Social Media: An Effective Form of Marketing for E-Commerce?

Ever since the inception of social networking a few years ago, businesses have been keen to find ways in which they can turn this revolutionary development into an effective marketing tool for e-commerce. As of yet, no real formula for success has been blueprinted and the crux seems to be converting people from a social conversation into one that’s ready to convert. To date, the businesses that have had the greatest deal of success are the ones whose goals have been purely exposure / brand awareness orientated, but that in the end has brought about tangible commercial returns.

Businesses focussing purely on ROI have tended to shy away from social media marketing after having dabbled at one point or another.  However, companies that are serious about growing their business have spent the time engaging with their consumers in order to gain a greater understanding. Social media engagement can provide very insightful market research for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to create enough interest around their brand for people to take notice.

The cost of deploying a campaign across social network sites can vary depending what your goals are. For some organisations, creating a free page and directing people to it externally is enough, whilst others choose to pay to direct traffic there in order to increase their following.   Some (such as Red Bull) have built vibrant profiles that have successfully generated massive numbers of “likes” in Facebook(reaching a figure of over 25 million earlier this month – January 2012)

The most important factor in using social media is what you choose to do once you have your following in order to keep them engaged with the brand. Regardless of your goals when marketing through social media there needs to be quality interaction between the business and its customer base in order to achieve anything. Posting status updates isn’t enough and can result in a complete disinterest from your followers.

Social media marketing is still very much in its infancy but companies with a long term view of building their brand will take this on board and work towards creating a stronger relationship with their client base.  This then makes it more sustainable whereas, other businesses with a shorter term strategy or seeking an immediate commercial return may decide it does not provide enough value. 

Implementing a social media campaign for the smaller/medium business, is not a matter to be treated as a one-off or as something with a limited resource applied to it.  The benefits long term can be substantial, but the efforts to maintain interesting, engaging content is not trivial, and should be carefully considered as part of the initial social media strategy.

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