If you’re like most ecommerce businesses, you’ve already established some form of social media presence. Most ecommerce companies share images and videos of their products to get them seen by more internet users, develop a following, and direct potential shoppers to their website. However, this is only one dimension of a social media strategy .
Here’s our guide on how ecommerce brands can use social media to develop a following, directly influence sales, and improve the customer experience. We’ll share examples from each social media platform, plus best practices and actionable tips to help you get started or refine your existing efforts.
6 ways to use social media in ecommerce
Most ecommerce stores start using social media to share photo and video content with the hopes of growing their audiences. However, that’s only one way you can use social media in ecommerce.
Here’s a more comprehensive list:
1) Organic social media marketing
Organic social media marketing includes posts from your social media accounts that you’re not paying to promote as an ad. This will be the bulk of your social media posts — your daily updates, photos, and videos. The advantage of organic social media marketing is that it’s free to use on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook. This kind of non-paid posting is a form of content marketing.
The main goal of organic posts is to build brand awareness on social media platforms. This is an opportunity to showcase your brand, products, and unique voice and build a following.
Organic social media marketing can includes posts about:
- New products or services
- Sales and promotions
- Your products in action
For example, here is a post from lingerie brand Parade promoting their sleepwear line. It’s a series of photos modeling the line and a caption that highlights the brand’s unique selling proposition of fun, comfy, and sustainable clothing. Without paying to boost the post as an ad, Parade reached their target audience who know and love the brand.
2) Paid social media advertising
Every major social media platform has an option to place ads. This can be done by either boosting an existing post from your feed or by crafting a brand new post to be placed as an ad.
The cost of this varies by platform but they all offer sophisticated metrics to track the success of your ads. Platforms typically also let you select and refine a target audience to make sure the right people see your ad.
While ads used to be a major strategy for direct-to-consumer ecommerce brands, this is no longer the case due to the rising cost of advertising on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms.
Paid social media advertising may cost money, but the advantage is that the ads are promoted beyond your existing following to social media users who may not have even heard of you. It’s a great way to expand your following and reach potential new customers. Paid ads can be used to promote products or sales.
Here’s an example from Facebook of an ad from plus-size retailer Torrid promoting their Black Friday sale. Note that the post is marked as “sponsored” which tells users this is a paid-for ad.
3) Social commerce
Major ecommerce service providers such as Shopify and BigCommerce have integrations with social media platforms that allow merchants to list products for sale right on the platform.
The goal with social commerce is to make it easier for followers to convert to customers. Rather than seeing an item in an Instagram post and having to navigate to the website and search for it, social media users can find the item on Instagram itself and make a purchase, leading to faster conversions.
That seamless shopping experience is incredibly valuable. According to Insider Intelligence, social selling sales are expected to reach $45.74 billion in the US for 2022. As well, half of US adults are expected to make a social commerce purchase.
This is an example from jewelry brand Mejuri. On this Instagram post, they have tagged products from the photo that they’ve uploaded to their Instagram catalog.
When a user clicks on one of these product pins, they’re brought to another page where they can easily navigate to a purchase link either on the ecommerce website.
4) Customer service
Social media can be used as another channel to connect with customers and solve issues or give customers the information they’re seeking. This can be done through comments or direct messages (DMs) on various social media platforms.
Many customers prefer to contact brands directly on social media rather than going through traditional channels like calling or sending an email. Responding to these messages meets customers where they’re at, creating a more seamless customer service experience.
Many brands use Twitter, for example, as a place to provide customer service. Have a look at David’s Tea. While their main feed is organic posts promoting products and brand awareness, their replies show them engaging with customers.
Here are two examples. In the first reply, they help a customer find a location. In the second, they help a customer track down their order.
- 10 Best Practices for Providing Exceptional Customer Service on Twitter
- Facebook Messenger for Customer Service: Benefit, Best Practices, and Set-Up
5) Social listening
Social listening is tracking mentions and discussions of your brand on social media. This can be achieved with something as simple as searching for your brand name on social media or by using a more sophisticated social listening tool.
Customers won’t always tag your brand directly on social media, so social listening will reveal more than simply checking your mentions. You can take this a step further by also looking for mentions of your industry and competing products and brands.
