"If time is money, then Facebook represents the most valuable Internet property on the web today."
That’s what Needham analysts concluded when compiling data on how much time people spend on Facebook; 20 or more minutes a day, the U.S. average clocks in at twice that. All together, it adds up to almost 20% of all time spent online being spent on Facebook alone.
But does that engagement translate into money? Absolutely.
By Deloitte’s estimates, the platform effect of Facebook (specifically through games and apps integrated with Facebook) enabled $29 billion of economic impact in 2014.
With Shopify’s Facebook Shop, retailers are poised to participate in the Facebook economy — but just setting up a shop on Facebook isn’t enough to bring in sales.
New data shows that users are posting less but spending more time viewing and liking posts. Facebook is, in turn, adjusting by showing users new sides of the platform to keep them engaged.
So what should you be watching and incorporating into your strategy?
1. Rethink Your Merchandising Strategy to Include “Facebook Exclusive” Strategies
While it’s tempting to just relist your entire product catalog on Facebook, Facebook Shops provide you with the perfect opportunity to develop a “Facebook Exclusive” strategy for merchandise that can only be bought through the social network.
Facebook Exclusive product lines are not a new concept. But, in the past retailers would be stuck using tracking codes to attribute sales happening on their website.
Now, because all sales are taking place natively on Facebook, the Facebook Shop could be treated as it’s own distinct ecommerce entity.
Here are some ways you can run with this idea:
- Having Facebook Exclusive product lines
- Using your Facebook Shop is a secondary market, where old inventory is sold at a discount
- Crowdsourcing exclusive product lines
- Testing and validating new product ideas before they go live on your primary ecommerce site
- Taking advantage of Facebook’s network effect and use your Shop for flash sales
Treating Facebook Shop as it’s own exclusive entity enables you to strengthen your overall value proposition and give people a real reason to follow your page again.
It’s the best way to get more mileage from your Facebook Shop and is a solid foundation to lay under the other strategies below.
2. Participate in Trending Topics
One of the newer features you may have been using more of on Facebook recently is the trending topics sidebar:
As you scroll through your feed, posts from Pages or friends that mention trending topics are also featured.
Facebook, knowing that you’re now more likely to view, like, and share posts from other people and brands rather than posting your own updates or photos, is going out of their way to draw your eye to posts that relate trending topics.
The way to capitalize on this is obvious: tie your posts into the trending topics.
Ideally, you’ll be spotting the wave of a topic before it crests. Tools like Bottlenose or Nuzzel can help you stay afloat, as will keeping an eye on what’s rising on Reddit.
Related: Hootsuite has put together an excellent list of ways to identify trending topics you should check out here.
When I clicked on the Star Wars trending topic, following the #ForceForDaniel events (warning: have some tissues handy!), the top two posts were from brand pages: USA Today and the Hollywood Reporter. Even if you don’t wind up featured on the trending topic page, your posts are more likely to be pulled out to users (and potential customers).
On a similar note, some trends are easy to predict by paying attention to the schedules of major events within pop-culture.
It’s safe to assume Star Wars Episode VII will be trending the moment it reaches theaters. Same goes for movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As an example of how to pull this off without resorting to schticky merchandise, Five Four Club capitalized on this with their Avengers-inspired collection, which got great press and was timed to be released around the same time as the film.
But also consider:
- Major sporting events
- Political events
- Large product releases
- Major conferences
There are plenty of large events with significant turnout and tons of media coverage that, with some advanced planning, you can find ways to associate with your brand, and piggyback the trend.
3. Use Facebook Groups to Listen to Your Market, Partner With “Micro-Influencers”
At their most recent conference, Facebook announced that more than 700 million members use Facebook groups.
What’s interesting is that even though groups have been around since the early days of Facebook, they’ve only taken off fairly recently — once the newsfeed became more cluttered with paid ads and branded posts.
