It may seem self-evident, but social media is in our lives in a big way. Every year, more people are posting, tweeting, pinning, and snapchatting – which means that brands need to keep up to stay in touch with customers. Although social media is the best medium to do this, it can hurt a brand’s image if they make mistakes. Read up on safe strategies below, and see what fits your online business.

#1 Social Media as a Search Engine

As I wrote previously, 88 percent of online shoppers admit to reading online reviews before making a purchase. More people are using social media to find reviews about a product or service instead of simply buying. They treat these channels as search engines.

As an online store owner, you should inform customers via social media about products details. This can be physical (images, specifications, product description), price discounts, or encouragement to write reviews on Facebook or Google. Also, make sure that your products are easily findable. For example, on Pinterest, owners can connect Pinterest accounts with their web stores, helping users easily find their website to buy a specific product.

#2 2016, the Year of Buy Buttons?

Buy buttons, placed on social media sites over a year ago, have not yet been commonly used by the public – yet. However, as social media is becoming not just “social” but commercial, all the big sites are covering their pages in these buttons. Buttons make it simple for people to switch from browsing a platform to buying from it. Soon, buy buttons will be available on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram in multiple countries.

Although few customers seem to be interested in social media buy buttons, retailers expect to see a 34 percent increase in revenues from social media – including from these buttons. Adding a button may be a good idea for online store owners, but it may take some time before your customers get used to and use them on a regular basis.

#3 Live Streaming Apps

Live streaming applications will only get bigger, and brands using them will reach a wider, younger audience – close to 100 million active users on Snapchat alone! Some brands already winning at this strategy include McDonald’s, Rebecca Minkoff, and Acura. They use Snapchat to give sneak peeks behind the scenes, at upcoming releases, or a few minutes with a brand spokesperson (in McDonald’s case, that includes several star athletes).

You do not need a LeBron James to do the same for your business. With Snapchat, Vine, or Twitter-owned Periscope, use your channel to show your own behind the scene moments, answer customer questions, show new products, or give tutorials. Do not be afraid to interact with your customers individually, too!

#4 More Engagement on Social Media

For all the activity of customers on social media, brands have not picked up nearly as quickly. Data shows that as of 2015, only 1 in 8 customers get answers to their social media message to a brand within 3 days, while the volume of social media messages sent globally to brands increased over 21% between 2014 and 2015. In 2016, you can expect even greater volume and activity on social media – you have to make sure you know how to handle it, and answer customers on time.

#5 Social Media Brand Ambassadors

2015 saw the increasing popularity of bloggers and vloggers, especially those active on Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat. Most likely they will continue attracting huge audiences next year.
This is great news for your online store, as you can use popular users as brand ambassadors. Thanks to the massive number of followers these users have, your brand can easily gain in popularity. Stay tuned – I’ll be covering this more next post.

Spend some time on social media, and try some different strategies. If one does not succeed, I have a whole list of others that you can try. It might take a little time to figure out what your customers want, and where you can engage them, but the main thing is to engage. Trust me – your audience will appreciate your participation on the channels they use!