Ecommerce stores have a particularly tough time attracting links because of the nature of their sites. Ideally, they should add a company blog to engage their customers and potential buyers and attract links.
Blogs are an investment, though, in time and money. So what can an ecommerce site do if they don’t currently have a blog and want to build an audience online?
Kim Garst is well known for her expertise in using Facebook for businesses. Today, she published How Any Business Can Compete With The Big Boys Using Social Media which contains good advice on how small businesses should get started with social media.
I’ll leave the tips on using Facebook to the Facebook experts. Today, let’s talk about groups, and more specifically, Google Plus groups, also called Google + Communities.
How Google Plus Groups Benefit eCommerce Sites and Small Businesses
Why groups? Because you get more traction for less time spent. Instead of trying to build your own audience one person at a time, you can interact with a large number of people you already know are interested in what you sell.
While Facebook and LinkedIn use the term “groups”, Google Plus chooses to call their groups “communities”. In this post, we will use these two terms interchangeably.
How to Find the Largest, Most Active Google Plus Groups
Google made it much easier for small businesses to find the best groups recently. This is easier to understand if I use a particular business as an example.
For this example I’ve chosen Facial Co., an online beauty store and skincare ecommerce site without a blog and with only 7 followers on Google Plus so far.
Below is a screen capture of their Google Plus page that shows Google highlighting four large groups related to what they sell.
Thanks to this new design change, business owners can easily view and join the most popular, active groups at Google Plus related to their business vertical.
We can see that at least three of the four suggested groups are highly relevant and have large numbers of members:
- Skin Care with 74,712 members
- Beauty and Fashion has 231,149 members
- Beauty and Makeup with 196,554 members
The fourth suggested group is simply Fashion! with 783,332 members. We don’t know whether they would specifically be interested in beauty products or whether this company would be interested in participating in their group until we click through to it and see what their members are sharing, liking and commenting on.
Clicking into the Fashion! community, we see that most of the posts are of clothes and shoes, but there are some about make-up that have comments on them.
Beauty and Makeup is a good choice because there are more shares on what they post. But Beauty and Fashion is the winner with more members and 375 +1s on their latest share (at the time of this writing).
How to Find More Google Plus Communities
After you check out the first four groups, click the “View All” link just above those four communities. Here is a screen capture of what we see when we do this from Facial.co.au’s Google Plug page:
As you can see, this is a very popular topic on Google Plus. All the groups have thousands of members. It should be no problem to find several groups that allow them to interact with their target audience.
But before you start interacting, keep reading. Do it wrong, and you’ll get bounced from the group. It can also impact your brand’s online reputation and how your customers feel about you.
Remember to Use Hashtags
We can see in this G+ post that Facial Co. made that they understand the use of hashtags to reach a larger audience. This is an additional strategy that reaches beyond a specific group or community to anyone searching for or clicking on that hashtag.
This post is large and colorful and uses humor. Both #happyhumpday and #midweekblue are hashtags intended to get more views on this share. It does have one +1 on it.
#midweekblue is a collection started by someone else while it looks like Facial.co.au hoped to launch #happyhumpday as their own. Find out more about Google Plus collections in Kristi Hine’s Social Media Examiner post How to Use Google Plus Collections for Business.
The Biggest Mistake in Using Social for Business
The number one thing business owners and managers get wrong about social media is being too self-promotional. The goal is not to immediately drive sales. The goal is to generate visibility and build relationships.
This has been repeated so many times that is it cliche by now:
[clickToTweet tweet=”People buy from people and companies they know, like, and trust. ” quote=”People buy from people and companies they know, like, and trust. “]
Yes, you do want to have business goals. But you cannot achieve them by pushing your products or site in groups. The way to achieve your business goals is to just be visible.
Trust in your business grows from you being friendly and interacting. Rely on your profile, header image and what you share on your own page to let other members know what you do and sell.
[clickToTweet tweet=”On social networks and especially in groups, you do NOT want to ‘always be selling’. ” quote=”On social networks and especially in groups, you do NOT want to ‘always be selling’. “]
You can share product photos on your own Google Plus page and occasionally share one into the groups where you’re active. What you don’t want to do is share in groups where they do not know you.
You also do not want to continually promote your own content while never interacting in anyone else’s. You have to give, give, give, before you ask. A good ratio is 90% sharing for others and 10% for yourself.
You MUST Read the Community Guidelines
Groups on Google Plus are called communities. Every community is different. Some only post their own information and what members to only discuss what they post themselves.
Other communities allow members to share content from their own sites or elsewhere. Before you ever share or comment, be sure to read the community guidelines.
Look to see who the owner(s) and moderators of the group are. They will often do things they don’t want general members to be doing and they can remove what they don’t like.
Observe what other members who are not owners or moderators are doing. Watch for a while to get a feel for the group before you comment.
Choose Wisely Which Communities to Join
Do not just choose the largest group with the most members. There are several things to check before choosing:
- Is the group still active? Look at the dates on the most recent shares.
- Are members actively engaging each other or just sharing and leaving?
What you find in niches online which also existed pre-internet years in niche magazines is that often you only have businesses in the same vertical posting to each other.
Are Your Groups All Sellers and No Buyers?
The people highly motivated to share online are those who benefit from it financially. You want to choose groups where people who would actually buy from you are active rather than groups where all the participants also sell what you sell.
There is nothing wrong with being involved in groups of sellers who share tips with each other. But if your goal is to find customers, a smaller group of customers is a better choice than a larger group of all sellers.
While other sellers may also buy, if you all sell the same kinds of products they are not your primary audience.
Social Media Is a Long-Term Strategy
What many businesses do not realize is that social media is unlikely to generate immediate sales. It is a long-term strategy for building your brand and audience.
Most do not have the tools or analytics set up to measure their ROI from social activities, but it is possible. Even for those who cannot attribute sales directly to social, know that getting your brand visibility is always a good thing. Over time, if done right it will generate more sales and traffic.