The purpose of social listening is to see how users talk about your brand, whether good or bad. This provides valuable insight into what customers want from you, what problems you can address, and what your competitors are offering that you don’t.
For example, if you sell matcha powder, you could keep track of mentions of “best matcha powder” on Twitter. Looking at the results, you would see:
- Who your top competitors are
- Tweets you could reply to with a promo code
- Potential influencers you could work with
📚Recommended reading: How to Track and Monitor Social Mentions
6) Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is engaging with social media personalities to promote your brand to their audience. Typically influencers are offered either payment or free product in exchange for showcasing your brand.
Influencer marketing gets your brand in front of new eyeballs but it’s also a proven way to convert new customers and build trust. According to Matter Communications, 61% of buyers are more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend, family member, or influencers on social media.
For example, here’s a sponsored post from beauty influencer Mikayla Jane. She’s promoting Briogeo hair care and tagged the post #briogeopartner.
📚Recommended reading: Forming Partnerships to Grow with Influencer Marketing
Best social media platforms for ecommerce brands
It seems like a new social media platform pops up approximately every few months, and it can be a lot to keep track of. Every ecommerce business has to start somewhere, and that place is probably on the list below.
If you’re a smaller brand, choose one or two platforms based on your target audience’s preferences (which we share below). You’re far better nailing one platform than barely gaining traction on five.
These are the most attractive social media platforms for ecommerce marketing.
Most people are on Facebook, even if they don't actively post. Parent company Meta’s recent earnings report reveals almost 3 billion monthly active users on Facebook alone. Yes, billion — that’s quite an audience.
Why Facebook great for ecommerce brands
If nothing else, it's great because more than a third of the earth’s population is active on the platform monthly. Facebook may have its problems, but there’s no arguing with that reach. Facebook Shops are also worth investigating for on-platform social commerce.
Example: GoPro uses Facebook to share videos sent in by customers
The videos not only showcase the capabilities of the product but gets customers excited at the possibility of having their videos shared to GoPro’s huge audience.
Born as a short-form, text-driven social platform, Twitter is more about ideas and conversations than it is about ecommerce. It was very late to the ecommerce game, officially launching Twitter Shops in 2022. The platform also has a smaller user base and a very skewed demographic (heavily male, urban, and college-educated).
Why Twitter is great for ecommerce brands
Twitter is great for connecting with fans and building brand awareness (Remember Wendy’s?), but it’s not the best sales platform unless you’re selling products that really resonate with Twitter's specific demographic.
Example: ASOS has over a million followers on Twitter and regularly posts memes and other fun posts
This is a great place for organic social media marketing and engaging in trends, like this meme format, builds brand voice.
Pinterest calls itself a “visual discovery engine” where users can find all kinds of stuff and pin it to one or more boards. People use it to store recipes, fashion inspo, décor trends, and all sorts of other things — including your products if you leverage the platform properly.
Why Pinterest is great for ecommerce brands
Social media marketing on Pinterest is vital, but it’s a little different than on the biggies listed above. Shopify put together a Pinterest Marketing 101 guide that’s worth a look. Key highlights include that 90% of Pinterest users use the platform as a part of their purchasing decision process. Be aware that Pinterest users skew heavily female.
Example: Ruggable is a popular brand on Pinterest and regularly posts home decor images
It’s a great use of the platform because Pinterest is all about inspiration and Ruggable posts collections that tie into different decor aesthetics.
The visual-first sibling to Facebook is heavy on photos, carousels, and videos and is comparatively light on text. Its user base is also in the billions, though not as large as Facebook’s. The visual-forward nature makes it a great fit for social ecommerce.
Why Instagram is great for ecommerce brands
Businesses can create an online store on Instagram and include products in collections. U.S. customers can purchase directly from this store without leaving the Instagram app. Stores can also show off their products in attractive ads that take up the entire dimensions of the news feed.
Example: Makeup brand ColourPop uses Instagram to post photos of customers and influencers wearing their products
Instagram is all about aspirational imagery and these posts inspire potential customers to purchase the products to recreate the looks they see.
