Authentic connections between direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands and audiences are reducing acquisition costs for these agile retailers. Achieving authenticity requires DTC brands to provide increased personalization, and the best way to do that is through consistent social media engagement.
When it comes to eCommerce and DTC sales, certain social media platforms are rising above the rest. Social media retail features – otherwise known as social commerce – is on the rise on the leading channels, with Facebook and Instagram (both owned and operated by Facebook) leading the pack.
Initially, social media was a place for users to connect with friends and family. Today, friends and family want to talk to each other about their favorite products. Influencer marketing has altered the social media retail space in ways that has surprised marketers, especially in the past five years. Stats prove that influencer marketing is not a fad but a growing trend – one that is here to stay and impact the development of consumer engagement on social media.
For example, one of the main reasons that users engage on social media is to draw inspiration for their next product purchase.
The following five social media platforms are rapidly improving the online shopping experience. DTC brands can leverage these channels to increase their reach and sales through authentic engagement.
While it’s true that no social channel pumps out consumer conversions like Instagram, the reality is that Facebook runs the show, to include in-app Instagram/Facebook shopping, PPC ads, and even WhatsApp consumer communities.
Facebook has retained its worth through decades of technology enhancements online. And DTC brands selling on Instagram or Facebook nearly always start with Facebook for Business.
Instagram is a close second behind Facebook as the leading social media platform for eCommerce vendors. That said, Instagram as a retail space has grown at a faster pace than all other leading channels, to include YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest.
For DTC brands, Instagram offers some of the best visual posting tools of any other channel. Cross-platform integration with Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr make it easier for smaller teams to reach a broader audience.
Often overlooked, Pinterest remains one of the most user-friendly channels for consumer inspiration. Users create Boards (inspired by the vision board concept) for wish lists, to include dream home design, Christmas gift lists, decor ideas, and vacation planning.
Though somewhat slow to add social commerce features, Pinterest is catching up. And thankfully, the platform is so endearing to consumers that any new shopping update is always remarkably effective.
This year, Pinterest announced new UX updates for online shoppers, as well as better trackable metrics for online retailers.
In many ways, Pinterest is the free version of Google’s Shoppable Image Ads. Not only can you label individual products within a lifestyle image, but you can also add outbound links and price tags.
YouTube is the leading long-form video platform online today. Consumers increasingly use YouTube to find out how to do something. Among the most popular “how to” videos are:
DTC brands have also let their commercial creativity shine by composing hilarious or otherwise viral videos that can sometimes achieve as much ROI as your average Super Bowl commercial.
Owned by Google, advertisers can reach viewers with all the bells and whistles provided by Google Ads. These YouTube video ads are one of the most popular ways to repurpose successful influencer content and shrink video ad creation costs.
TikTok’s future remained somewhat uncertain in the summer of 2020 when the United States threatened to ban the app. But thankfully, no ban occurred.
Ironically, DTC brands didn’t let up on their TikTok activity last summer. Some brands even increased their post and ad frequency. Clearly, TikTok is doing something right for eCommerce.
@rhone @achievefitness Tip #1 of working out from home – “Don’t drop your weights!” #wheninrhone #foreverforward ♬ original sound – Rhone
TikTok is the leading social channel for short-form video and users under 30 years old. With a new Shopify partnership under its belt, Tiktok is bound to be one of the most influential social commerce channels over the next few years.
The definition of engagement on social media is simple.
Engagement occurs when a consumer interacts with one of your social media posts.
There are a number of ways for users to interact with social posts. And as these platforms become more intuitive, new engagement opportunities arise.
The simplest engagement is a post reaction (such as a like or heart). Comments and shares are generally considered to be premium engagements.
But on Pinterest, pinning a post to a board is an engagement. So are duets on TikTok. Technically, even direct messages (DMs) and link clicks are engagements. Anytime a consumer takes a moment to acknowledge your post by using one of the social features available on that platform, it counts as an engagement.
One of the ways that social media is empowering engagements is by catering to mobile devices. It is much easier to search and engage posts from one’s smartphone than it is from a desktop. Engaging great content is addicting, frankly. Mobile marketing is fully intertwined with social media today.
The trick to engagement is getting in the heads of members of your audience and learning what will spark their interest and generate that engagement. With enough consumer participation, your posts will produce ongoing user-generated content, boosting brand awareness and sales.
It’s important to recognize that people get on social media to connect. Users want to connect with other users, but they also want to connect with the brands that they love.
