As e-commerce and social media become increasingly intertwined, many online sellers have begun using social networking site Facebook to market, and even sell their items. And why not? With 500 million active users—250 million of whom log into their Facebook accounts on any given day, according to the site—that's a lot of potential buyer traffic to your online store or listings!
In a recent AuctionBytes poll, 32 percent of respondents said they list items for sale on Facebook. Yet, many of these same sellers were unsure how to get their items sold on Facebook once they were posted.
What's more, some worried that posting their products on their Facebook Wall might annoy "friends," who would see the listings in their news feeds. Yep, it can happen—and we'll show you how to avoid this in Part 2 of this series.
But as a marketing and selling tool for your online business, Facebook's power is undeniable. So let's take a look to see how you can make the best impression on potential buyers.
Offer incentives for visitors to interact with your page so you'll continue to show up in their news feeds
Get 'prime real estate'
A Facebook user's news feed shows recent posts of the "friends" they interact with the most. When you have content or goods to market, this news feed is prime real estate, says Ellie Mirman, of Internet marketing site HubSpot Blog.
"So the question is, how do you make sure your content makes it [onto the news feed]?" she notes.
The answer, she adds, lies in the content you post on your Wall.
Of course, you'll want to post products you have for sale on your Facebook Wall, from time to time, but you should also offer other incentives for visitors to interact with your page so you'll continue to show up in their news feeds. These incentives could be special promotions or bargains, or simply interesting content, Mirman explains.
For instance, you could write a blog post about the latest bargain you found at a local yard sale, or that vintage toy you just sold for a higher-than-expected price and share the link to that blog on your Facebook Wall. That's as easy as clicking the "Link" icon at the top of the Wall and cutting and pasting the appropriate URL. You can also share photos or videos, or just post your own thoughts on your Wall.
If you sell cookware, why not share a delicious recipe you just discovered, which happens to cook perfectly in one of the pans you offer in your store or eBay listings? Just be sure not to come across as pushy. This way you won't bug friends who see your posting as an annoying commercial interrupting their news feeds. Instead, they'll see your blurb as information they can use in the kitchen or the next time they're at the grocery store.
A good way to find out what types of posts work best on your Facebook Wall is to use a URL shortening service like bit.ly that allows you to track the number of clicks each link or video is getting.
You should also strive to build a sense of community by interacting with visitors to your page. Ask questions to get a response and then respond to comments, Mirman suggests. You could ask something related to your store items or your product niche, or just take a couple of fun photos of yourself in goofy hats and ask which one looks better. If it's fun enough, friends and visitors might add the image to their own Wall, putting your page in front of a whole new batch of Facebook users.
As you're doing all of this posting, be sure to keep a casual tone. "Avoid jargon," Mirman advises.
Make your visitors feel comfortable by keeping your page, and its content, simple and reader friendly. And encourage customers to post their own content on your page. This includes user photos—maybe images of them with one of your items—as well as comments and links. Just be sure to moderate these so nothing shows up on your Facebook page that you wouldn't want others to see.
There's a lot of 'noise' out there, so it's important to say things that really matter to your audience
Mix up your content
ettitude, a site that sells a variety of environmentally friendly items for the home, offers its products right on Facebook. Phoebe Yu, the company's managing director, says she posts a variety of content on the company's Facebook page, from new products, to sales and special promotions, to news stories pertaining to environmentally friendly products. She also asks customers for their opinions on a product or topic discussed.
"Many say social media is a cost effective way to help sales and marketing, but I see it more as an effective way to communicate with your audience, to listen to their needs then react on that," Yu says. "With more and more companies using those tools, there's a lot of 'noise' out there, so it's important to say things that really matter to your audience. Then they will want to listen."
Special Facebook promotions the company offered last year proved successful, with many visitors also recommending them to friends, Yu notes.
"Last year before Christmas, we ran a campaign called '30 Eco Deals for 30 Days.' This campaign was quite a success," she says. "Our customer would check our Facebook page every day to see if there was a deal suitable for them that they can take advantage of."
While it's unclear how much of the company's sales come from its Facebook page, Yu knows at least 5 percent of the traffic to the company's site comes from the social networking site.
"I recommend every business that wants to interact with their clients more to have a Facebook page," Yu continues. "But [they] have to do it properly, not just create a page and only post something once a month or just try to hard sell. It's a platform to communicate with your customers better, thus to serve them better."
Apps to help you sell
Now that you know how to achieve that prime real estate location, let's take a look at some apps that will help you post your items on Facebook.
eBay Auctions is a tool aimed at eBay sellers that allows you to post eBay listings right onto your Facebook profile. With this app, visitors can view and comment on the items you post on your Facebook page and you can do the same. However, if visitors want to purchase or bid on an item, they'll have to go to the eBay listing.
eBay To Go lets eBay sellers showcase up to 10 items on Facebook, or any Web site or blog. The widget is free and you can decide how many items to show, and which ones. A nice feature of this app is that you can choose ahead of time which listing will replace another when it sells or expires.
Now, if you want to be able to sell items directly on Facebook—meaning buyers can check out right on the site—there's an app for that, too. Payvment is a free app allows you to open a store so shoppers can purchase your items right from your Facebook page. Currently, there's no charge to use Payvment, but you will be asked to provide feedback as you use it, to help its developers make improvements. Though still in the beta testing phase, the software is said to be among the top Facebook e-commerce platforms. And, according to the company's site, setup takes as little as 15 minutes, so it could be worth your time to check it out.
Another app called Marketplace allows you to post listings on Facebook's Marketplace (essentially an online classifieds site), rather than on your Wall. To post a listing, simply click the Post Listing to Marketplace button, enter what you're selling, enter the price (you can include a Best Offer option, if you wish) and decide who you want to sell to (everyone, or just friends). Then add a category, specify the item's location and enter an item description. If you choose to sell to everyone, your postings will be shown to Marketplace users in your area. Sounds easy enough, right?
These are just a few of the many apps available to help you get started listing your items on Facebook. We hope these, and the tips we gave you will help you feel a little better prepared to sell on Facebook. But if you still have questions, our next article will explain even more about how you can get the most marketing mileage from your Facebook page—without annoying your friends.