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Social Media Strategy for People Who Sell Stuff

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If you run an online store, your main goal is to sell stuff. (And if you connect your store to Mailchimp, we can help.) Social media is a great way to support that goal, but it’s a tricky line to walk. You need to promote your products to your fans, but you’ll lose followers if every post translates to “Buy this thing!”

It’s a seemingly obvious lesson, and one we learned the hard way when we launched Freddie and Co., our online store. We tried to mix things up in terms of social content, but had a lot of great product photography for our PINTRILL collection that we wanted to share. And share we did, much to one Facebook fan’s chagrin:

Way harsh? Nope, way fair. No matter how great your products and product imagery are, a feed full of “Buy me!” doesn’t make the best use of your store’s social media content (or your time as a business owner).

So why bother with social media at all if you’re an e-commerce business? For starters, it’s an easy, highly visible, and free way to broadcast your wares and whereabouts. Robust social media profiles are good for SEO, brand awareness, and directing traffic to your website, and they’re an invaluable way to connect with customers. What is SEO, you ask? Well read that article we just linked to to find out.

But your goals for social media should be different from your goals for email marketing. Yes, you can close sales there, but despite the rise of Buy buttons, most customers don’t log onto Twitter to make a purchase. For an increasing number of people, however, social media is the first stop on a purchasing journey. According to Deloitte, shoppers who use social media during their shopping process are more likely to spend more on purchases than non-users. About 4 times more likely, in fact.

Below, we walk through a few simple, doable social media posts for small online stores:

Content related to your products or industry

If you follow Mailchimp on Twitter, you’ve probably seen us share content from Litmus’ excellent blog. They do a great job of highlighting the latest in email design and best practices, topics that our audience is—literally!—invested in.

Your store’s loyal customers probably share some of the obsessions that fuel your business. Herschel Supply Co. makes bags that are great for travel, and their Facebook page features posts about fun international destinations. Muttonhead sells both bags and dog accessories, so a silly article about New Yorkers carrying dogs in bags on the subway is a natural fit for their timeline. Baggu’s wares are colorful and design-forward, so it’s likely that anyone following them on Twitter might also get a chuckle out of cheesy Benjamin Moore paint names. And over at Freddie and Co., we promoted our new line of Baron Fig notebooks with a nod to bullet journals.

A peek behind the scenes

Running a business takes a lot of hard work. Hard, photographable work. Social media can be a fun place to share a glimpse behind the curtain and humanize your brand. (Or tease new products!)

If you sell things online, you have to have product shots, and photo shoots are a fun backdrop for a post. Authenticity 50 sells bedsheets and home goods, and they posted a quick video of their creative team at work during a recent pillowcase photoshoot. We also played with that idea over at Freddie and Co.—when you convince models to stick their feet in the air in the middle of a public park, well, someone needs to get a picture for Instagram.

User-generated content

If you sell something that people love to use or wear, you’ve got a great opportunity for content. Chances are your biggest social media fans will delight in sending you photos proving their loyalty. Bask in it! And, where appropriate, think about repurposing those posts for your own feed. (Once you get permission, of course—and make sure you give photo credit.)

This kind of user-generated content does more than fill your calendar. It also lends social proof to your marketing. Babiators makes sunglasses for children, and their Instagram feed is full of tiny, happy customers. Here at Mailchimp, we give away a lot of hats for cats (and small dogs). So one of the real perks of working on our social team is seeing photos of cute pets wearing said hats show up on Twitter and Instagram. We see them often enough that it made sense to start a hashtag, #meowchimp, where we showcase irate buddies who will never trust their owners again.


While there are plenty of standard holidays worth celebrating on social—Thanksgiving, Halloween, and the like—there’s a whole world of less-familiar (or made-up) holidays that your brand can have fun celebrating on social.

If you’re a baked-good business like Baked by Melissa, National S’mores Day is a perfect time to share a photo of a s’mores cupcake. Best Made Co. is based in Canada, so it’s perfectly appropriate for them to celebrate Canada Day on Facebook. And temporary tattoo company Tattly made a Facebook album of potential costume ideas inspired by their products.

The bottom line

In social media as in email marketing, you’ll learn what content works best for your business—and bandwidth—through good ol’ trial and error. Hopefully, these ideas will get you started on the journey to an engaging feed. And remember, even if shoppers aren’t clicking your Buy button, they’ve chosen to become part of your community. That’s the first step on the road to selling them stuff.

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