Search engine data also demonstrates that consumers long to learn. Brands that focus on providing digestible and engaging informative content nurture some of the best examples of engagement on social media.
The quality of your visual content helps consumers imagine what it would be like to experience your products and services for themselves. That’s why lifestyle images are the most effective ways to inspire consumers.
Through shoppable images, you can mix and match products, and on some platforms (Pinterest), you can even add price tags.
Influencers are among the best sources for lifestyle content that will inspire consumers. These posts are non-branded and are usually more affordable than hiring professional photographers and videographers.
Referral marketing today takes place the most on social media. You can leverage that referral power by incentivizing it with discounts, shoutouts, affiliate partnerships, and more.
It’s important to make your content easy to share and distribute among consumers. You can also encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews on your brand page. Fun contests and giveaways also encourage followers to promote your brand.
Nearly every top social channel offers free and powerful virtual tools that DTC brands can use to create new ways for consumers to engage. Currently, the most popular are live event streaming and augmented reality (AR) filters.
Instagram, for example, has a separate AR designer program called Spark AR. It’s free for users to download and customize their own branded AR filters.
Live events allow fans to interact with content in real-time. Hosts can respond to viewer comments and questions. These virtual event tools are completely free and contain few limitations. (For example, Instagram Live limits your event to four hours, but the platform does not limit how many live events you can run back-to-back.)
As a DTC brand, you have more control over your brand presence and product distribution.
Because of this, your brand is more agile than manufacturers and distributors. You have the power to experiment with various social media features and nurture authentic consumer engagement. Here are our top seven picks to help you get started.
Well-crafted videos with “how to” in the title are wildly popular today. These kinds of informative videos, reels, long-form written posts, and live events will elicit gratitude from a knowledge-hungry audience.
Even better, you can raise the bar on your audience’s industry knowledge. Informing your audience equips them to separate poor quality brands from the good ones.
Lastly, investing in content that is helpful gives consumers a snapshot of your customer service. Showing people how to do something relevant to your products and services is a great way to endear social media users to your brand.
Community management on social media is similar to the informative content approach above. But instead of posting informative content by itself, you actually create a virtual space for people to ask questions and help each other 24/7.
Facebook Groups are among the most popular ways to create a virtual community, as are WhatsApp, Slack, Snapchat, and Instagram messenger groups. To do this properly, your social media manager must focus on the problems that your target audience faces. Product pitching is not a priority (but is acceptable after you’ve built trust with members of the community).
Additionally, community management means making room for knowledgeable consumers and customers to help their peers. The main goal in community management is curation, not control. This strategy can generate lots of engagement for DTC brands if they know how to nurture the right kind of virtual environment.
Influencers are social media power users that have already demonstrated their ability to attract audience engagement. Not only will influencers expand your reach, but they can also teach your brand a thing or two about audience engagement.
Partnering with the right influencers will produce significant results, including ongoing UGC, conversions, and brand awareness. Influencers create amazing content, and they also maintain a strong social media community centered around a particular quality of life.
Feedback is a great way to create audience engagement. Polls are easy for social media users to respond to, and you can leverage those polls to better understand your followers.
Facebook and Instagram have excellent polling features for posts and Stories. TikTok also lets you add polls to your short-form videos. YouTube Poll Cards generate audience responses during long-form video presentations.
In-person marketing events are down due to COVID-19. But virtual events have no attendance limits, and no one has to travel.
Facebook and Instagram are the main Go Live social media platforms. But after completing your live event, you can reshare the video on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
When running a live event, make sure that the host or a helper is monitoring the viewer comments. Doing so will allow you to interact with engaged viewers throughout the course of the event.
Consumers love humor. Levity opens audiences up to messaging to which they may not have been open to before. You can even poke light-hearted fun at the competition (so long as you are accurate, genuine, and respectful).
The key to humorous content is that it needs to be truly funny. Attempts at humor leave a bad taste in the mouth of your audience. Use good writers and creators that know how to connect with social media audiences through tasteful comedy.
Not only are organic social media posts free, but they are also a breeding ground for paid content. Repurposing successful organic content (based on consumer engagement) can further expose that content to wider audiences and increase engagement and conversions.
Authenticity lowers acquisition costs and increases customer loyalty. When DTC brands invest in their social media engagement, they build authentic relationships with members of their audience.
The leading social media channels understand this, which is why they invest in better engagement tools. If you’ve not already done so, consider trying several of the suggestions above. Don’t be afraid to experiment with various tactics and refine your social media strategy.
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