Power up your Social Commerce

Alison Battisby

by Alison Battisby

Posted on Apr 29, 2022

Host Will Francis is joined by Avocado Social founder Alison Battisby to discuss how marketers can take full advantage of the rise of shopping within social media platforms. From Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to TikTok, consumers are becoming ever more used to shopping in these environments and they look at brands that are doing it well, how to use videos and influencers, how to work with platform guidelines, and where it's all heading. 

To see some of these examples in action, you can watch Alison's webinar on Social Commerce.

The Ahead of the Game podcast is brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute and is available on all podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube.

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Podcast Transcript

Will: Welcome to "Ahead of the Game," a podcast brought to you by The Digital Marketing Institute. I'm your host, Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to Alison Battisby all about social commerce, the rise of shopping in social media platforms. And how we can capitalize on this increasingly normal consumer behavior to grow our own businesses. Alison is a founder of Avocado Social, a social media training and consultancy firm working with a range of brands to build more meaningful relationships with their audiences and drive business growth through social media channels.

Alison, welcome back to the podcast.

Alison: Ah well thank you very much for having me back again Will, I’m so excited to be here.

Will: It’s great to have you back and it’s a very timely topic. So let’s start by setting the terms. What is social commerce?

Alison: So social commerce is the process of selling products directly within social media channels. It basically means that the entire shopping experience, from discovering a product for the first time, to researching it, to the checkout process, takes place right inside those social media platofrms. It’s brilliant because it’s a frictionless customer journey, meaning it’s easy to follow through, from discovery to purchase. You basically see a product, you click on it, and you buy it.

Will: Yeah. Okay. That sounds good for people who are selling things. What platforms is that primarily happening on and where is it going to be coming soon as well?

[00:00:23]

Alison: So, social commerce is currently available on Facebook, Instagram, obviously both owned by Meta, TikTok, and Pinterest. Also, YouTube are developing something soon. They've been testing a few ideas and, you know, working on their social commerce product for a number of years now, but they haven't actually launched anything yet. So, I think it's about time we see something from YouTube because it really does fit well within their product. You know, you watch a video, and you see some products, and you decide, oh, I would like to buy those. So kind of is it strange that you can't do that currently? So, there's something holding up the launch of YouTube social commerce at the moment, but I'd imagine, and from what I hear, that is something they're really working on at the moment.

[00:01:20]

Will: Yeah, that would make a lot of sense. You're right. I watched loads of YouTube videos about products and it's always kind of links in the description, which isn't a great... I mean, it's okay. There's nothing wrong with that but it's not the best solution. It probably could be a bit smoother, tagged products at certain points in the video, things like that, I can imagine how it would work. I can also understand that, like, with any big established product, you know, fixing what's not broken always feels a bit risky. And I imagine that they wanna make sure they get it right...

[00:01:49]

Alison: Yeah.

[00:01:51]

Will: ...rather than, you know, disrupt the way that the world's most successful video platform works.

[00:01:58]

Alison: Absolutely. I think you're right, actually, if they launch something that wasn't quite right off, that would be terrible for that brand, particularly at the moment when so many people are comparing YouTube to TikTok, and Instagram reels as well. They're very much in that competitive space to grab as many eyeballs on their videos as possible.

[00:02:20]

Will: Yeah, and YouTube has been around since 2004. It's like the kind of, you know, the granddaddy of, you know, kind of real heritage social media brands. They're like one of the real established grown-up brands. So they can't be so experimental. You know, they can't take those kinds of risks I think with the platform, but yeah, it'd be interesting to see what comes down the line. And it's interesting that the platforms are all racing to make something happen here and get that right, it's not because they all make money out of that?

[00:02:50]

Alison: So the idea will be, I think, eventually that they will. At the moment, the platforms aren't making money out of social commerce, other than the opportunity for people to run ads. I think the way that we're seeing Instagram going, they're now pushing the opportunity for you to advertise your products within an area of Instagram shopping called shopping. So you've now got a shopping tab in your Instagram profile and you can run paid-for activity and choose that area as a placement for your ads. So it just gives them more opportunity to offer the paid advertising. But as far as I'm aware, the plan for Instagram will be that you will be able to check out your products and purchase them without leaving the app. This is something they're testing in the U.S. at the moment. And the plan is that Instagram will then take a percentage of that sale. So they're thinking about creating some revenue from actually the purchases that they are able to assist on the app. That has been in testing for over a year now in the U.S. There isn't an update from Instagram as to whether that's going to expand to other countries yet. And they're testing it with around 25 retailers. Some of the big ones, H&M, Kim Kardashians brands, even ones that where they are selling products that really do lend themselves well to purchases on Instagram. So we're kind of in an area right now where we're watching this space to see what happens. But the other platforms I mentioned TikTok, Pinterest aren't, you know, looking currently at direct ways to monetize this other than the paid advertising.

