Social media was once considered a temporary trend, but it is becoming a major part of many retailers’ online marketing strategies.

You can’t avoid it. It seems that you will hear terms such as “fan page”, ‘followers”, ‘tweet”, re-tweet”, blog> and many more. Many are now questioning the true meaning of social media and how to use it to grow their businesses.

This article will explain social media, give some tips for making your site social media-friendly, discuss differences between major social media outlets and answer the question about whether or not you should hire a consultant.

Although social media can be time-consuming, if used correctly, it can bring a new level of professionalism to your business. It can help build brand loyalty and increase awareness, which can in turn boost your bottom line.

What’s Social Media?

Wikipedia defines social media to mean media that is distributed through social interaction and created using highly accessible, scalable publishing techniques. Social media makes broadcast media monologues (one-to-many) more social media dialogs (many, many). It promotes the democratization and dissemination of information, making people content producers rather than content consumers.

It is an Internet-based group of applications that use new web concepts to promote user-generated content.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are just a few examples of the most popular social media applications available online.

Twitter is a microblog service. It allows you to post messages up to 140 characters and have them delivered in real-time to your followers. Facebook can be considered a publishing platform. It allows you to create pages that combine multiple media options (e.g. Facebook is more of a “publishing” platform that allows you to create pages that combine multiple media options (e.g., photos, blogs, shopping carts, etc YouTube) This service allows you to make video content for the masses (possibly to show the usage of your product).

Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Facebook is a bit more difficult to use and has many options, so I’ll touch on that briefly below.

Easy Tricks to Make Your Website More Social Media-Friendly

You’re probably on social media platforms, regardless of whether you are. They are sharing your URL with friends on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

You should have a social media presence on your ecommerce site if you intend to participate in social media marketing.

Social sharing
You can find dozens of websites that provide embeddable codes which can be used for creating social networking icons on your website. This allows visitors to easily share their favorite things about your site with friends and followers on social media.

ShareThis and a few other sites are worth looking at. ShareThis allows visitors to easily share your website with their networks. ShareThis is a tool that you’ve likely seen on news sites. You will see several icons scattered along a horizontal line, or group together under the heading “Share.” This tool allows your visitors to easily spread the word on social media about any page or website they like by installing it.

Add This looks very similar to ShareThis. Both require registration for the site and some publisher information. However, both are easy to use and do almost the same thing.

Display your Social Media presence
It’s a good idea to list your affiliations on social networking sites. These links are essential for the online shopper who is a pro at e-commerce. You can increase brand awareness and web-knowledge by being a member of more social media platforms.

Your social media links can be displayed in a self-created sidebar module, or on sites such as Lijit. Lijit works in the same way as ShareThis, but instead of pushing people to social networking sites, Lijit pulls them to your other sites.

Facebook Fan Page, Group?

When it comes to Facebook and brands, a common question is: Should you create a Facebook Group Page? Or a Fan Page.

This is a great question. The answer will depend on your plans for your site. Below are the pros and cons for both fan pages and group pages.

Facebook Fanpage
Facebook Fan Pages can be a great choice for brands, including e-commerce websites, that plan to post information at least once per week.

Facebook Fan Page Pros:

* It looks polished and closely resembles a profile page.

* Can include videos, photos, links, events, etc.

* Can be fed into a “fans” update stream in the same way as an individual profile update

* A customized URL can be provided similar to an individual profile

* The name and address of page creators are hidden

* Allows you to add applications, such as a Twitter account.

* A “wall” that is similar to individual profiles allows people to post comments.

* Can be used in conjunction with a Facebook Fanpage Widget on your website

Facebook Fan Page Con:

* It is more difficult to manage conversations among fans

* Conversations on display for the general public

* If you have a Group page already set up, it is not possible to convert Facebook groups to fan pages.

* You won’t be posting much if you don’t have enough fans.

* Linking to a dismal Fan Page can harm your SEO inbound links

Facebook Group Page

Facebook Group pages can be created quickly and are more personal than Fan Pages. Posts don’t have to be posted as often because it isn’t a profile page like a Facebook Fan Page.

Facebook Group Pro’s

* It is possible to be more intimate, people can see who started the group

* Allows for photos, videos and events. to be posted

* Allows emails to be sent out to all members of the group

* Pre-dates Fan pages; greater familiarity with early adopters of Facebook

Facebook Group Con’s

* For updates, visitors must visit your group’s page

* Applications cannot be added to the group pages.

* Offers visibility

* Automatically posts related groups to your group pages, whether or not you choose.

* Not allowed to be linked to your website via widget(s).

The verdict? If you want to keep your fans informed about the happenings of your site, consider creating a Facebook Fan page. If you have a specific niche on your site that people would like to start conversations, consider creating a group.

Why should you hire a social media consultant for your site?

It’s easy for people to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of social media sites and apps available. Social media can be overwhelming when you are already trying to keep an e-commerce company afloat.

However, research has shown that e-commerce retailers reap the benefits of this media channel (i.e. offering better customer service, increased sales, etc.). So it is worth it.

Many companies employ consultants to assist them in their social media campaigns.

Are you better off hiring a consultant, or doing your own work?

How to hire a social media strategist:

* If you don’t have the time or desire to engage in a social media marketing campaign.
* Don’t waste your time learning the intricacies of social media applications.
* You don’t need to be a strong writer or interactive with your audience.
* If you need help to launch a large social-media campaign.
* If you are more inclined to leave the project work to professionals than to attempt it yourself.

How to manage your social media:

* You should be familiar with social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
* If you are a tech-savvy and a quick learner.
* If your campaign is small and only involves one or two social media sites.
* If you have content that can be posted on a blog, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sites,

Note: Social media experts tend to charge per project or per hour, depending on their availability.

What We Have Learned

Social media seems to be here for the long-term. While it is likely to change and evolve over time, you can be certain that social media will remain the same in some form. It is similar to radio and TV when they were first created. The power it holds for its users will shine through.

It can increase awareness of your brand or product and help you to build stronger relationships with your customers, which can lead to increased sales and future growth.

However, social media can be time-consuming so it is important to not take social media integration lightly. You will need to plan and execute well. If you don’t have the time or expertise to do it yourself, hiring an expert may be a good idea. It will depend on what you need, your budget, and how much time you have available to get the job done at-home.

By Mary

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