Finding groups is relatively simple task, as all you have to do is type relevant keywords into the search to get a list of results, then filter to only show groups.
While finding groups can be easy once you start mixing up your keywords, I’d recommend using a spreadsheet to keep track of your groups at scale. It can take some work to find the right mix of active groups. But, once you do, you can easily reach hundreds of thousands of people in your market.
There are a few different ways you can use active groups in your Facebook strategy:
#1: Listen and Learn
It’ll be tempting to engage as soon as you find an active group, but you should think twice before posting your first promotion.
Groups are a great place to get qualitative feedback and learn more about your potential customers and their problems in their own words, but can become a breeding ground for contempt and vitriol if approached like a direct sales channel.
Look at the questions that people are asking and the answers they’re getting from other group members.
How often do group members appear to be online? What pages do they like? What sparks debates or thoughtful conversation? What triggers them? What brands in the space are they mentioning or recommending?
It’s also worth noting that many groups have one day a week where group members can share a blog post or a product they’re working on. If you do participate in a weekly share thread, make sure that you leave (valuable, non-promotional) comments on other threads throughout the week, so that you aren’t committing the crime of drive-by promotion. Participating in comment threads can also be a good way to drive traffic to your personal profile, and Facebook’s new bio section of the profile makes it easier than ever to feature your business on your profile.
This isn’t the most scalable method of promotion, but it will improve your odds of connecting with admins and other influential members to collaborate larger promotions.
#2: Cross Promotion
Once you’ve built a database up of several groups of 5,000-10,000+ members (and you’ve been paying close attention to the group dynamics), systematically reach out to the group admins and ask if they’d be interested in cross-promotion.
I know this sounds counterintuitive to my previous point about just listening; however, by getting the admin involved, you're display an understanding of group dynamics, and respect for the community.
If your company sells cosmetics, look for groups that are owned by makeup artists, salons, or other professionals in the beauty industry. In exchange for a pinned post with a link to your Facebook Shop, you produce some kind of “artist profile” that showcases their talents on your channel.
These kinds of cross-promotions are great for clearing out excess inventory, and you get the added bonus of being the one to “discover” new talent and showcase them to a wider audience.
Running a Facebook group takes a lot of time. And for the group owners who aren’t running a business and making money (even if indirectly) from their group, that time spent can cut into other parts of their day. Letting a company sponsor their group for a week or a month is a way for the group owner to make a little money from all that hard work.
For example, once you’d arranged a sponsorship agreement with a group owner, you could...
- Have a custom banner designed to be the group’s coverage image for the duration of the sponsorship, with product images and information on how to visit your Facebook shop.
- Have flash sales during the length of the sponsorship — if it’s a month long sponsorship, you could do a sale on 30 products, one for each day of the sponsorship.
- Make use of pinned posts. You can share a product from your Facebook shop as a post into the group, and then the moderator can pin it — meaning that it’ll stay at the top of the group feed until another post is pinned.
Fan club groups would be a great place to use this, as they’re often run by volunteers.
For example, if you make and sell tee-shirts that are themed after sci-fi TV shows or characters, then getting featured on Doctor Who fan groups is the way to go.
4. Tap Into Facebook Ads For Topical and Targeted Advertising
With Shopify’s Facebook integration, you can share your products as a post:
This provides you with a number of direct sales opportunities, as this post is now eligible to be “boosted” to increase visibility with the people who like your page in addition to being able to tap into Facebook’s robust ad targeting parameters.
If you share it onto your business page, you can pin it to the top of the page, making it difficult for people to miss the product. This would be great for products that are part of a limited time flash sale or that are particularly relevant to a trending topic.
The research shows that we might be posting less, but we’re still spending quite a bit of time on Facebook — and you can use that to your (profitable) advantage with your Facebook Shop. If you’re not currently using Shopify as your ecommerce platform, and you’d like to start using Facebook Shop, get in touch and someone from our sales team would be happy to explore what’s possible.