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Social Marketing Tips You Can Actually Use

Part 3 of an interview with e-commerce maven John Lawson.

If you’ve read our work in this space before you know we are big fans of social media for all types of business purposes. The second edition of our job-hunting guide is with our publisher now, and How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ will be out in the spring.

But you may also remember that, as much as we love social media, we also recognize its potential as a huge time sink. It’s possible to sit down for a brief session intending to spread the word about your products and services only to emerge hours later with little to show for your effort but time on the clock. We know in the world of e-commerce you are first and foremost focused on customers, product sourcing and processing orders. Anything that doesn’t come under those categories can be difficult to justify.

We turned to John “ColderICE” Lawson to get some social marketing advice from a bona fide social media giant. First, let’s look at the stats that will prove this last statement true.

Lawson was named Savviest in Social Media by Startup Nation. On LinkedIn he has more than 500 connections. His Twitter followers number 50,000. He has more than 1,800 Facebook friends and his YouTube videos have been viewed about 300,000 times. If you’ve been tempted to spend some time promoting your merchandise in these arenas, Lawson has some great advice about how to start, where to start, what to do and what not to do.

“Rather than give your customers a homey look at you and your business, give them valuable information about using your products”

Think differently ‘about me’

You’ve actually had a bit of social media linked to your eBay account for years. Your About Me page has long been the place where you can connect with your customers and help them feel confident that shopping with you is a good idea. How you do that now is different from the advice we used to offer.

“A great About Me page is very important,” Lawson says. But that page is no longer the place to tell your customers all about you and your operation. Instead, Lawson suggests you use this prime territory to tell your customers what you can do for them.

“It’s not ‘about me,’ it’s ‘about you’ now,” he notes. “The Internet user has grown up. We’re not as interested in your personal details. The people who are shopping on the Internet were probably born in the ’90s. They’re looking for the information they need to decide to shop with you.”

So, rather than give your customers a homey look at you and your business, give them valuable information about using your products.

Build a presence in social media and beyond

Lawson has found his best success on YouTube. He claims he came to social marketing in a backward manner. “When we were selling bandanas, customers would ask me one question: ‘How do I fold this bandana to look like Tupac?’

“Black people know how to do this,” he explains, “but we were selling it worldwide, as hip-hop was moving around the world. One day I just got an idea to take a dummy head, show people how to fold a bandana and put it on YouTube. That video has gotten a quarter of a million views! That was a light bulb for me about the power of social media.”

How can this experience translate to other sellers? “Take the top five to 10 customer service questions you receive and answer them in videos,” Lawson advises. “Others will be looking for those answers, too.”

In making his videos, Lawson includes the URL to his item in the description he posts on YouTube about the video. “Put a couple of reminder links throughout the video, but don’t overdo it,” he suggests. Nobody wants to be ‘sold.'”

He recommends you use YouTube to build a presence in social media. “If you spend your time making videos, make one or two a month,” he says. “All that content is reusable. Now I can send it out to other places.”

“You need to find out where your customers are before you spread your efforts all over the social media world”

Go to where your buyers are

Of course, we automatically think about Facebook and Twitter, and those aren’t bad ideas, but are they right for your customers? Isn’t this the step where social marketing begins to eat up your time without any proof of real value?

“It’s got to be about the buyer,” Lawson tells us. “Yeah, there are 850 million people on Facebook, but are your customers hanging out there?” Lawson believes you need to find out where your customers are before you spread your efforts all over the social media world. Your YouTube videos are your data, but you need to find the right places to manage that data. He recommends starting with some good old fashioned research.

“There’s a chat board somewhere for anything,” he said. “We’ve found these conversations and joined them.” Starting with Google, Lawson uses the example of antique silverware. “Go to Google and search ‘more’ to find blogs. Those blogs will lead you to where people are actually talking about antique silverware,” he explains. “That’s where you’ll find people already committed to your product. As opposed to fishing in the ocean, you’re better off fishing in a pond.”

Once you’ve found your customers, invite them to join you on social media sites. For example, if you have a YouTube video demonstrating the use of your product, post a link to it on the chat board. You’re not overtly selling your product to this audience, but since you’ve found a group of people already committed to what you sell, you have every reason to believe they’ll be interested in your video.

Now, post this link to Twitter, and also to Facebook. Be sure to tell your existing customers about your private Twitter area and your Facebook groups. Here you can offer them special promotions.

“Once you find the people who are looking for your type of information, put a velvet rope around it,” Lawson says. “Tell these people, ‘Hey look at this new inventory that hasn’t been listed yet.'” At the same time, he warns, “Only use this when you actually have something to share. That makes people want to look for you.” Lawson tells us that he uses this technique to sell products he’s never listed on any marketplace.

Follow the rule

Lawson asks us to warn readers of the “80/20 rule” for social marketing. Eighty percent of what you post should be about giving information to your customers and having a conversation about your products. Only 20 percent should be about sales.

“It’s got to be about the buyer,” he emphasizes. “It’s one of the problems I have with the way people post about products on social media. If you can figure out how to have a conversation about what your customer needs, you’ve got a spot. But, if I’m following you on Facebook as your friend or family, why are you constantly trying to sell me something?”

Lawson’s manner of making his expertise known, sharing his interest in his customers and offering special promotions has led him to success. Now that he’s offered us idea-laden crumbs to follow along, where will your path take you?

Read Part 1 of this interview, Rev Up eBay Sales in 2012, and Part 2, Rev Up Sales in Your Web Store in 2012.

About the author

Brad & Debra Schepp
Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Some handy tips there John. On of the common strategies quite a few online sellers (& businesses) use is the free giveaway for viral marketing on Facebook. What are your thoughts on using that strategy effectively?

  • Carla De Petris

    very good information. Thank you

  • I am not quite as bully on the free giveaway as some might be Anshul. First thing before you do any marketing in social, you need to STOP and ask yourself, what is the goal? Once you know that goal then you can formulate a strategy. If your goal is to have people like your page, then I am sure giving away an iPad will get you a whole lot of likes. If your goal is to sell some antique and vintage items on eBay then you are probably wasting time and money getting iPad “wanna-bees” to like your page! The two just do not like up.

    So while the use of free items to garner followings on Facebook works well for large brands like Starbucks and Levi’s…PowerMommy’s Garage Finds Store on eBay would probably fair far better formulating how to treat her CURRENT list of buyers to some inticments

  • Ooops, hit the return key too soon, I was not finished LOL…

    What I am basically saying is DO NOT be like the phone and cable companies who are constantly looking for new users by offering all the great package deals, at the same time ignoring their base customer. You and I are already doing business with them but we can’t qualify for the new deals. Figure out ways to use social media to turn your current customers into “cheerleaders” for you and your business. That is possibly going to pay off in greater reward than fishing for people with hand-outs.

    But again, it all depends on that first question….”What is the goal” that will reveal the strategy for execution.

    Thanks for the great question!
    John (@ColderICE)

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