Once thought to be a passing fad, and although still relatively new, social media is now taking a firm hold and warrants attention in many retailers’ online marketing efforts.

You can’t avoid it. No matter where you turn it seems you hear terms like “fan page”, “followers”, “tweet”, “re-tweet”, “blog” and more being used. With all the social media hype, many are questioning what social media actually is and how they can use it to move their business forward.

In this article I am going to explain what social media is, provide some strategies for making your site more social media friendly, touch upon differences between options presented by major social media outlets, and answer the question of whether you should do it yourself, or hire a consultant to do it for you.

Social Media can be time consuming, but when implemented correctly can add a level to your business that helps build brand loyalty, and awareness which in turn can boost your bottom line.

What is Social Media?

Wikipedia defines social media as: media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.

In other words, it is a group of Internet-based applications that utilize new web concepts to promote user generated content.

Examples of some of the major social applications currently online are Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Twitter can be seen as a “micro blog” type service that enables you to post short messages of up to 140 characters that are fed in real time to your followers. Facebook is more of a “publishing” platform which enables you to create a page that integrates multiple media options into one (i.e. discussion boards, blogs, photos, shopping carts, etc…) YouTube is a service that enables you to produce video content to the masses (possibly to demonstrate the use of your product.)

The power and uniqueness of each provides pros and cons. Because Facebook has a little more of a learning curve to it and because it has a number of options to choose from, I’ll briefly touch upon that below.

Simple Tricks to Make Your Site More Social Media Friendly

Whether or not you’re on social media platforms or not, odds are you’re customers are. They’re sharing your URL with their friends on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or MySpace.

If you want to engage in social media marketing, you’ll want to be sure to have that presence reflected on your e-commerce site.

Social Sharing
There are dozens of sites you can visit that will provide embeddable code which can be used to create social networking icons on your site. These icons make it easy for visitors to share what they like about your site with their social media friends and followers.

A couple of sites worth checking out are ShareThis. ShareThis is a tool you can install on your site that makes it easier for visitors to share with their network. You’ve probably seen some form of ShareThis on news sites. There are typically several icons spread out in a horizontal line or grouped together under a header of “Share.” Installing this tool lets your visitors easily spread the word via social networking sites about a page or website – yours – they like.

Add This is very similar to ShareThis. Both require site registration and a little publisher information, but both are also easy to use and do basically the same thing.

Show off your Social Media presence
If you’re on several social networking sites, it behooves you to display that affiliation somewhere on your site. For the consummate online shopper, these links show you’re not just an e-commerce beginner. The more social media sites you’re a part of, the more web-knowledgeable you look and the greater brand awareness you can build.

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