Let’s face it:
Social media is a noisy marketplace.
With millions of images, articles, and videos published every day, it’s challenging for new businesses to get noticed.
And it’s only getting harder.
Today, there are currently 2.62 billion social media users around the globe. That means there’s a lot of potential to drive engagement and increase revenue.
The problem, though, is social media users don’t like being sold to. You only need to turn on the news to see the recent backlash regarding ads and sponsored posts on Facebook, among other platforms.
So, how can e-commerce brands drive more sales on social media without being salesy?
This post will share seven examples of social media campaigns from brands killing it on social media, and what we can learn from them.
ASOS is an online fashion and beauty retailer.
In its #AsSeenOnMe campaign, the brand proved that user-generated content sells.
In the campaign, ASOS asked customers to share pictures of themselves on Instagram with the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe. Pictures then went into a gallery on the ASOS website and feed.
This led to massive engagement and responses from customers.
As a result, the campaign is still running after four years.
As a testament to the campaign’s success, the brand created a separate Instagram account that’s drawn a considerable following:
Customers like to feel both seen and heard. They want to express themselves using your products, so create opportunities to make them feel seen and heard.
User-generated content campaigns are a great idea, not only because they give customers a chance to engage with your brand, but also because the content they create can attract people from their personal network to buy from you, too.
When creating a campaign, it just makes sense to promote lifestyles rather than products.
Why? Because customers are swayed by experiences.
They don’t just buy a certain product to perform a certain action. Rather, they choose a brand because it helps them achieve their goals or remove a pain point. Whether it solves a problem or just makes them feel good, they want to keep reliving that experience.
Imagine you’re a luxury brand that sells expensive bags. Why would consumers buy your products when there are a lot of cheaper alternatives? Why would they need it? When would they use it? Is the bag associated with a certain type of lifestyle?
People purchase lifestyles, not products. The right approach, then, is to connect your products with your customers’ personal identities. Rather than selling a product based on its color and physical attributes, focus on the lifestyle or identity that a customer can obtain.
One example of a brand that successfully sells a lifestyle is REI, a retailer that supplies outdoor recreational gear.
During Black Friday, REI did the opposite of most brands: they closed down, and encouraged customers to go outside instead of shop.
The campaign went viral, and grew in scope from there.
The brand created a search engine on the REI website where users could search for other people’s #OptOutside experiences.
They tapped into a like-minded community of people who wanted to #OptOutside on Black Friday, and other brands jumped on board:
What can we learn from REI’s success?
Do something unexpected.
If it’s Black Friday, you can’t easily catch people’s attention with a simple “buy now” message. Think of a creative way you can tap into a community of individuals. You have to know your ideal audience and sell an experience – not just your product.
Campaigns with emotional storytelling drive sales and attention to your brand. In fact, a study showed that emotion-based campaigns, like ones that tug at people’s heartstrings, are 31 percent more effective than any other type of marketing.
This is because humans are naturally emotional. They get swayed by emotions when making purchases, interacting with people, and many other scenarios.
As a result, when you brainstorm your next campaign, think about the emotional response of your customers. You don’t need to make them cry, but you should make them feel something to stand out from thousands of brands online.
This campaign from TOMS shoes is a good example of emotional storytelling done right. Wanting to give back to the global community, TOMS realized that millennials are socially conscious buyers. They don’t want to buy from just anyone, but they love brands that are doing good for the community or the world.
Inspired by this insight and their own altruistic goals, TOMS created a “one for one” business model. When customers bought a pair of shoes from the company, the brand automatically donated a pair to people who need them. This initiative was dubbed the One for One campaign.
The company has gone even further with its #withoutshoes campaign – for each user who posted a photo of their shoeless feet on social media with the hashtag, TOMS would donate a pair of shoes, up to a total of 100,000.
These campaigns from TOMS reveal an important lesson:
Making customers view your brand positively is important.
Through emotional campaigns, you can influence audiences to have a positive perception of your brand and the products you sell.
If you want customers to buy your products, then you need to get them to remember your campaigns first.
But this is harder now than ever.
A recent study revealed that – thanks to smartphones – people may have an attention span of only about eight seconds.
So how can you keep customers thinking about you?
Glossier is a cosmetic retailer that uses a distinctive shade of pink as a cornerstone of its branding.
Pink has become so synonymous with Glossier’s brand that fans use the #glossierpink hashtag when they see the color in virtually any everyday item, regardless of whether Glossier made it.