[00:04:52]

Will: Yeah. Okay. That's interesting. So it won't be kind of like the App Store model where it's 30% of everything you sell goes to the platform. It's more that they see this as just given us more reasons to spend money on ads. And that is happening. I mean, that's been happening for a while, isn't it, kind of product-based ads. And they're popular because, A, they work. It's a good way to promote products, but also B, it allows people to produce a lot of automated advertising where the product catalog is just a feed from which a load of automated ads are produced, right?

[00:05:32]

Alison: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, from the stats, I'm reading about social media advertising, everyone is looking to increase their budgets in advertising over the next couple of years. I think the latest stat I saw which was from the Hootsuite social trends report, where they interviewed 18,000 plus marketers, over half of them said they're looking to increase their paid advertising spend this year alone. So 51%.

[00:06:04]

Will: And even just, you know, in the last couple of years with the pandemic, that's happened, but the effect of then has been that it's become more expensive. So even though it's become more expensive, it's interesting to know that people still wanna spend more.

[00:06:19]

Alison: Yeah, that's true.

[00:06:21]

Will: So much to be gotten from it. Yeah.

[00:06:23]

Alison: It's interesting because when... Sorry, Will.

[00:06:26]

Will: No. Go on.

[00:06:26]

Alison: When you say it's become more expensive, it's not always the case sort of across the board. You know, it really does depend on so many aspects of your advertising.

[00:06:41]

Will: You know, I just mean that macro view of across the board, the cost of clicks appears to have been more expensive. But yeah, you're right. That can't be said for every brand and every industry, every type of campaign, I guess.

[00:06:54]

Alison: Yeah, exactly. But still, you know, Facebook does offer some of the cheapest cost per clicks online available.

[00:07:05]

Will: Yeah, no, absolutely. Right. Okay. So the platforms are up for it, the ecommerce sellers are up for it. There's all upside by the sounds of it, our consumers are up for it. Like, do you think...? From what we know, are consumers genuinely responding to social commerce and are they buying more stuff in social?

[00:07:25]

Alison: That's definitely a good question because, you know, there has been a lot of news around the fact that the physical shop is not yet dead and still, consumers are very interested to go and visit a shop to get that specific, personalized experience, or to try out products that they may be just wouldn't be able to try out online. You know, it is quite difficult when you're buying certain products to know, you know, are they gonna fit well, if they, you know, suit your interiors, just by impulse buying something. However, since the pandemic, that behavior of impulse buying has skyrocketed, and some of the stats that have come out around how many of us are now buying products simply to improve our emotions. Because of, you know, difficult periods that we're going through in the world, purchasing can sometimes just make you feel better, which I think we are seeing more and more of. In terms of the stats, the early stats are telling us that social commerce, yeah, it is increasing in terms of the sales and people are getting more used to the way that it actually works as well. So, I think more of us are exploring that shopping tab in Instagram, for example.

[00:08:52]

Will: Well, I suppose it's like that, if you look at the trajectory of the last 20 years of people buying stuff online, you know, I remember a time not so long ago when having meetings about whether people would ever buy anything on a mobile phone, you know, I'm talking about that seven or eight years ago. Like, well, you know, people don't buy stuff on their phone. They don't trust it. They need to be sat at their computer at home, probably thinking about it, seeing that the site's secure, that it's all legit. And that's the thing of the past. And similarly, now we're moving into a place where, yeah, people are just happy to one tap a product, just tap a buy button in Instagram and know that it's on its way to them and the Instagram's already got their debit card details, their address. And so it's about just that shifting of consumer expectations and what people are comfortable with really.

