John Lawson, founder of ColderIce Media, an e-commerce education, training and consulting agency, is a man of almost endless curiosity and powerful determination. After years of successfully operating first an eBay business and then an e-commerce business that spans all the major online channels, he turned his attention to social media to see if he could find the best ways to realistically use Facebook, Twitter and the like to make more money. He bases his practical and quantifiable recommendations on a very simple statement: "If it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense."
There's this fallacy that social commerce means getting people to like you and engage with you. It's only social commerce if you're making money through it
In the name of fair disclosure, Deb worked with Lawson to create his upcoming book, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs. The book will be published by BenBella Books and be available in just a few months. So our three-part interview is written with a bit of hero worship involved. After working with him for close to a year, both of us are thankful that he's willing to share his insights and knowledge to help other e-commerce entrepreneurs thrive and grow.
In Part 1 of this series we define social commerce with Lawson's help, and explain why you should make the effort to incorporate it into your overall marketing plan. Lawson also provides invaluable advice for how to start implementing social commerce. In Parts 2 and 3, we'll provide concrete advice for achieving quantifiable sales success through social commerce.
Schepp: John, how do you define social commerce?
Lawson: When we deal with anything in the realm of social commerce, just remove the social. If we remove the social part, all we have left is commerce and what is that? Commerce is trading goods for money. There's this fallacy that social commerce means getting people to like you and engage with you. It has nothing to do with the likes; it has everything to do with the sales. It's only social commerce if you're making money through it.
Schepp: Social commerce seems like such a big area to get your arms around. How should you start?
Lawson: Let's say you sell Art Deco picture frames. Go to the website SocialMention. Enter your keywords. From there, you will start getting mentions from most of the major sites. You can narrow mentions down to blogs and microblogs, and then you can start looking for the conversation. What are people talking about with those keywords? Then you start weeding it out for the actual conversations, getting rid of the sales pitches. Then you find the real conversations. And then you find your opportunity for listening to what people are saying.
You can see the questions people are asking and then create better product descriptions based on what people who use your products talk about
You have to learn how to speak to those people in those areas. If I were to just jump into the hip hop crowd, I would never have made the connections. The community would have seen right through me as someone who was trying to sell. I travel all over the world, and I'm the only American in that space. My first act is to stand there and get my bearings. I don't want to look stupid, so I watch and listen before I act. We can learn so much from watching what's happening. You can see some of the questions people are asking and then you can create better product descriptions based on what people who use your products talk about.
There's a reason we have two ears and one mouth. "Fast nickel, slow dime." You've got to slow yourself down.
Schepp: Taking a step back, is learning about and then using social commerce really worth the effort if you have little experience with using social media platforms in that way?
Lawson: Absolutely. You have to have some way to talk to your customers, right? The deal is, if your customers are on these platforms, it makes it a lot easier to start engaging with them and talking with them. The tools themselves are very robust. It's instantaneous. It's private when it needs to be, and public when it needs to be—and it's all right there at your fingertips.
Schepp: Can you give us an example of how you've made money using social commerce?
Lawson: I definitely will talk about how I use YouTube in a bit, but for now consider how I got to be this published author. It was totally through social commerce. I didn't do anything great. I just started sharing what I'd learned about social commerce through my own experience. From that, people came to know me, and when I tried to sell my book idea to agents and publishers, it was about proving the value of my social network followings.
If you're being genuine, you don't have to worry about what you're saying on each network. Who you are, and what you do should be consistent
It's a matter of having people know you, like you and value what you have to say. You have to figure that if this group of people feels that way, a larger group will also feel that way. It's about who you are as a business, as a brand, all of these things. And that's proven by your "tribe."
Schepp: We'll be focusing on selling throughout this series but can social commerce be used for other parts of the process, such as sourcing?
Lawson: Absolutely. That's a good point. When we're talking about social commerce, it encompasses all parts of your business. It's not just about selling. It's also about making contacts for business, sourcing products and so on. You can validate leads through social media. I go onto LinkedIn and vet them before I start spending my money. It's how I use it, so I have to assume people are doing the same to vet me.
You have to have a consistent story on any platform you're on. That just comes from being genuine. If you're being genuine, you don't have to worry about what you're saying on each network. You have your core message. Who you are, and what you do should be consistent. We already have an Amazon; you and I shouldn't try to be Amazon. We're in a position where we can actually leverage "not being Amazon." We want to be the ones who are there to help, give valuable information, support customers. We have that advantage, and using these tools can optimize that advantage.
Schepp: Thanks, John!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with John Lawson.