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We all know by now the importance of an effective social media strategy, and I’d bet at least 300 jelly beans that if you operate an eCommerce shop, you already have a social plan in place. If you don’t, now is the time to create one! While the holidays may still seem far away, September is “go” time for your social media strategy if you’re hoping to boost your holiday sales this winter. Check out Hootsuite and Volusion’s collaborative webinar, “Jumpstart Holiday Sales with Social Media” on Tuesday, September 1, to learn expert steps for getting started in the right direction.

Do you already have your social media strategy nailed down? That’s great, but allow me to throw a wrench in your plans (while peppering you with hardware metaphors). Although a concrete social media strategy is important, it doesn’t leave much room for adapting to the onslaught of ever-shifting trends in the social sphere that can build your marketing strategy into a shiny new house or dismantle it into a lumber pile.

But how do you know that you’re devoting time and resources to the right trends, instead of responding to every internet whim? Did you have any Facebook friends earlier this year who proudly declared, “Find me on Ello!” only to sheepishly return to Facebook three weeks later? How can you make sure you’re not about to commit the marketing equivalent of moving to Ello—dumping time, money and jelly beans (my chosen currency) into the ‘Next Big Social Disrupter’ only to hit a dead-end?

As an SEO Specialist and Social Media Strategist at Volusion, I work with eCommerce merchants, many of whom are small businesses, favoring tight-knit, targeted communities over mass-scale social dominance. My goal is to choose the right social media mix to fit my clients while measuring the short-term and long-term results.

Over time, patterns have emerged, leaving my online marketing team with a gold mine (or “jelly bean mine,” if you will) of social media trends that have proven themselves as nearly-universal fits for our eCommerce stores. Below are the winners:

1. Photo Apps & Visual Platforms

A quick survey of my team revealed that we are all professionally and personally obsessed with beautiful, visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. eCommerce stores, by their nature, are visual mediums; because prospective customers can’t test, try on, taste or feel the product, they’re going to have to rely solely on their ocular senses to make their decisions (until somebody invents Google Smell, that is! Hey Google, call me). That means it’s of the utmost importance for eCommerce stores to take high-quality, enticing photos of their products, and in doing so, they’ve already fought half the battle. Then they get to take their product photos to the spaces where the visual creatures hang out. Here are the trends you should know about regarding two of our favorite visual platforms:

  • Pinterest: In the past year and a half, Pinterest has pulled off the impressive feat of operating much more like a traditional search engine than I would have thought possible. Our most successful clients have taken advantage of this by intuiting how the search feature works and “optimizing” their pins accordingly. This means every pin and board needs to include rich, searchable, and natural keywords. The right descriptions help product pins rank for important search terms and can become a boon for revenue. You can use Pinterest’s “autocomplete” feature to guide your choices. For example, when I search for “red dress,” Pinterest will suggest “red dresses for a wedding,” “red dresses prom,” and “red dresses short.” A product that fits the bill for one of these more specific searches would do well to use the more targeted words.

  • Instagram: The trend that has launched many of our clients’ success is Instagram’s ability to serve as a home for “brand ambassadors.” One of my clients, upon checkout, has a message that reads, “Share your find on Instagram with #ClientHashtag.” They use the hashtag on their own Instagram posts while allowing their customers to do the same. Even though they don’t use their own hashtag on every post, the client now has over 5,600 tags on Instagram from happy customers.

It is also worth noting that Instagram switched their API for advertising last week and we’re already seeing some promising results from the new ad medium.

2. Polyvore

On the subject of visual platforms, Polyvore is such an exciting one that it deserves its own recognition. Many of my long-term clients who sell clothing or home décor consider Polyvore a cornerstone of their social media strategy. Polyvore is a platform that focuses primarily on fashion, beauty and interior design, and it’s a major hangout for tastemakers and lovers of the aesthetic – about 20 million monthly unique users, at last count. Yahoo was so confident in Polyvore’s outlook that just last month, it bought the platform for an alleged $60 million.