[00:09:45]

Alison: Definitely. And the pandemic has changed so much of that, hasn't it? You know, people who weren't even trusting an online grocery order and now, you know, doing online grocery orders with no plans to go back in store. In terms of the U.S. market, so I can see stats in the U.S. that in 2020, social commerce buyers grew to 80 million. And it's anticipated that this year, 2022, that will increase to 96 million in the U.S. So yeah, it's on the rise. Sorry, and 8 and 10 U.S. businesses anticipate selling on social media within the next three years. So it's something which businesses are planning for as well.

[00:10:40]

Will: Well, that's true. And, you know, it's an obvious thing to say. It has been said a million times. But yeah, clearly what happened in the last two years is that any business that wasn't selling its stuff online has, you know, realized that that was really important to sort out and get on with. But it doesn't work for every business, does it? Because there are certain businesses that can't use social commerce. Just tell us quickly about that.

[00:11:07]

Alison: Yes, so each of the social media platforms does have its own sets of policies and guidelines, which, unfortunately, means that it's not smooth sailing for every single business. You know, some of the obvious ones that you can't sell. You know, alcohol, for example, they're not allowing you to sell on many of the social media sites, all of them in fact. Some animal...

[00:11:35]

Will: The services. You know, soft products, like with my... What I do, like selling, you know, tickets to workshops, you can't do that. You know, you can't use social commerce, which is quite frustrating for perfectly legitimate, you know, non-physical product businesses.

[00:11:53]

Alison: Definitely. So they are a bit funny about digital products, like you said, and ticketed events and also subscriptions as well. So many of the social media platforms don't allow you to sell these items. And the other area, which I tend to get a lot of headaches within is healthcare. So, they are not allowing you to promote healthcare products and services, which you think okay, yeah, I get it, prescription medicine, you know, you shouldn't be able to buy that on Instagram. But they are being so sensitive around this, that even products, like a client of mine was selling some Matcha teas and specific tea, and that got banned because it was seen as a healthcare product that was, you know, making promises about your health.

[00:12:45]

Will: Yes, beauty products, there's plenty of those that might fall into that category, kind of, you know, creams and lotions and things.

[00:12:52]

Alison: That's it. I get it, there were a lot of scam products, particularly around the beginning of the pandemic that were claiming to, you know, cure COVID, etc. But it is very frustrating if you're a legitimate business selling healthcare products or products that you don't even see as healthcare but Instagram or Facebook does. So, unfortunately, you may find that even if you've got your shop set up, your items that you wish to sell start to become rejected as well. Gift cards is one that doesn't work, as well as if you wanted to sell a gift card. You know, if you're a restaurant or a fashion brand, it's annoying you can't tag that in your Instagram or Facebook shop either.

[00:13:40]

Will: Got it. Yeah. And in terms of the appeal process, I mean, as I understand it, there's not really much to be gained there. Generally, if if your product is banned, then that's it really, end of story really, isn't it?

[00:13:57]

Alison: Yeah, you will get an email saying your item's been rejected. And it will often tell you why, kind of which policy it doesn't particularly comply with. There is an opportunity to dispute that claim, which means that an individual will actually look into it. But I must admit, I have never had any success disputing these, and often, that's just the case. Yeah, you just have to live with it.

[00:14:27]

Will: Okay. So what kind of business and products does this work best for and why?

[00:14:32]

Alison: So, good question. I think really, it is those kind of lower-cost products that you may purchase on an impulse. So, generally speaking, less than $100 in terms of pricing. You know, obviously, there can be anomalies to that. Sorry not health, fashion, beauty works incredibly well, particularly on Pinterest and Instagram, jewelry, apparel, books, not e-books, sorry, because that would be a digital product, but books, food, and drink as well. So obviously alcohol banned, but, you know, people might be buying, you know, some nice seltzers, which are very popular at the moment on Instagram or, you know, some peanut butter or something like that, you could obviously sell via your Instagram channel, video games, and video game accessories. Yeah, you know, home and garden, lifestyle products, home interior products. So quite a wide range of things really. What it doesn't work for is what we've said services. So, very, very difficult. If you're a B2B brand, a business-to-business brand looking to sell your products and services via social commerce, I would say this isn't really the place to be doing it. You'd wanna be thinking more about your strategy on LinkedIn, Twitter. Instagram does work for B2B, but in a different way, you know, you've got to be offering some sort of value through your content, rather than relying on tagging items in a shop.

