Ten Ways to Make Your Ecommerce Site Social

Creating a social atmosphere on your site with open communication with your customers is the key to a successful social media endeavor. Remember you do not need to be on every social site; just concentrate on a few or even one to start and build up from there. You will learn things about your customers along with more about interacting on the internet just by participating on one social site. Here are some ideas of ways to enabling your customers to be more social with you and your ecommerce site.

Product Reviews

You do not have to start off by gathering lots of product reviews from your customers. Feel free to tap into review services for products that are sold on many sites (even Amazon). If you sell a unique or exclusive product then you will need to start gathering reviews. You can do this by asking customers post purchase, contacting popular bloggers and/or media outlets offering to provide a free product for review. You can encourage the interaction from your customers by making it as easy as possible for someone to leave a review. One way to do this is require the minimal amount of fields needed to leave a review; including any signup process.

Product Sharing

If your customers spend time on Facebook, MySpace or any other number of social sites you can let them show off their latest purchase to friends with a share button. Obviously this isn’t right for everyone but it can be a new source of traffic especially if you already have a following through a group or fan page on the social networks. You can see an example of this being done on Zappos with a “Share This Product” button which is powered by AddThis.

Forums

Customers love to talk to each other and help each other. If there are popular forums for your industry or niche already then you should register and participate. Once you have given to the community (5-10 posts) then you can usually add a link to your site in your forum signature if the terms of the particular forum allow. Remember that being social is about interacting and having two way communications with other people. The conversation will commonly fall in places outside of your store (i.e. other websites) so you want to be an active participant at these gatherings. A couple of ways to find forums include searching bigboards.com or searching Google and Yahoo for your keywords with forum appended. For example, a pet supplies store may search for things such as “pet forums”; it is usually better to stay general at first when searching for the largest forums. If there are no forums or they have a small following then consider adding forums to your site to extend the community. Keep in mind that a small following may indicate there is not a demand for a social forum for your niche. Adding forums to your site will require you maintain the forums with some degree of moderation so they stay appealing to visitors since keeping out spam is necessary for any forum to thrive.

Twitter

Twitter is a great way to be open, transparent, and getting involved in a conversation at the right time. But it also takes time and a commitment to use daily, several times a day is best, to be really effective. A good way to find out if it is really worth your time to be on twitter is to search for your company name, popular keywords and popular products. If no results or very few results show up then this is an indication your customers are not on twitter. On the other hand, if you see several search results then you may have uncovered a great opportunity; be sure to read the entries to determine if they are relevant to your niche. You can search at search.twitter.com.

Interviews

Do experts, celebrities or fan favorites exist in your product industry? If you can get one or more people to collaborate with then you can put together a teleconference or webinar that customers will love. A few places to look for people to interview are industry magazines, trade shows and authors of books or blogs. There are magazines on just about every topic and the people appearing in them are more than likely happy to get some more publicity with an interview. Once you have some one lined up you can announce that to your customers (hopefully using social media too) and let them submit questions for the interview. I have even seen this done “live” via Twitter.

Specials

A great way to boost interaction on your Facebook fan page, Myspace profile, blog, twitter or any other social site is to offer exclusive specials to those followers. Offer coupons, sale announcements, pre-ordering or early bird pricing are all ways to appeal to customers who participate in social media with you. Don’t be afraid to be creative and do something besides a percentage or dollar amount off. Free gifts, buy one give one or a contest are all prospects but sometimes you don’t even need to offer something with a financial incentive; you can combine the previous technique of an expert/celebrity interview to allow customers to submit questions via a particular social interaction boosting community activity.

Share

Share your knowledge freely to attract customers, satisfy customers and keep customers coming back. If you sell something that needs assembled offer free assembly instructions; even better is a video stepping through the assembly. The video can also be a sales tool such as see how easy it is to assemble or install this product. Start by creating easy to follow instructions for your customers; you can get a double bang for your buck by creating a video and an article from the instructions. Next share the video with many sites by using a service such as tubemogul. If you have a blog make a post including the video & instructions. You can do this for more than just assembly or installation products including showing how to customize a product, how to use a product or by showing creative uses for a product. If you don’t want to mess with video but are good with documents such as Excel, PowerPoint or Word then you can share the presentation through a number of sharing sites including scribd and slideshare.

Contests

Give away an iPod touch, Nintendo Wii or your hottest product in return for something from your customers that is easy to do. Some ideas are an action shot of a customer and your product, a video response to your youtube video which is great for boosting your youtube channel, commenting on a blog post, reviewing a product, becoming a friend/fan on Facebook or Myspace, completing a survey, etc.

Local Community Events

Just because you sell online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be known in your community. Many times sponsoring an event or charity can lead to a link which has SEO benefit but the real advantage is getting in front of people and seeing their reaction to your offering through casual conversation. You won’t be walking around giving a sales pitch but when the natural question of “What do you do?” comes up then don’t be shy. Helping out the community is good for everyone and will have unforeseen positive effects. Check out meetup.com as a resource or find out about local events through the chamber of commerce, community centers and charities.

Podcast

If you can create content on a regular basis and commit to it then this is a great way to stay in front of a rabid community. You can cover anything from industry news, product reviews, tips or best practices and demonstrations such as assembly or installation of your products. You can do anything from a podcast to an internet TV or radio show; if you are worried about the commitment then consider being a guest on an established podcast or show a few times first. If you really enjoy it and think you can keep it up then consider making your own content feed; otherwise you could become a regular guest.

Go out and try at least one of the items above this month to get a feel for how you can be more social with customers. Feel free to post any questions as comments. Do you have any ideas not mentioned above?