Three social media marketing tips retailers and brands should keep in mind this year

Experts share insights on adjusting strategies for influencer marketing and social commerce.
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Amelia Kinsinger

· 4 min read

The landscape of social media marketing seems to be evolving at breakneck speed. From new platforms and a rapidly expanding array of influencers, to new memes and trending sounds going in and out of style every day, it can be hard to keep up. This is particularly true for brands and retailers who not only want to attract eyes to their pages, but convert those views to sales.

To avoid the viral “All that work and what did it get me?” TikTok sound ringing a bit too true for your social media marketing efforts, Retail Brew spoke to some experts on strategies for success.

Shopping around

One of the biggest challenges of social media marketing is converting content to sales, as most people don’t use social media to buy products, but to be entertained. Finding a way to combine selling with entertainment is crucial, Kinshuk Jerath, professor of business in the marketing division at Columbia Business School, noted.

Platforms like TikTok Shop have emerged to attempt to combine these, but the future is uncertain as similar efforts have failed in the past, he noted. Facebook shut down its F-Commerce feature, used by retailers like JCPenney and Nordstrom, as consumers struggled to see the website as anything but a social destination. TikTok Shop may face a similar fate, especially since it’s training the consumers that do choose to shop on the app to buy products at extreme discounts, rather than full price, Jerath added.

Though the future success of TikTok Shop may be uncertain, brands are still looking at avenues to promote products on the platform. Those who think about TikTok Shop as more of a “pop-up” than an extension of their own e-commerce store, offering perhaps a curated selection of bestsellers, may drive more business, Sarah McLoughlin, head of social and creative at Power Digital Marketing—which has worked with brands like Casper, Lord & Taylor, and Smart Sweets—noted. And as more brands try out the platform and offer commission for creators, McLoughlin anticipates there will be “even more of a blurry line” between social media and affiliate marketing.

More creative creators

Consumers are also “demanding more from creators,” Harley Block, CEO and co-founder of Gen Z consultancy IF7, which works with brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Ulta, and Coca-Cola, said. That means “push[ing] the boundaries of creativity” beyond try-on hauls and “get ready with me” videos, he added.

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“How do we get them out of their apartment, or house, or in front of a mirror into the real world to make it a little bit more visually appealing, or interactive?” Block said. Jerath also noted that brands are increasingly tapping social media creators for content used outside of social media, like billboards, in-store advertising, and even a Super Bowl commercial, a trend Jerath anticipates will continue over the next few years.

“We’re seeing that these creators are a treasure trove of content creation, and the content they create will obviously be used on social media,” Jerath said. “Some of the best pieces of that content can also be used outside social media.”

There will also be a larger focus and fine tuning of tactics that drive sales for retailers and brands, particularly promo codes, he said. Rather than simply having a creator share a 10% off promo code to their audience, he said IF7 is considering how to integrate promo codes into a larger content strategy. For example, a creator could post a weeklong series of content leading up to a product launch with a limited code promised that Friday.

“You’re making it much more of a moment. And then if it’s done right, and the product is good, let’s assume both those things are true, then it's going to be building up to what should be a much bigger payoff than just a one-off,” Block said.

Area of influence

The type of creators that drive business for brands and retailers on social media are also evolving, shifting away from those with massive followings, that don’t always offer the “potential revenue impact that you had hoped for,” McLoughlin said.

Now, it’s less about who is the most popular influencer, and more about who is the right influencer; it’s important to identify whether they create content that resonates with consumers, and is aligned with the brand. And while there’s a risk of inundating consumers with influencer content in general, content that identifies a problem and solution (“I don’t want to drink as much coffee anymore, so I really love this tea,” McLoughlin shared as an example), better engages consumers.

“If you’re looking for folks who are authentic in their storytelling, I think that’s always going to be engaging, particularly on TikTok,” McLoughlin said.

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Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.