[00:16:22]

Will: Yeah, I mean, it sounds to me the way you've described that slew of products that work well, they're things that I would want rather than need. They sound like aspirational products, the kinds of things that would jump out at me and say, "Oh, I really like that." You know, it's not gonna be stuff that's essentials, let's say, things at home and garden, things for, you know, to wear oneself or to gift to others. There's kind of nice little extras in life that are like you say, sub $100 off. And I imagine a lot of them more down leaving the lower end $20, $30 type purchases.

[00:17:04]

Alison: Yeah, definitely. And so much of that will be driven by you seeing someone else's got it, right? An influencer, a friend. Not necessarily the brand itself promoting that.

[00:17:18]

Will: Well, tell me about that. You know, when using the catalog to drive ads, is it better to just show product shots or is it better to show kind of lifestyle shots, maybe even influencer shots? Like, what's the best way to actually display your wares using social commerce?

[00:17:42]

Alison: Great question. I think, for me, I'm finding across our clients, that it's the lifestyle shots that are selling the products, rather than your typical product, you know, Amazon shot, for example, the products on a white background. I try and avoid that. People want to be able to picture how your product can be used in the home, you know, in situation. Also, you mentioned user-generated content or influencers creating content. So thinking about whether any of your customers or influencers have created some great shots that you could utilize in your posts or even in your shop to showcase how this rug might look or how this lipstick might look. And that really does help with purchase motivation because it is that sort of, you know, that social power of someone else having this product. It works well for them. They're recommending it there. It's authentic. They trust it. And therefore, it increases your own trust and opinion of that product as well.

[00:19:00]

Will: Yeah. And I mean, that mirrors a big shift I've seen in the last year or two to brands posting less of their own content and more UGC and influencers content and relying, in some cases with some brands, really heavily on that. You know, if you look at this brand in the UK, one of the biggest restaurant chains, Wagamama, I mean, almost all of their content now is UGC, because they've realized there's no need to create your own content. You don't need to. And I can imagine for similar reasons why that works well in ads. You know, it's hard to talk about this without using, you know, words like authentic and what have you, but it is, it's more authentic and it feels more real. And we can just picture ourselves there using the product ourselves and we feel just much more likely to actually engage with that product and ultimately buy I think.

[00:19:57]

Alison: Yeah, absolutely. I'm thinking about actually the user experience. So if you do tap on that shopping basket in Instagram, and you head into the shopping tab, if you just saw kind of boring product shots on white backgrounds, you're probably not gonna click on them. Whereas if you see, you know, someone's amazing living room with some great furniture that looks interesting or somebody has laid out their outfit that they're going to wear for the day, and it features that lipstick or that pair of jeans, it's far more accessible. So you're probably going to click on that and explore that rather than the standard product shot photo that we're used to seeing. That's not to say that there isn't a place for those standard product shots. I would recommend if you were creating content for your shop itself. So if you're, for example, uploading content into your Instagram shop, you should create a mixture of lifestyle and product images. Instagram recommends that you have at least four images per product. So that gives you the opportunity to have a nice blend of UGC, maybe influence the content as well and those standard product shots.

[00:21:12]

Will: Yeah, that's good advice. Okay. So it sounds good. Which brands are doing this? Which brands are nailing this, do you think, as particular examples?

[00:21:23]

Alison: Oh, there's tons. Like if you have a look in the kind of beauty and fashion space. I think some of the big ones for me, I'm always looking at not on the high street. I think they do it really, really well. In terms of fashion, you know, H&M, Nike, really utilizing their shops, Anthropologie, both in the U.S. and in the EU, working really hard on the way that they lay out their shopping experience. Marks & Spencers working well at creating tags across Pinterest, and doing some really nice things there. Also on TikTok, you've got brands like Kylie Cosmetics, which is of course, Kylie Jenner's huge beauty brands now. And she's using shopping tags on her TikTok, which was kind of one of the... I think she was one of the early adopters. Gymshark, which is the apparel brand, which started here in the UK, but it's huge in the U.S. as well. They're really utilizing both TikTok and Instagram for promoting their fitness apparel...

[00:22:39]

Will: And their entire content... All of their content's from influencers, they're an interesting case, that you will not find a single brand image that's not from or with an influencer. So really interesting.