TikTok is the new king of short-form video content, which can be extremely easy to create — but very complicated to create in controlled, professional ways. It’s a great platform to generate buzz and has high virality potential.
Why TikTok is great for ecommerce brands
TikTok is about exposure, connection, and virality. It’s not about direct ecommerce, as it recently shelved its attempt, TikTok Shop. However, you can link your online store to your TikTok for Business page and sell via advertising and social sharing.
Example: Gymshark uses TikTok to post funny inside jokes about gym culture
Getting users to laugh is a great way to have a TikTok go viral and these videos also showcase Gymshark apparel without directly selling them, which doesn’t play well on the platform.
Snapchat’s original differentiator, messages that disappear after a time, doesn’t seem like a natural fit for ecommerce, but the platform has evolved quite a bit since launch. With a smaller, younger user base, Snapchat isn’t for every ecommerce seller. But its advertising tools are flexible and robust, ranging from photos and videos to ad-based lenses and filters.
Why Snapchat is great for ecommerce brands
If you’re marketing to Gen Z and the youngest portion of the millennial cohort, Snapchat is worth a look because its user base is concentrated in those ages.
Example: Fashion brand Shein posts young influencers showing off their products
This takes advantage of Snapchat’s “shop” button so potential customers can immediately purchase the items they see.
Benefits of using social media to market your ecommerce store
Why use social media marketing at all for your ecommerce store? The obvious answer is sales, but there are several other benefits, too.
Social media marketing can:
- Help your brand reach a wider target audience than traditional marketing
- Expand your brand’s social trust
- Offer customer support where your customers already are
- Strengthen your brand through non-product content like memes and user-generated content
- Increase online store traffic by driving clicks
6 best practices for using social media for ecommerce marketing
Getting your brand on the right networks is the first step, but real success requires doing the right things once you’re there. Follow these best practices to enhance your ecommerce marketing efforts on social media.
1) Optimize your bio for discoverability and links
Social media networks typically offer you only one place to put a link to your ecommerce website in your bio.
Rather than simply linking to the front page of your store, you can use a “link in bio” tool to maximize the potential of that one link. Tools like Later, Linktree, and Shopify’s LinkPop let you curate a list of links on a landing page. Using this, you can link to particular sections or product pages..
When it comes to writing your bio, keep it short and snappy but also by include keywords relevant to your brand for good search engine optimization (SEO).
Ohh Deer’s Instagram is a great example that:
- Hits all the major key words (Cards, Stationary, and Gifts)
- Explains why they’re unique (collaborating with artists)
- Links to more information (with LinkPop)
📚Recommended reading: Learn how Ohh Deer generates $12,500 per year through great customer service with Gorgias.
2) Create platform-native (and platform-appropriate) content
Repurposing social content across networks is a good idea, but simply republishing content isn’t. Facebook users have seen the Reels that clearly came straight from TikTok, and screenshots of Tweets make the rounds elsewhere. But for the greatest reach, build your repurposed social content in native formats for each social media platform.
Reels are huge on Instagram, for example, but are ancillary at best on Facebook. Vertical video is just right for Instagram but looks off on Facebook, etc.
3) Share user-generated content like pictures and videos
Are your fans talking about you on social? Share those posts (with permission, in some cases)! Real people love seeing other real people more than yet another social ad (sorry, but it’s true), so use it if you got it.
Social listening is the best way to find user-generated content, so regularly search for your brand on social media platforms or make use of a tool like Hootsuite to keep tabs on your mentions.
For example, skincare brand Blume uses before and after photos taken by users to show the effectiveness of their products.
4) Add relevant hashtags and tags to increase discoverability
Hashtags work a little differently on each platform, but they’re worth using anywhere that accepts them. On many networks, hashtags are clickable or tappable, allowing users to discover other posts sharing that hashtag. This means that people clicking a hashtag from another brand’s post could end up on yours, no advertising dollars required.
Similarly, tagging customers featured in user-generated content, celebrities seen using one of your products, or other brands can expand the reach of your social media profile.
For an example, look at this post from cereal brand Magic Spoon on Instagram.
In a separate comment, they’ve inserted a series of hashtags to help those who follow certain diets discover their post.
