Ecommerce for Facebook: Product or Community focused?

The main online marketing aim for ecommerce websites is about getting relevant potential customers to your website, and through the checkout hopefully with a shopping cart full of products. With 500 million active users Facebook represents the biggest community of people online and for a long time has been a very attractive audience for all online marketers aiming to increase sales through their online shops.

A more extensive "Share This" function

A more extensive "Share This" function with multiple sharing systems. This type of solution offers virtually every available sharing option to visitors who are used to sharing products.

The big question is “How do you get the Facebook community to buy?”. There appears to be 2 obvious approaches that many businesses are following at the moment. One is to create product focused content that creates interest around specific projects through detailing features and benefits of a particular product or range of products. Hopefully if the content is read by potential customers then they will read and follow through to making a purchase. After correctly choosing products that interest people, stimulating them with more detail and facts associated with that a particular product may cause them to buy it. The problem with this approach is that you risk appearing too much like a sales machine and if a potential future customer is not very interested in the product you are currently pushing at them, you risk turning them off and in effect pushing them away from your brand.

The second approach is to just create general content relevant to any potential purchaser. Stories around subjects connected to a specific industry that are of interest to your audience can attract more people to your Facebook presence and therefore your website presence. The theory here is that you can engage with more people if the content is generic enough and your brand’s relationship with your target audience. The content does not have to be purely informational, it can ask questions about the readers views on a particular subject a

nd in this way, build far stronger relationships. This may be all very well and whilst great for soft marketing but bearing in mind all of this takes effort, do you actually get a return on investment? Brand building is great, but if there is no real return in reality you can’t afford to do it.

Ask a friend about a product feature

Ask a friend about a product feature. This type of solution allows visitors to adjust the message to their friends allowing more convenient social sharing.

The key question facing online marketers is which approach is more profitable: Direct product focused content; or more community interest information and engagement? Or is there a combination of the 2 approaches that will work in the longer term.

As anyone will know who has started a Facebook page it is hard to gain full engagement of your followers. By this we are talking about followers replying to postings and hopefully even feeling close and interested enough to actually initiate content relevant to other community members following your brand and page. Perhaps here lies the key to success. Initially, ecommerce brands should focus their efforts around building communities of people “liking” them and interacting through their Facebook pages. As the community of followers (likes) grow stronger, more active, more frequent and more engaged then perhaps interspersing slightly more product focused content will keep the attention of a community. This is far more likely of course if the followers are used to interacting with a page’s postings.

A balance needs to be struck here between the quantities of general interest, community oriented and engaging content and the more sales focused content. If the product sales content gains too much presence then people will turn off again. There is of course one other key factor here. How interesting is the content? If the general content fully engages with your community and then your product posting frankly just boring then you will not convert anyone to buy.

One thing I remember from a very interesting ecommerce seminar was that if you have top selling items, then promoting these further will increase sales. Trying to promote ranges of clearance products that nobody is buying is like pushing water up hill. A 75% discount on a product that nobody wants may grab attention for a short time but will anyone actually buy it? If the hurdle to purchase is price then obviously a big discount will work, but shop owners so often see the big stock lists of non-selling products and think about just trying to shift these. The rule is clear: promote products that people like already and use Facebook and other social media to gauge your audiences thoughts and feelings towards which products they like.

Ultimately if the right products are chosen for promotion through Facebook, the type of promotion is right and the frequency between general community content and product content is balanced then success should occur.

5 Top tips for successful ecommerce Facebook use:

1.    Build follower community first, get engagement and interactions with your community then drop in interesting products occassionally.
2.    Allow follower numbers to grow naturally without bribery: Targetted Fan Page Ads work but as long as they are real.
3.    Less “BUY NOW, BUY NOW” – more engaging with people “Is product A better than product B?”
4.    Use Facebook to research customers views about products
5.    Shouting louder about products that don’t sell will not increase sales but simply demonstrate you don’t know what your customers actually want to buy.

This article was posted on Monday, July 26th, 2010 at 4:16 pm and is filed under Featured, News.

Leave a Reply

2 comments to 'Ecommerce for Facebook: Product or Community focused?'

  1. Chris says:

    Looking good. Hope all goes well for the launch!

  2. naeem says:

    great post. Seems many ecom store owners just think a fanpage is an outlet to push out their product.

    I’m having great fun and success with our fanpage at Autostyle, growing by about 30 to 50 new fans daily.

    Extra tip. Put out little updates relating to news in your area. Eg. during the Soccer World cup in south africa, I used to constantly put out udpates on games, goals, cheering for South Africa etc.

    The more ‘likes’ you get, the better your update and page gets shown in the fans Top News feed when they log into their FB accounts

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