[00:22:51]

Alison: I know it's mad, isn't it? And they're very clever because they will organize shoots where they'll invite their ambassadors along. So if you're a Gymshark ambassador, you know, you're a PT, you get to come along to one of their shoot days, where they've got all their latest outfits available for you to wear, plus, they've got all the gym equipment in this warehouse that they've rented out in East London. And that just allows these content creators to create a huge amount of content in the fresh new outfits. So I think that's just a really clever way of launching new ranges.

[00:23:36]

Will: That's interesting. So they actually set up essentially content creation, like paradise for the exact people for their influencers. And they set up a warehouse, loads of cool gym equipment, loads of cool clothes, come along, use it all for free, the ambassadors or influencers get loads of content for themselves out of it. And part of the deal is obviously, you know, the brand gets to use one or two of those shots in their own Instagram.

[00:24:04]

Alison: Yes. And most of them are video challenges, actually because of course, when you invite a ton of fitness influencers into one space, they're gonna get a bit competitive with, you know, lifting weights or who can do what. So yeah, it is the perfect strategy for them. But I've seen, you know, other brands do this with other iterations. For example, Taylor's Coffee a couple of years ago, I noticed them doing a photoshoot in a hotel with a load of influencers that they had invited along and they'd actually run a kind of photoshoot workshop for the influencers for free so they could create loads of content and they're all, you know, drinking the Taylor's Coffee. So there's some really nice ways that you can create that kind of content. I think...

[00:24:55]

Will: I mean, totally. I think that's actually just as a total aside. You know, even here in my hometown, which is a tiny town in the North of England, a local boutique clothes shop had a little fashion show, like, we're talking seriously local scale here, used to have a little fashion show, and a few people, you know, just doing a bit of a catwalk thing, a few glasses of Prosecco and some local influencers. And I thought, actually, that's great. I mean, you can do this stuff on a really small scale. Just create something that's interesting and that everyone gets something out of, you know, the influencers get something out of. They get a content creation opportunity because that's what these people need. Like, that's their bread and butter. Every day, they're like, right, what can I take photo and video of today? And so I can do it on any scale that I think. Anyway, that's an aside. Okay. That all sounds good. Let's get into the nuts and bolts of it even more, if that's okay. So people listening are gonna be thinking, right, I'm sold, how do I get into this? How do I get started? What are the first steps in just getting started with social commerce for a business? What do I do?

[00:26:12]

Alison: Well, the first thing you do need to make sure of is that you're using a business account on each of these platforms. So, on Instagram, that's a fairly easy switch to make in your settings if you're not doing so already.

[00:26:24]

Will: What's that one question that you get asked every time when you mention that to people about switching to a business account? Like, will the algorithm penalize me and will they...?

[00:26:34]

Alison: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Is that all chestnut or will it cost me? Will it cost me?

[00:26:41]

Will: And what's your answer?

[00:26:42]

Alison: As far as I've tested, no, the algorithm won't penalize you. And the benefits far outweigh any risk to you being penalized in the newsfeed. So for example, the access to insights, advertising, shopping, you know, these are things you can't do on a personal account. And it just gets frustrating if you can't look at your insight. So you can't boost a post.

[00:27:10]

Will: No, I agree. Yeah.

[00:27:12]

Alison: Yeah. What do you think? Well, have you seen anyone being penalized for switching?

[00:27:16]

Will: No. I think with these kinds of things, you know, there are these sort of semi conspiracy theories, I think. You know, look, the reputational damage to Instagram, if it was ever found out, if anybody could prove that that was the case, and the reputational damage to Instagram as a platform, it wouldn't be worth it, it just wouldn't be worth it for them. So the incentives aren't there for them to penalize people switching to business. They want people who have businesses to switch to being businesses, spend loads of money on ads, and improve Instagram's bottomline. So why would they jeopardize that? It just doesn't make sense.

[00:27:48]

Alison: It doesn't.

[00:27:49]

Will: So, that's my answer to people. But okay, so, yeah, switch to a business profile, and then what's the next steps in sort of getting involved with your product feeds?