Here’s what you find with the #glossierpink hashtag:
Glossier also shares posts showing that they understand the priorities and self-awareness of their fans, which transcends those fans’ differences as individuals.
Will customers get dewy skin if they use the product regularly? Will they get healthy, younger looking skin? Will it make their skin color lighter or tanner? Will it get rid of acne?
Whatever their needs, Glossier shares content in which the people in their audience can see themselves:
Don’t limit your brand and its product to one thing.
Instead, diversify your branding. Boast about the results that come from using your product. Or associate your brand with a color, aesthetic object, location, etc.
That way, customers can easily recall your brand – no matter the reason.
Customers detest pushy marketers and boring ads or messages.
So how do you catch their attention and transform them into brand advocates?
Create content that informs, delights, or entertains customers. Your initial goal is to build relationships with first-time customers – not to go for a hard sell right away.
Building relationships is important because you don’t want them to buy just once. Instead, you want to keep customers coming back to buy your product or service again.
You have to be your customer’s friend.
But how can you do this?
Chubbies is an e-commerce store focused on men’s shorts.
They understand that no one likes brands with obvious sales pitches, so they took an alternative route to become a brand people would want to hang out with.
Chubbies writes copy laced with witty humor and a casual tone, and offers customer service that surprises people and drives engagement.
In one campaign, the brand sent packets of Big League Chew gum to customers as a surprise. The response? Customers shared photos of the gum to Chubbies and their friends:
The brand also runs a weekly comedy sketch on Snapchat, which attracts hundreds of regular viewers:
What can we learn from their success?
Don’t be eager to sell. Instead, focus on building long-term relationships with your customers.
In addition, develop a personality that your target audience is fond of.
Are you selling to millennials, Generation Z, or baby boomers? Think about the psychographics of your audience. What characteristics resonate with them? Should you be cool, casual, or classy?
Think about the personality that would resonate with your customers, and consider adopting it.
There are different kinds of content, but all great content has one thing in common: it needs engagement.
You want customers to react to the infographic, blog post, or video that you created. You want them to click the “like” button or react with an emoji. And you want them to subscribe to your content or visit your website.
But how do you create engaging content?
Dollar Shave Club is a razor subscription service that knows how to market their product, and one of their strategies is to attract customers by using educational content.
They keep followers coming back for more using fun, playful, and visual content. For example, they use infographics to share interesting facts, and they create tutorials that show customers how to use shaving products depending on their skin and hair type.
They also create polls around their branded hashtag #DSCdebates. The branded hashtag is a great strategy, not only because it lets people know that it’s theirs, but also because it draws in a huge response as their focus shifts to age-old questions.
Dollar Shave Club’s success reveals an important lesson:
Content marketing is just as powerful for e-commerce as it is for B2B. Educational content and curiosity can entice followers to come back for more. After all, people love to learn interesting and unusual facts.
What happens behind the scenes shouldn’t always stay behind the scenes.
This is because showing off your team or how you create a product is great marketing material too.
Remember the last time you watched an interview with your favorite celebrity or artist? Do you like learning the juicy details about how they created their art? Do you want to see videos of their rehearsals? Would you like to get a backstage pass to their film or concert?
Understanding the hard work and effort behind a product or service can make customers value it even more.
Imagine you own a fancy restaurant. By showing customers the meticulous process of creating a dish, they may appreciate it even more.
Everlane is an example of an online retail store that emphasizes transparency in its production and sales process.
They use social media to strengthen relationships and humanize their brand. Their posts feature in-house employees and behind-the-scenes photos of product development.
This ties in with their brand’s ethical approach.
Everlane boasts that it finds the best factories around the world to create their products. This way, customers can rest assured that people who created the products they love get fair wages, work reasonable hours, and have a good environment.
The brand also sends selfies back to customers who interact with them on Snapchat:
Transparency can make your brand a lot more relatable.
How much does it take to create product X? How do you ensure that the product is safe? Who are the people who help create the product or service?
Let customers know what happens behind the scenes.
Now that you have an idea of what netizens want, it’s time to brainstorm your next campaign.
You can sell to your audience on social media by introducing user-generated campaigns, selling a lifestyle, and branding through emotional connection, education, and humor.
Remember to engage social users in a natural way. Don’t make them feel as if they are being sold to.
Got any ideas for your next social media campaign?
Let us know in the comments below.
Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote: a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors with targeted on-site messages. You can also find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.