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E-Commercial 2017: Ways social media can support your ecommerce business – Paul Ince

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

People say social media’s not about selling. But what do business owners want? Sales!

The first thing to understand is that everything in social needs an image. Even stock images can make a big difference.

The way marketing works is changing. It’s become much more human; much more personal. How can you personalise social media marketing?

It’s very important to use high-quality images of your products. What shouldn’t you do? Don’t take a picture of a cake that’s clearly sitting on an office desk! Think about the situation of your product. Where is it? What is the context of the product? This is easily applicable to fashion, but works across many industries.

A good way to do this is to put products in situations that people can relate to, for example, placing furniture in the context of a whole room. You can even advertise a whole series of connected products in the same picture this way.

Think about the keywords and hashtags that relate to the things that you’re selling. This applies to social media, not just SEO! Each social platform has a search mechanism and we need to think about this. Facebook, for example, is developing their internal search mechanism heavily because they want to keep you inside their platform. Look for developments in this area.

You have to understand what people are searching for and use those terms in your social post. Instagram is a great place to research your hashtags. It will show you keywords and popular topics. For example, if you sell dogs or things connected to dogs, #instadogs is the hashtag to use. It will mean you’re seen by more people. You can even use #ecommerce – we’re seeing real products on this hashtag.

Pinterest is probably the best social platform for ecommerce. Some features allow users to buy within the platform and reduce the customer journey. Next do a great job of making good posts on Pinterest – they use keywords and construct a narrative around them, not just listing search phrases. They also mention seasonal terms and other qualifiers, like ‘cute.’ Building out a description like this helps products be found. Getting the description spot on on Pinterest is crucial. Top tip – use models for clothing items, it adds context.

Another key feature of Pinterest is the visual search mechanism. You drag a square around on a picture, and Pinterest shows you other pins that it thinks look like the highlighted part of the original picture. It helps you find specific products from a photo of products in context. Make sure you have situated images and individual product images. This is Pinterest helping you increase your social reach!

Rich pins integrate Pinterest with ecommerce directly, helping them to pick up live pricing and stock information.

Instagram is visual. You need to take good pictures and they have to be very good. There are plenty of ways to use Instagram for ecommerce. Paid content is one, managed through Facebook, with CTA buttons that allow people to go straight to your ecommerce store and make a purchase.

If your pictures aren’t appealing they won’t do well for you on Instagram. Qualities already mentioned will help your pictures do well. Good quality, good focus, product situated in a realistic context (e.g. food in a pot in a kitchen).

Again, put clothes on real people in real settings. It helps to suggets a lifestyle that the product will suit or an outfit that the clothes will go with (naybe even selling more products as a by-product).

A carousel is another way to use Instagram. You can create interactive images that can work well together if designed cleverly. Carousels are immersive and encourage scrolling, which indicates to Facebook that you’re interested in the products on display.

Larger brands should look out for the ability to tag products within an Instagram picture. It allows you to identify products within images. Tapping on the appropriate part will show more detail and take you to somewhere where you can make the purchase.

Facebook has a series of useful features. Facebook Shop has some helpful features – if you don’t have the shop page, just tag an image with a product and set a description and hey presto you have a shop! When people look at an image, you’ll be able to say that these products are in the picture. At the moment, it relies on a lot of manual labour, that can be a bit of a ball ache (Ian’s words).

It will develop to the point where you can make the purchases through Facebook.

Shopify integrates well with Facebook, but you can also manually create your own store to sell products on Facebook.

If you’re on Facebook, it rewards brands that use its features. If you ever get access to a new feature, find a way to use it for your business. The key metric to look for is how long people stay within your content.

360 degree photos are interactive content items that will help people understand your products and engage with your brands. Facebook rewards you for engagement.

Twitter isn’t the first thing you think of for ecommerce. But the great thing is that it’s extremely conversational, so get involved in those conversations, whether it’s with your customers or other businesses. Be as brave as you can on Twitter. You’ll get away with a lot more on Twitter than you will anywhere else.

Again, think about what people are talking about in that sector. Strike up a dialogue and keep that going. They will eventually follow you, find out more and visit your ecommerce site.

User-generated content is great. Use it. Customers having a great time with your product is better marketing than you can ever do yourself because they’re authentic. They’re believable and they demonstrate that your product is great. UGC is just like testimonials – maybe even better! Influencer marketing is similar – it exists because consumers like seeing real people with a product. Try getting real people to generate this content for you

Most importantly, be able to deliver messaging that is genuine and human with your customers or people that might become your customers. Personal messaging is the future of social media marketing.

Business Insider showed that more people are using the top 4 messaging apps than use the top 4 social media platforms.

What does that mean? 63% of consumers say they’ve increased their use of messaging apps with businesses. 56% say they’d rather message a business than call for customer service. 61% of consumers say they like personal messages from businesses. >50% say they’re more likely to shop with a business that facilitates messaging than those that don’t. People want to communicate with businesses!

Sprout social says that 30% of consumers will go to a competitor if a brand doesn’t respond to them.

How do we respond? Start by getting involved and actually messaging people. If you need tools to scale that, chatbots are the thing to consider. We still don’t know how helpful chatbots are really, but it’s worth having a look into chat marketing. Tools allow you to create bots without any coding!

Chatbots can guide consumers through the process of selecting a product to purchase. Other chatbots work for services and bigger purchases, like an airline flight.

Hubspot shared some stats recently. Compared to email marketing, their open rates went up by 242%. CTR compared to email was 619% higher than email. It’s because we don’t mind messaging because it’s easy and it’s quick. We don’t have to invest much time in it and email’s just a bit annoying.

If people are opening messages compared to emails, maybe chatbots are the way to go.


  • Quality of the image and where you put it is key
  • Put images on a model in a situation
  • Consider the opportunity you have to talk to customers 1-2-1