[00:27:59]

Alison: Yeah. So, there's a couple of ways that you can get your product feed from your website across to the social platform. On Instagram or Facebook, it's called a catalog. So you can upload a catalog that already exists on a partner platform like Shopify, or maybe you use BigCommerce, WooCommerce. So they're some of the big ones that you may have heard of, but there's actually a long, long list of platforms that they do support as a partner. So you would set up your catalog in a section of Facebook Business Manager, which is called Commerce Manager. So if you're using Facebook Business Manager, or as it's now been renamed, the Meta Business Suite, you can log in, find your Commerce Manager section, head to that. And that's where you can set up your catalog, which can be created using this data source from Shopify, for example. So there'll be a long list of partners you can select from. Now, if you're not using a data source, don't worry, you can upload a catalog manually. Obviously, this is gonna take a little bit of time, because you're gonna have to start uploading each product one by one, giving it a name, giving it a description, giving it a price, uploading four images. However, my advice would be why not start with 10 products, with 10 bestsellers, see how effective that is. And then decide whether you're going to spend that huge amount of time uploading your catalog manually. So that's something a couple of my clients have tried too much success actually, you know, putting their best sellers up and promoting those first and then expanding as and when they can see that purchases are happening. So both fairly straightforward to do on Facebook and Instagram. On Pinterest, it's a little bit more work. You actually have to apply for what's called Rich Pins. So Rich Pins is a service which Pinterest offers, which has a number of different benefits to it. Once you have access to Rich Pins, you can add pricing details to your pins, you can add recipes, you can add even more information into your pins. But this actually means going to a section of the Pinterest Help pages and filling out a little application form. And once you get applied or approved, you then need to put a little bit of code on your website. And that means that Pinterest will be able to read all of the up-to-date information on your website around pricing, around which products are sold out, which ones are still available. So yes, it's a bit of setup work, but it pays off, because in the end, you won't have to end up updating prices and availability because it's all updated for you automatically.

[00:31:01]

Will: Yeah, that's clever. I've used WooCommerce, which is WordPress's e-commerce platform, and there's a plugin for WooCommerce. And it can just automatically sync your products from WooCommerce, just automatically syncs them to your Facebook catalog, and also Google Merchant Center as well in one go, and keeps them in sync over time. So, yeah, there are a lot of easy solutions for those of you who are not like massively tech-savvy. Okay, yeah, that sounds like a good start. And then I suppose, so you can tag products in organic posts and in ads, right?

[00:31:45]

Alison: Yes. Yeah. And one thing I didn't mention now was on TikTok, they've opened up the ability for you to be able to add tags to your TikTok videos, but only if you're using Shopify, so...

[00:32:02]

Will: Yes, because they've got a partnership with Shopify.

[00:32:04]

Alison: That's it, TikTok's just supporting Shopify, rather than giving you that huge option at the moment.

[00:32:12]

Will: Yeah. Well, it's worth mentioning at this point on the DMI library, you can find a handy toolkit to help you upload your catalog to Facebook. It's got everything you need to know there. And the link is in the show notes for this episode. Okay. Well, that's the kind of nuts and bolts bit sorted. Now we wanna start selling stuff. We've talked about this already but just if you have gotten... I know we've kind of covered this, actually, but anyway, if you've got any remaining tips for actually driving sales, like, if we really get to the, you know, heart of the matter, what are the top tactics for driving sales?

[00:32:52]

Alison: I think, first of all, it's making sure that your shop content obviously looks good but it's got their relevant information that somebody might be looking for. Where is it available? You know, what is that detail about delivery? What about color, size, material? Making sure that you've got all of the attributes there in that landing page, so that if you have got so far and you've worked so hard to get somebody to that product page, you don't want them to sit there and think, "Oh, there's no information for me here," and just click away. So you wanna make sure it's all clear and available. And as I said earlier, at least four high res images for each product, that, again, helps to add to credibility. I never trust a product, which just has one picture. I think you gotta see those different angles. You've gotta see the lifestyle images as well. So making sure that your products look good within your shop. The next part is actually starting to integrate those shopping tags as part of your organic content. So, when you are thinking about planning out your content for social media, how many of those posts will contain the shoppable tags? Ideally, one in three would be my suggestion, just so somebody doesn't have to scroll too far in order to see a shopping tag. Featuring UGC, we've talked about quite a lot, but making sure that you are demonstrating that authenticity. And then the other thing as well is making sure that you're responsive. So if somebody does comment on a post, "Oh, I love that. Do you do that in green?" You wanna make sure that you're there, you're answering questions. You're offering valuable information. The number of times I see interested customers leaving comments, this is sold out. "When are you next getting your stock back in?" And the comment goes unanswered. And you just think they could have made a sale there, but they've ignored it or, you know, haven't given it the chance to be replied to. They've not been checking their notifications regularly enough. So, being responsive as a customer service brand as well is very, very important for social commerce.

