Traffic Strategy. Not as sociable as it used to be!

Not as sociable as it used to be

It wasn’t long ago that you could almost build your e-commerce business on the referrals that came from posts on social media platforms.

All you had to do was create a genuine following by posting regular, interesting, relevant or funny or outrageous material on say Facebook or Twitter and then drop in a few promotion postings from time-to-time with landing pages to your products. Providing you were sensible and kept the balance at above 5 to 1 of content posts to promotional ones, then your audience were unlikely to desert you.

But it was inevitable that the successful social media sites would monetise their audience and yet it would have been a massive own goal to charge individuals for an account. So the obvious targets were companies that were using the platforms to engage with their customers.

In 2014, the clear market leader, Facebook started ‘offering the opportunity’ to boost posts to other demographically similar people to those who were already following your commercial site. So, let’s look at the example of you, as an online retailer, selling pet jackets and using Facebook to post funny videos of cats and dogs. As you know, these are some of the most popular items on the internet – so it’s a safe bet that people may want to see more and ‘follow’ your profile.

More importantly, they may share them with their friends. So let’s say you get 10,000 Followers in a few months, then it used to be that when you interspersed your funny videos with a picture of one of your products and a link to the appropriate page on your e-commerce site, all your Followers would see it. Also, Facebook offers you the chance, for a modest sum – perhaps $10, to boost your post to say another 5,000 people who they knew were all pet owners. Seems like a good deal right? Well if you make at least $10 on a sale and your click through and conversion rate was more than one in 5,000 – then yes it was worth doing.

But those days are gone now. Facebook will ‘throttle commercial posts to a fraction of your total Followers and then offer to ‘release’ posts to the others only if you pay a boost fee. Facebook’s algorithms for this service are complex and unfathomable to the average user, and it takes a good deal of trial and error to determine whether the economics work.

Furthermore, Google tends to discount content from Facebook in particular, so commercial posts don’t even any help for SEO purposes.

So knowing all that, how can a Traffic Strategy employing Social help you? Well, the answer depends on a few factors.

Firstly, if you are selling relatively high-value items and your margins are high too, then a few hundred dollars to boost posts to a relevant audience may mean that the economics still work. It could only take a slight conversion percentage to turn a profit and once again, just as with PPC and Affiliates, a customer that buys multiple times may come the next time directly, costing you nothing in boost payments for future orders.

Secondly, although Facebook is the most ‘advanced’ of the social platforms in monetising their commercial members, there is still room on other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to achieve some low-cost traction.

Thirdly, a social strategy is not all about generating direct and instant traffic. Engaging with your audience generally will eventually generate traffic if they want to find out more or you can tempt them with competitions or information that sends them to your e-commerce site at another time.

As we’ve mentioned before, the key to all these traffic-building strategies is to be persistent. If you are running a small business, then there is only so much time in a day that you can devote to each activity and it is critical to work out early which ones work the best so that you can concentrate your time on those. You should see any spend on traffic generating as the way to acquire your customer for the first time but then afterwards it’s much more cost effective if you can facilitate them come to your e-commerce site directly. So make it attractive for your first-time buyers to share their email details and have them available for direct mailers and newsletters, which is something we’ll discuss later in this series.

Richard Bairstow is the founder and CEO of We are Underground and is recognised as a leading authority in the Shopify Theme marketplace with 5 of the best selling published themes within the Shopify theme store and over 20,000 active Shopify customers.

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