5) Include shoppable links when you post about products
Many social media networks allow brands to add tags or links to let customers directly shop for products from posts.
Shopify, for example, allows brands to upload a catalog of their products to Instagram and Facebook and tag products as shoppable links. That seamless experience means a faster checkout and higher conversions.
According to a Sprout Social report about pandemic shopping habits, 68% of customers made a purchase directly from social media in 2021. Also, virtually all shoppers — 98% — plan to make a purchase through social shopping or influencers in 2022.
6) Combine organic and paid strategies
Organic social traffic happens based on user actions: shares, likes, comments, and discovery-based clicks (reels, pins, hashtags, and more). You don’t pay for that traffic — beyond what it costs to create content. Paid social strategies are (can you guess?) anything you pay for in terms of ads.
Both have strengths and weaknesses, but the best approach is to combine them to yield better results.
For example, you might use paid advertisements to boost posts beyond their organic traffic. Then you might personalize interactions via direct messages with the users that contact you after interacting with a boosted post.
5 tips to use social media for a better customer experience
Social media marketing strategy is important, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg for how your brand can grow with social media. Consider leveraging social media to improve your brand's customer experience.
Below are several tips for accomplishing this. Note that some of these tips won’t be possible with the stock tools various social networks provide to businesses; you’ll need to add external apps. Shopify store owners should check out these 11 powerful social media apps for Shopify.
1) Let customers contact customer support through social media
Social media has made brands even more available to consumers, so much so that people expect near-instant availability from most brands. Not only that, customers want to reach brands on any and all channels — whichever is convenient at the moment.
A helpdesk like Gorgias streamlines this by pulling in comments and messages from Facebook and Instagram, into one shared inbox. That means your customer service team can quickly respond to customers from one location.
2) Engage customers who didn’t even reach out to your brand directly
Social monitoring looks at brand mentions on social media beyond the scope of direct messages. Sometimes, in your social monitoring efforts, you’ll notice a complaint or a flat-out inaccurate claim about your ecommerce business being blasted online.
It’s often worthwhile to reach out to these customers in a visible way (such as a tweet reply or comment reply). Doing this gives you the chance to set the record straight on any factual inaccuracies, and you just might turn a frustrated detractor into a satisfied fan.
📚Recommended reading: Social Media Customer Service: How-To Guide & Useful Tools
3) Move escalated conversations to private channels
Explain that customers are likely to share bad experiences online, and when they’re escalated, you want to manage the interaction privately. Acknowledge their issue in the public channel but move it to DMs or email ASAP. To avoid violating privacy policies, ask customers to send you a message to start the conversation.
4) Welcome new followers with a DM (and a discount!)
When a new customer follows you on social, it usually means they’re expressing interest in your brand. They’re statistically much more likely to be potential customers (or existing ones) than the average social user, so don’t leave them in the cold!
Rather than waiting for them to reach out, you can proactively make the first move.
Our own research and platform data show that ecommerce businesses that send this kind of welcome DM increase brand revenue via social by 4%.
Read our post on welcoming customers proactively with a DM to learn how beauty brand Glamnetic lifted revenue with this digital marketing strategy, and how you can pull it off, too. Not sure what to say? Just say hey, introduce your brand, and sweeten the deal with a new follower discount code.
Upgrade your customer experience and social media marketing with Gorgias
Social media marketing for ecommerce stores is a broad discipline with significant potential to increase sales and revenue, build social trust, and enhance your brand’s presence online. Mastering social media marketing isn’t easy, but the results tend to pay for themselves many times over when you do it right.
One thing you’ll need to succeed in social media marketing and social commerce is the right set of digital tools. Without them, posting and interacting via social at scale can quickly become overwhelming.
Gorgias is the customer support and helpdesk platform built for ecommerce platforms. Gorgias helps brands respond to social media support messages and comments from within an all-in-one customer service platform, with access to rich data on existing customers, powerful automations and scripts, chatbots, and more.
Gorgias also integrates with social media marketing apps like Recart and ShopMessage, helping you leverage your social efforts even further.
Ready to see what Gorgias can do for your CS, CX, and social media marketing efforts? Sign up now and see Gorgias for yourself.