[00:35:22]

Will: Yeah, good point. I know we've talked about it a bit already but what role can influencers play in this and how can they...? You know, thinking about kind of brand partnership, functionality on Instagram, I mean, is there any other kind of ways that influencers can help us drive results in social commerce?

[00:35:42]

Alison: Yeah, I think it's interesting to see the way that influencer marketing has developed, where we see now influencers becoming affiliates. So, making their own payment, their own money, their own revenue off promoting a certain product. And I think that works really well for motivating the influencers to create the best content for the brand possible and to mention them multiple times. So I follow quite a lot of fashion and lifestyle influencers. And you do see... You do trust them when they are affiliates because you know that they have only agreed to be an affiliate to a brand that they truly believe in or you'd hope that they would, if they're a genuine influencer, then they are quite choosy now about brands that they work with and, you know, will pick brands that fit their morals and beliefs. And so I think that's a really interesting way that you can evolve your influencer marketing scheme. Rather than just paying for a post, as it were, why not actually offer the influencer the chance to make some revenue on each sale that they make. And that would be done via trackable links that you offer the influencer to share so that you can see exactly how many people are clicking on that link and then purchasing that product as well. Now, that actually is a little bit different to what we've been talking about social commerce-wise because you are driving people off the app to make the purchase. But currently, there isn't really a way to be able to do affiliate marketing within the app via social commerce. So again, another development that I think that we will probably see. Influencers they do see higher engagement rates, typically, than brands do. You know, people are following more influencers, particularly on Instagram and TikTok. And I do think that they can be incredibly effective for sharing your brand message. But of course, there's some things you need to be aware of choosing the right influencers, doing your due diligence to check that their engagement rates and their followers are genuine, and also adhering to the rules. You don't wanna break any rules out there around, you know, what you should and shouldn't say in an influencer post. And the key one to remember is any influencer work that you do does need to be correctly labeled and made clear that it is an ad if the influencer is making payment, or if they've been gifted complementary products, they do need to make that clear as well.

[00:38:38]

Will: Yes, and just to be clear, you know, influencers can tag your products in their post in the way that you can. Influencers can't draw on that catalog-powered functionality, right. You know, it's only you that can tag your products in your posts as the brand.

[00:38:56]

Alison: Yeah, that is currently the case but I am wondering whether that will change.

[00:39:01]

Will: Yeah. And in terms of just using influencers, like, what are we paying for? You know, and are we saying that we are paying influencers but also offering them some sort of kickback if they drive sales as well?

[00:39:18]

Alison: Yeah, so I think really, it does need to be kind of dealt with on a case by case basis depending on how powerful that influencer is. The larger influencers, yes, they probably will require payment as well as product. But if you think the opportunity is there, you know, ask them for some case studies of previous brands that they've worked with. Look, ask them to share their stats. You know, you're well entitled to see this if you're planning on paying them. Alternatively, if you are not paying them, then you would simply be looking for some sort of kickback in terms of, you know, you want to be able to prove that their post is getting engagement, getting views. So you could ask them if you wanted to share their stats post-campaign as well. Just try to think of other ways that we work with influencers. So, it can be so bespoke. You know, some influencers, you're simply looking for them to create some amazing content. A lot of influencers are so confident at some of the newer features like reels, and you might not be yet. So, you could use influencers to actually create content for you that you then post on your feed.

[00:40:42]

Will: Yeah, and I suppose with the social commerce thing, you know, the logical way to use influencers kind of like the way that Gymshark do, where it's about bringing influencers into your content, giving them a hand in the creation of that content, you know, but ultimately, the content is then published on your channel, could be also published on the influencer's channel. That's fine. That helps with exposure. And that's all great. But we're using content that essentially is driven and created by influencers. And so it just looks better. It looks more appealing, and we've got our products tagged in it. And it goes out from our channel. I suppose that's the logical way to do it. And then we're kind of paying the influencers for the content creation, as much as anything.

