Stephanie Inge is not only an e-commerce pro, she's also a savvy user of social media sites. As one of eBay's top instructors since 1999, she has helped thousands become better eBay sellers. In 2002, she became one of the first people in the nation to offer eBay classes at the college level.
In 2008, Inge began using various social media platforms to help market her eBay Store and classes and, in March 2009, she founded the DFW (Dallas Fort Worth) Social Media Marketing Group, which has grown to nearly 900 members. Aside from teaching others how to sell on eBay, Inge also coaches individuals and professionals in marketing and branding, and offers onsite and online social media training.
One must interact and establish themselves as an expert and develop trust, as today's audience avoids in-your-face advertising at all costs
Schepp: How has your thinking about the role of social media as part of a well-rounded marketing strategy changed over time?
Inge: I began experimenting with social media marketing in 2008 for my eBay and Amazon listings. Since then it has become the primary focus of my marketing strategy.
Schepp: What have you learned about how to effectively use social media?
Inge: One must interact and establish themselves as an expert or authority in a certain area and develop trust, as today's audience avoids in-your-face advertising at all costs. With social media, we tend to delete or block those who clog up our newsfeeds with spam and advertisements. For television, we use our DVRs, and fast-forward through commercials. With email, we create spam filters and delete the messages that manage to get through to our inbox. With smart phones, we have caller ID and voicemail, which can be ignored or deleted. And, finally, we have traditional junk mail, which typically gets thrown in File 9, aka the trash can. It's all about inbound marketing, where your audience and customers come to you, because they trust you and your expertise.
Share, but don't spam
Schepp: What are the most important things for eBay sellers to know about using social media to reach customers?
Inge: Encourage your customers to share your content and/or photos on their favorite websites by using the convenient icons provided by eBay inside every listing. It's as simple as including a call-to-action, and reminding them to use the three icons (Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest).
Next, it is of utmost importance to create a Pinterest account in your eBay Store name and relevant boards with the names of each of your eBay custom store categories. This drives traffic to your listings, optimizes your search engine optimization (SEO) and creates backlinks, which also helps with SEO.
Schepp: What have you learned about using Facebook as an eBay seller?
When someone adds a $ to their pin, it automatically adds that item to the Pinterest Gift Guide, where people can shop and purchase your items
Inge: Be cautious about spamming and posting your eBay listings. Create lists so you can separate customers from friends and family. Interact with your customers and show interest in their posts. Social media should not be one-sided, but rather an ongoing conversation. People do not log in to Facebook to be sold to, so follow the 80/20 rule. Make sure that your status updates are 80-percent helpful, useful or interesting and then you can mix in 20-percent marketing. Establish yourself as the Go-To Girl or Go-To Guy in your niche without sounding like a know-it-all.
Schepp: How about Twitter and Pinterest?
Inge: Pinterest is completely different and revolves around high-quality photographs and great captions that include relevant keywords. Twitter should be used to share articles, infographics, communication, and to establish yourself and further your brand.
Pinning for dollars
Schepp: Do you think Pinterest is mainly of value to people who sell things of interest to women, or could sellers of all types of things use it effectively?
Inge: At first, it was mostly women; however, businesses and men are a growing part of the audience. It is amazing and so different than any other social media site, so you know that all the others are trying to duplicate its look and feel. It's a visual experience and you don't have to know someone or even like them, because it's based on your likes, no matter what they are. Pins with $ signs get 60-percent more "repins" and "likes." When someone adds a $ to their pin, it automatically adds that item to the Pinterest Gift Guide, where people can shop and purchase your items. Pretty cool, and it's so awesome for SEO.
Schepp: Are there other social media sites that you use and, if so, how do you use them?
Inge: I use Pinterest every day and it makes a tremendous difference in the number of views and the sell-through rate on my eBay listings. I only use Facebook to post interesting articles and to interact with my customers.
Schepp: What have you learned about measuring the effectiveness of your social media efforts?
Most eBay sellers I know are not taking advantage of social media and I feel they are missing out on an amazing marketing opportunity
Inge: Pinterest now provides analytics; however, eBay Stores also provide us with a powerful tool, Omniture, and it also provides detailed traffic information, which shows us which site the click originated from.
Schepp: So strictly from a "bang for your buck" perspective, is the payoff there in using social media? Assuming you feel it is, can you cite any examples of sales emanating from your social media efforts?
Inge: I'm not sure if this is the answer you're looking for, but I conducted an unscientific experiment, where I posted five of my listings to Pinterest and left all the others as is. All five of the items that were pinned to Pinterest sold.
Social media does work
Schepp: What software tools, apps, etc., have you found to be most valuable in managing social media communications?
Inge: HootSuite is the tool I use.
Schepp: You're so well-connected in the eBay seller community. What have you learned from other sellers about using social media?
Inge: Most eBay sellers that I know personally are not taking advantage of social media and I feel that they are really missing out on an amazing marketing opportunity.
Schepp: What else would you like to tell Auctiva EDU readers about what you've learned about using social media?
Inge: Join a local social media Meetup group in your area, attend webinars and also Google Hangouts to continue learning and stay on top of the latest and greatest technology available. I am a strong advocate of lifelong learning and getting involved, which can only make you a better person and give you that competitive edge—necessary to succeed in any industry.
Schepp: Thanks, Stephanie!