Social websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounted for over $3 billion in ecommerce sales in 2014 and that number continues to grow rapidly.
If social media isn't a part of your marketing mix, you're not only leaving a lot of potential sales on the table but you're also failing to engage with your potential customers.
There are a gazillion statistics that provide pixel-level detail about why social media is an important part of ecommerce marketing, but I've heard one complaint over and over again: I have very little time for that!
It's true. If you're an entrepreneur of any size, you're juggling a thousand things already, and asking you to become a social media marketing expert overnight is not exactly good advice. But given the numbers, you have to come around and make your mark on all necessary social channels at some point to grow your shop.
What if you could do that with just about ten to fifteen minutes of your day? Or what if you could find alternative methods to keep your social channels engaged and productive to your business?
In the past, I avoided automation like the plague. A few people have echoed the perils of automation (as lacking a human touch, human engagement that is so important for any social interaction) but automation, when done correctly, can be the greatest time-saver of all history.
A typical social media engagement task list goes like this:
- You post/share content (about your product, about your market/niche, about a news snippet that is related to your market, etc.)
- You respond to comments and mentions
- You like/favorite other social content
- You comment on other social content
There are tools to automate almost all of these today, but that's not an ideal way of social media management. The only thing that you can automate of these is sharing content.
Why would you want to automate sharing/posting content, anyway?
An active social media profile drives more traffic (and therefore, sales). To have an active channel, you need to post and engage regularly. And to post regularly, you will have to spend a lot of time on social media.
Instead of this, if you could automate (via scheduling, smart tasks, if-this-then-that recipes), you'd saving yourself at least an hour of your time every day.
Here's how you can automate your social posts:
Schedule them for a week
Sharing and reposting your products on social media can be a time-consuming task. But it doesn't necessarily have to be if you can schedule these in one go. With tools like Around, you can integrate your store, import the listed products and start scheduling them across multiple channels almost instantly.
Tip: Schedule a bunch of posts for a week on Monday (to ward off the Monday blues) or on Wednesday (the typical mid-week slump). You won't have to worry about product promotions on social media for a week if you did this.
Use IFTTT recipes to share liked/favorited articles
In your daily meanderings through the web, you find interesting things that you like/favorite. You might want to share these with your followers too. The traditional method is that you share them instantly using any of the share-buttons on the content you liked. But that will make your social channel look too noisy at times.
To avoid this, you want to save all posts or content that you like/favorite to a scheduling app like Buffer. IFTTT enables you to do just this. So as you like/bookmark articles, they are also automatically scheduled to be posted to your social media.
Integrate multiple channels to post to all of them at once
You can either spend a lot of time trying to schedule or write posts for each of your social media channels, or you can set thingd up so that you write/post once, and it gets posted in all channels.
Again, you can use tools like IFTTT to get this done or, depending on the scheduling tool you use, you may already have that feature available to you.
Rely on highly-targeted hashtags to find and post content automatically
Yet another way of automating posts is to filter and auto-schedule based on #hashtags. A lot of discoverable content is often hashtagged.
Suppose you want to share any link or post that's related to #cycling, #fitness and #commute. You can pick those tags (or combine them for fine-tuning) and create a recipe that lets you schedule or share posts with these target tags.
2. Pick a daily mini-window of engagement
Social media can be a tricky rabbit hole if you can't set a specific goal and stick to it. Automating posts and content shares is just a small part of the social media equation. What matters most is engagement.
Let's break down engagement. Engagement is:
- Replying to comments, mentions, and messages on social media channels
- Liking/favoriting other people's posts on social media
- Commenting on other people's posts/participating in discussions on social media
This is what takes most of the time on social media. Automation doesn't really work here, and even if there are ways to automate, you'd better not. This engagement is where the human element shines through and makes your shop stand out. It's best done manually.
De-clutter your social profiles
In the quest to learn more and get noticed by others, you've probably followed a ton of people, brands, products, etc. One of the major reasons for not having enough time to manage social media is “clutter." Newsfeed noise can be a black hole of your time. To avoid this, start by de-cluttering your newsfeed; unfollow accounts that are just re-posting a ton of stuff through the day. Create lists.