[00:41:24]

Alison: Yeah. And then to take that one step further, you can then boost that post, for example, or run it in an ad. So, yeah, I think yes, just simply using the influencer as the creator, which interestingly is the terminology which Meta and TikTok are moving towards now, away from the word influencer and more towards the word creator.

[00:41:47]

Will: Yep, noticed that. And I suppose you you could boost that post and you could target it indirectly. You could target it at the influencer's audience, depending on how you feel. You could do that if they're a big enough influence. So they might come up as an interest in detail targeting or if not, you know, you could find other ways to do that, perhaps. But yeah, no, there's definitely an intersection there between influence marketing and social commerce. Right. And I know we've only got a few minutes left. So is there any point in doing this without ads? I mean, this seems like pretty reliant on ads to build up any steam or bring in sales, right?

[00:42:35]

Alison: I think you could experiment with some other ways of doing this. So something that actually came up in the webinar that we recently did on social commerce for the DMI was the topic of live videos, live videos on TikTok. And this is something that is becoming a bit of a phenomenon, people going live, almost like a QVC shopping channel style, where they are promoting products. And those live videos contain tags. And they are virally and incredibly powerful piece of content, which you don't need advertising revenue behind. So there are certainly ways you could experiment with these newer forms of social shopping. And the other one is, you know, when certain clients of mine or businesses that I'm talking to maybe don't have the spend, the budget to put towards ads. The other kind of growth option that I would normally go to is running a competition or a promotion. So that could be something that you look to do. And then obviously all those people that didn't win the product could potentially then be interested in actually buying it. So you could then go into a bit of a posting schedule featuring that product, you know, tagging it in certain posts after the competition has taken place.

[00:44:06]

Will: Yes. Good tip. Okay. Cool. Well, one last question. I don't know if we... Again, we might have covered it but one last question for you is, you know, what does the future hold for social commerce? Like, where's this going to end up, do you think, in the next few years?

[00:44:24]

Alison: I think judging by what we're seeing in the developments around social commerce is it's going to be far more common for consumers to make purchases within the apps themselves, rather than going to the websites. I'm not saying websites will be dead. I think there's still a very large section of the population who will want that credibility of going to a website. And of course, there's the users that aren't discovering those products on social media as well, who are coming in through Google or email. I think we'll see more of that. And also, I think there'll be a huge development with this live video tagging. So, YouTube, I expect will launch the ability to tag in products within live video. I think Instagram will go that way. TikTok's already doing it. So using video as a way to promote your products is an area which I'm really interested in to see how that will expand.

[00:45:26]

Will: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, look, our time is up, I'm afraid. But that's very interesting. Very, very interesting. And just to remind listeners, again, you can also go and watch the webinar on the DMI library that Alison presented a few weeks ago, which has some visual slides as well to kind of bring this stuff to life. So there's a link to that in the show notes as well. Well, Alison, thanks so much. Actually, one last thing, just remind our listeners where they can find and connect with you online.

[00:46:01]

Alison: Of course, so my website is avocadosocial.com. I'm Avocado Social on most of the social media platforms. But I also do run a Facebook group as well, which is for social media marketers, almost 5,000 people in the group now. So if you'd like to come along and share some ideas and tips, and just get involved in some chat around social media, you can find that by searching for Avocado Social Media Hub on Facebook. And that's completely free to join.

[00:46:32]

Will: We will do. And I recommend, and I am a member. And it's great. People ask lots of really interesting questions about issues they're having with social media marketing. You drop in from time to time announcing some new features that you've spotted in apps and platforms. So it's great. It's a really good place to learn and share. So, yeah, I can recommend that as well. Well, thanks so much, Alison. I really appreciate your time and your insight and hope to chat to you again soon.

[00:46:59]

Alison: Fantastic. Thanks for having me.

[00:47:00]

Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training, head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening.

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Alison Battisby
Alison Battisby

Alison is a Social Media Consultant with Avocado Social, she is a Facebook and Instagram accredited social media expert and founded Avocado Social in 2014 having worked in the social media industry since 2008. Alison has worked with a wide range of brands including Estee Lauder, Tesco, and Pringles. Alison has traveled the world training companies including the BBC, Etsy, Canon, and Cambridge University Press. She offers social media strategy, training, and consultancy at Avocado Social across platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok. 

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