users organized by city, workplace or school. Unlike the totally customizable MySpace page, your Facebook page uses only plain text. The emphasis here is on the connections, not the fancy page layouts. Your ‘friends’ can post messages to you on the ‘wall’ – a space that every facebook user has. One of the most cherished features on facebook is the photo album where you can upload an unlimited number of pictures to share with your friends. Bonus: Facebook is easy to set up and user friendly.

    www.twitter.com – Twitter is another site where you can directly connect with customers. In my opinion, Twitter offers the best opportunity for businesses and consumers to interact. The premise of Twitter is that you are answering the question, “what are you doing,” and you have only 140 characters of text to make your comment (also known as a ‘tweet’). You connect to other users by ‘following’ them. Those people who are interested in you or your business will ‘follow’ you back. You can also do searches on Twitter by keyword to find people that may have interests similar to you or your business. Follow them! And, don’t forget to put a badge on your web site with your Twitter user ID so that customers and potential customers will know you can be found on Twitter. There are many large corporations already set up with accounts. They use Twitter to post bulletins about service issues and respond to ‘tweets’ sent to them by their followers. Some businesses use Twitter to run contests and offer discounts to those that follow them. Starbucks uses Twitter to tweet about the changes coming to their menu – smart thinking for them; they can grab all the feedback from their followers. It’s like a free focus group. A word of warning: twitter is very addictive.

    Social networking is here and it’s time you joined the party. So if you’re new to social networking sites, and are ready to dive in, I have only two words for you: HAVE FUN!