Spend 5-10 minutes just skimming through and comment and engaging with posts
There is no golden bullet to engaging on social media. You have to get down to business and start interacting with other people's posts and comments. The good news is that you can do this with as little as 5-10 minutes of your time daily.
Set aside about 10 minutes a day for every major social channel that you want to grow sales from. Pick just three of these (e.g, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) and engage.
Thank every mention, answer every message on social media
Millennials expect social media to work like the best customer support out there. That trend is now being passed on to all generations that purchase online.
Answering every mention of your brand on social media is quickly becoming a norm that you can't afford to skip. To the potential buyer, it doesn't matter if you're Groupon or a small-time solopreneur from Europe. They expect you to notice when you're mentioned.
Tracking social mentions can be made easy with tools like Hootsuite. With about 5-10 minutes a day, you can make sure all mentions of your brand/shop are replied to. The same goes with private messages sent on social channels.
A trap that a lot of people fall into is trying to answer these mentions/messages instantly. If you're a small entrepreneur with limited resources of time, you'll need to set aside a specific time for these replies – and fight the urge to reply instantly.
Optimize by finding the least-engaged time
It's common advice to share content on social media when your audience is most engaged (when the maximum number of your followers are online and interacting). That works good for posts that you share, but it certainly can be a problem when you are engaging – commenting, replying etc.
Why? We have this urge to send a reply (to a message or a comment or a response) as soon as they arrive. When your audience is most engaged, you will end up spending a lot more time than planned responding. It's okay if it happens rarely, but not so good when it's frequent.
That's why you should optimize your engagement schedules to be at a time when your audience least engaged (so you receive fewer replies to your messages, comments, etc.).
3. Curate more, create less
Most successful social media ecommerce entrepreneurs have an 80-20 rule: 80% of their social shares are content that is not theirs – other people's interesting products, market trends, posts from elsewhere, etc. Only about 20% is their own content. You should curate more, create less to share on social channels. Why?
With the advent of social media and share culture, we've gone from a dearth of great stuff to an overwhelming amount of content. The problem now is discoverability. Your followers on social media are finding it difficult to discover truly great value in the posts because there's so much to pick from. So much noise.
Keeping a social profile active doesn't mean you have to create social-specific posts day in and day out. It just means you enable your followers to discover useful content. To be able to create new social posts every day would involve a full-fledged social media team, complete with designers and great copywriters. For those of us who run the show solo or with a small team, curation can be a great way to connect with our followers in a useful way.
This is why you need to curate more. For 10 links shared in a day, let 8 of them be interesting, valuable content sourced from elsewhere (blog posts you liked, videos you watched and thought to share, some interesting product you discovered, a life-hack related to your niche/market, etc.). The other 2 should be links to your content.
Some scheduling tools make this easy by suggesting popular posts, but you can't customize this to include your favorite blogs. A handful of tools like Around.io let you import blogs/feeds so that you can readily share them right from within the tool.
You can even save time when you create posts:
Use “imagify” tools
If you're creating images to share (images do well on Facebook and Twitter), use something like Canva to generate images faster.
Create easy patterns, repeatable templates
The art of repetitive templates/patterns can save you a lot of time. Create patterns or templates where you just have to swap the text and the image or the color scheme.
4. Hire Interns / VAs
If you can afford to spend a little – or find interns who are willing to work – you can outsource the social media work to paid/unpaid interns or virtual assistants whom you can hire online. Investing in a dedicated person for social media does not merely help you focus on other things, but it also gets another human input for new ideas on social media marketing.
You can find interns in a college in your city. You can also use good ol' Craigslist. VAs can be found on freelance websites like Upwork.
Social media drives a lot of sales and will continue to raise its share of driving ecommerce sales. You need a solid social media presence to be able to leverage this and grow your shop.
To find more time for social media efforts:
- Automate: posting content you find and sometimes automate even content discovery.
- Consistently spend 5-10 minutes/day on every social channel to engage: reply to messages, comment on other posts, follow new accounts, etc.
- Curate more, create less. Share more of other people's links to save yourself the time involved in creating your own social posts but giving you the ability to maintain an active – and most importantly, a valuable – social media profile.
- Outsource or hire interns.
What are other tactics that you've used to find more time to promote your shop and engage on social media?