By Fabio De Bernardi, Wishpot.com

You’ve heard of social media and it’s likely that you’re engaging with it in one form or another, either through your business or on a personal level. However, I suspect like many businesses you think entering the fray of social commerce, engaging directly with your target audience, creating fans and followers is just a step too far and perhaps only for the big guns? Well, not so!

What’s in a name? Social Commerce indicates the use of social media in the context of e-commerce, thus allowing an enhanced and collaborative buying/browsing experience to shoppers and offering new ways to online retailers and brands to engage with their audiences and merchandise their products, both from their own website and through social networks.

There are over 400 million Facebook users worldwide, over 20 million of them become fans of pages each day, 70% of them engage in platform applications every month and five billion links (blogs, videos and web links) are shared every week. And that’s not to mention Twitter, which boasts over 55 million monthly visitors and tends to engage with an older adult user than the broad outreach of Facebook. With these figures the opportunities are obvious.

If people are interested in your business and have bought from you more than once than it’s likely that they will want to come back to you again. The question is how do you make your presence from a social commerce point of view known to them and how do you get them to engage with you through it?

Facebook fan pages enable businesses to offer incentives, discounts and promotions to their most loyal audience, attracting in turn larger numbers of fans. It’s a simple yet now well-practiced way of creating and sharing positive feedback on services and products all of which are viewed as independent endorsements of your business.

From this you could even host a Twitter party! Yes, it might sound a bit American for us Europeans but it’s a beneficial marketing tool to engage with consumers and build customer rapport. A Twitter party can be anything you want it to be; a focus group, an event, a contest, or just a place for people to talk about the days events. If hosted properly, a number of things can occur.

• Increase followers: followers on Twitter are 67% more likely to buy your product. Lets face it, if you want to get recognised on Twitter you need a following.

• Customer Opinions: consumers will share their opinions based on the questions asked. If you are concerned about a new product’s impression on the market, or a companies vision for the future. Ask. It’s a no expense focus group.

• Build customer relations: creating a dialogue that a customer can appreciate will entice them to buy your services and also recommend you to potential customers.

In preparation for your Twitter party, write out a list of questions that are thought provoking and opinionated. Your goal is to get party followers to hold the conversation and talk amongst themselves. Your role is to ask questions to keep the conversation going with the list of questions you’ve written. When writing out your list make sure that you have more questions than you need. Worst case scenario would be you’ve run through your list of questions and there is still lots of time left before your party ends.

To promote your Twitter party you’re going to have to make some announcements on your blog, website, Facebook, and Twitter. Letting people know what day, the time, and how long your party will last.

We’ve only scratched the surface of social commerce and the opportunities available to you and your business to engage with your target audience. The take off of mobile commerce this year promises to make this even more exciting by enabling you to engage with your audience through these social networks while they’re on the go too! Once you’ve built up your fan base there’s really no escape. So now hopefully you can see why the opportunities generated through social commerce are just too good to be ignored, whether you are a big brand or a small business.

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