eCommerce Insiders

Social Media in Ecommerce – How to Make it Work

Do you often wonder if you should use social media for your ecommerce site?

Are you lost, not knowing where to start?

Social media has revolutionized the way businesses and customers interact. Consumers are no longer voiceless and business can no longer keep all the information to themselves.

Customers finally have direct contact with businesses and can engage in real time, back and forth communication with a brand. They can test the brand and decide whether it is able to help them solve their problems and fulfill their desires.

This change has naturally affected ecommerce too.

Social networks like Twitter or Facebook have given us online retailers the power we have never had before. Finally we are empowered with tools to interact and build relationship with our customers, a benefit previously reserved to traditional brick and mortar retail outlets only.

We can now entertain our customers, engage with them outside our typical customer service channels and even become friends, online but still. Just like a traditional store owner can greet a customer they know very well when they enter his or hers store, we too can get to know our frequent visitors.

But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the opportunities social media offers to an ecommerce business.

Yet, for most online retailers, using and interacting on social networks is confusing, something they simply don’t know how to incorporate into their online store strategies.

I am hoping that this post will shed some light on the problem though.

Understanding How Social Media Works

The first step to understanding how to use various social media platforms in your ecommerce business is to understand how your customers actually use it.


Because, the biggest success on social media comes from understanding and fulfilling the role your customers expect you to play there.

Contrary to a common belief, social media is not a new sales channel. For the most part, people don’t use it to buy or even research products.

Instead, they use social media platforms to:

  • pass the time
  • communicate
  • keep themselves entertained
  • express their views
  • rant
  • brag

Someone once compared social media to a water cooler and this analogy works well for me. People use sites like Twitter or Facebook to socialise with their friends, share a joke or two, find content to read, and from time to time, use it express their views in public.

What they are not doing there is researching information about brands or products, amongst other things.

Moreover, when using social media platforms, people are generally not in the buying mood. They are not tuned in to any forms of marketing messages nor they expect any there (noticed how annoying Twitter sponsored tweets are?).

Understanding the above is a crucial step if you want to make your social media strategy work for you.

The Role of Social Media in Ecommerce

This is something I am often asked about. How can an online store utilise social media in their marketing strategy?

In fairness, there are many approaches to that. Most typical uses of social media platforms in eCommerce include:

  • Customer Service

Social media is becoming a very powerful customer service channel, especially amongst the younger portion of the client base.

Young people almost literately live inside their Facebook accounts and it is quite natural to them that they can also interact with brands on the platform. However, don’t get me wrong, it is not only the younger generation that use social media as a customer service channel.

It is a quite common thing to be asked support requests or even pre-sales questions on social media platforms. I have even received quote requests through Twitter and I know I am not the only one. By its quite personal nature, social media has become a major contributor to customer service inquiries online and in my view, this channel is only going to grow stronger.

  • Entertainment

Social media users want to be entertained, fact. That’s one of the top reasons why they spend their time on social networks Twitter, Facebook and other sites.

They seek things that will engage them. That’s the reason why visa content, images, info graphics, memes and other media work so well. So do competitions and other engaging forms of entertainment.

  • Information Promotion

I have already wrote on this site about the importance of blogging for ecommerce.

However, blogging doesn’t stop when you hit Publish on your post.

Once your post is live, you need to promote it. With the demise of RSS channels, it is social media now where people look for content.

Few Things to Remember About Social Media and Ecommerce

With the above in mind, here’s a short guide on how you can make your social media engagement work for you.

  • Realize That Conversions From Social Media Rarely Happen

One of the most common misconceptions of social media is that it is a sales channel. Noting is further from the truth. As I have highlighted above, social media, as the name suggests is a social channel. One where you can engage with your customers but not sell.

Keep this in mind when you develop your social media goals and objectives.

  • Also Realize that You Can’t Force People To Take Action

Contrary to what some social media gurus tell you, you actually can’t push people to take action. Calls to action are great but in this day and age, customers can see through them. Over extensively pushing users to perform certain action will most likely hurt your brand.

  • Define Your Voice

Just like in real life, you need to show personality on social media. Even if you operate a company’s account, you still need to develop a voice and keep it consistent.

  • Know The Limits

Unfortunately, it is still quite common that brands might “accidentally” post something that is rude or offensive. Accidents like this can truly hurt your brand so make sure you watch carefully what you post.

  • Use Singular Approach

Days of posting the same content to many various social networks are long gone. These days customers are conscious of their time and usually choose one network they want to engage on.

Seemingly, you should also identify one or two social networks where most of your customers and prospects hang out and put all your energy on those.

In case of an online store, focusing on Linkedin might not be a good idea (unless you specialize in something very much b2b related). However, sites like Facebook or Pinterest are probably your best targets.

Social media offers some of the most amazing opportunities to online retailers. Thanks to sites like Twitter and Facebook, we can finally build relationships with our customers. We also become people to our customers again, not just websites they buy from.

Yet, to fully avail of those opportunities, you need to understand what your customers expect from you online and deliver just that.

As I said above:

The biggest success on social media comes from understanding and fulfilling the role your customers expect you to play there.

If there’s one thing I wanted you to remember about social media in ecommerce, it would be this.

Your Turn

Do you use social media to build relationships with your customers? What tips could you share with us?

Pawel Grabowski

Pawel Grabowski is a copywriter helping SaaS and software companies utilize great copy to boost their growth.

Find out more about Pawel at and connect with him on Linkedin.

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