So why haven’t more people heard of Polyvore? Because it’s still considered a niche platform. And yet, herein lies its success with my relevant clients: despite the impressive numbers, Polyvore is a comparatively unsaturated space. This means brands that use it have a good shot at competing with much larger entities.

Polyvore users build their own “Sets,” designing outfits, seasonal wardrobes, or living rooms by cherry-picking their favorite items from stores across the web. Our most successful clients build their own sets, piggybacking on the buzz surrounding popular styles and items and adding their own products to the mix. It’s a great way to gain visibility via searches that are not tied directly to your products, allowing you to cast a wider net for your audience.

Here’s the thing to remember about Polyvore: it appeals to a fashion-obsessed, trend-savvy user base, which means the most successful stores are the ones that sell trendy products – the average order value for eCommerce traffic from Polyvore is significantly higher than that of any other platform. However, having fashionable taste is not the same as having expensive taste (and apparently vice versa, if awards show “Don’t” lists are any indication), so don’t rule out your apparel or home décor store just because your products have a low price point. As long as you can design appealing sets and people can see how your products integrate into their lifestyle, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of Polyvore.

3. Video Optimization

YouTube: not just for cats! Videos are an essential and overlooked cornerstone of a comprehensive marketing strategy. The billion-user strong video search engine generates millions of dollars in revenue each year for eCommerce sites that know how to use it. Consider, too, that Google owns YouTube and has a history of weighing social signals from its own platforms heavily in its SEO algorithms. And yet, just like Polyvore – but perhaps even more shockingly – YouTube optimization is a relatively unsaturated field, particularly for the sort of niche videos eCommerce merchants specialize in. When we designed a set of YouTube SEO best practices and tested them earlier this year, the results were staggering:

  • One client, after hosting videos for three years on YouTube, experienced a 150 percent increase in the view counts of his videos in the first two weeks alone

  • All clients tested experienced a statistically significant increase in views, most within the range of 75 to 200 percent, within two months

Clearly, there’s a massive opportunity when it comes to optimizing videos for searchability both on YouTube and on other video platforms like Vimeo and Facebook. Think you don’t have what it takes to produce great videos? Most of our clients use simple equipment like GoPros or even iPhones to discuss how-to’s, feature products, or share trends. Today’s market isn’t necessarily looking for videos with high production value, and this is especially true in the eCommerce space, where product knowledge and an authentic voice trump showiness.

4. Take Advantage of Facebook’s New Features

Facebook is the little ol’ social media engine that won’t quit. Back in my day, only a few people were on Facebook, there weren’t any photographs besides a tiny profile picture, and Homo Sapiens had just invented fire. Today, Facebook is a behemoth that continues to roll out new upgrades and features that make both users and brands happy. And despite the fact that ominous “Is Facebook Going Away?” blog posts roll out seemingly every week, the hard data from client returns shows that Facebook’s little staycation in our hearts isn’t ending any time soon. Facebook’s success lies in its ability to roll with the punches of the fickle social media landscape, altering their interface in a way that is brand-friendly without alienating its independent user base. Here are two recent ways in which it has done so for our clients:

  • Calls to Action: Every brand page now has the opportunity to create an extremely visible, interactive call to action that will take users directly to a sign-up, shopping or scheduling page. This simple but massively effective button will take users directly to the step in your conversion funnel where they’re most likely to commit – thus increasing conversion across the board. If you haven’t added your own call to action, log into your brand’s Facebook page and do it now. Or finish this post first, because it’s almost done.

  • The Mobile Product Ad Carousel: This format allows you to add multiple images and calls to action to a single Facebook ad, allowing you to showcase more of your best products and increasing the odds of your prospective customer finding exactly what they’re looking for. Our eCommerce clients have seen significant revenue increases via the ad carousel.

And there you have it! The next time you’re revamping your social media strategy, add these trends into the mix for some serious staying power with proven results. And if you need a more comprehensive round-up of expert advice, don’t forget to tune into the webinar this Tuesday for more. If you’d like to thank me later, I’ll be accepting jelly beans.

Thanks to our friends at Hootsuite for help on this post!