Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that it’s becoming more and more difficult to get visibility on social media organically. While lots of people did well during the pandemic years, especially with Reels & TikTok… even if you caught that wave you’ve probably been seeing lower reach over the last few months.
And sure, there are lots of hacks out there for beating the algorithm… but rarely do I ever hear anyone say they actually work. Not to be a cynic… but I think the hack is sharing those hacks as content because everyone is trying to get more visibility on social media. Or telling random people they too can make money from anywhere.
You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? I just aged myself with that statement, didn’t I?
So here’s the thing. We can’t really control our organic reach on social. Sure, we can engage more on the platform, be more consistent, share better content, and try and use trending content to get more visibility… but what if we shifted our mindset around it instead.
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Take Advantage of the Visibility You're Already Getting
What if, instead of putting all of our focus on beating the algorithm.. we did a better job of taking advantage of the visibility we are getting. What if we were just more intentional about encouraging the people who do see our stuff to take the actions we want them to take?
What if, we put more time and energy into the things we can control and used our time, energy, and resources for things that actually move the needle?
And I say “we” because well, I have to be better at doing this too.
Reframe Your Thoughts
So first I want to talk a bit high-level about how you reframe your thoughts around this and what you should focus on and then we’ll get into some more tactical actionable things.
Serve People Who Do Show Up & Engage
To start, let’s focus on serving the people who do show up and engage. I’m not the most woo-woo person, but I do believe that the more we focus on the negative, the things we don’t have, and when we operate from a place of lack as they say… we just feel more lack. So first, let’s pour into the people who are showing up, who are engaging, who do want to hear more from us, who do want to buy from us… and let’s make it as easy for them to do those things as possible. And just like I remind you about email, not every post is about people running to your website to make a sale… sometimes it’s just reminding people that you exist so that when they are ready to buy a product like yours – you’re the first person they think of.
Get People off of Instagram & On Your Email List
Make sure you have a solid system to get them off of Instagram and onto our email list. Now I say Instagram but this is true for any social platform, though from what I’ve seen it’s easier to get people to take action from Instagram than it is from TikTok… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Don't Rely on One Platform for Your Entire Business
Also, let’s not rely solely on any one platform to drive our entire business. We need to diversify our marketing strategy, we need to lean into and double down on the things that do work instead of always fighting against the things that don’t. Sure, there is always an opportunity to do better, to optimize… but not at the expense of something else that will actually contribute to our goals.
Lean into the Small Business Community for Support
And then lastly, let’s stop trying to run our businesses in a silo from behind our computers and use our collective power to make more impact on these channels. There are a ton of other amazing small business owners out there who are struggling with the same things you are. How can you work together to lift each other up, to get you in front of more people, to give potential customers a reason to be excited and engage with your brand?
This idea is one of the reasons I’m so obsessed with the goodbuy platform. If you didn’t hear last week’s episode definitely go check it out and if you initially tried to install it after the episode and it wasn’t available, they’ve remedied that and are back in the Shopify app store. Part of their mission is bringing together small businesses so they can band together and rise up. Like they said, the best supporters of small businesses are other small businesses, so let’s get out there and engage with each other, support each other, and partner together.
So here are some practical ways you can implement these ideas in your business.
How to Increase Your Engagement on Instagram
Let’s talk about engagement. It seems like a no-brainer, but truth be told we’re not all doing a great job at it. So in addition to the basics like responding to comments in a timely manner, engaging on your followers’ profiles, and answering your DMs, create more opportunities for them to engage with you.
Engagement Tools on Instagram
The easiest way to do that on Instagram? Stories. Not only are stories less algorithmic, but they’re a lot simpler to create and give you so many different ways to engage with your audience.
Question stickers, polls, reactions… all of these tools are right there at your fingertips. Truth be told, I was terrible at posting stories for a long-time… but I’ve recently been intentional about posting there more often and giving my viewers something to engage with. And what I’ve seen is that as more people engage with my stories, the more they’re seeing things I post in my feed. And I know this because I can see them engaging on those feed posts when they weren’t before.
Why Engagement Matters
You see all of that engagement is a signal to Instagram that this person wants to see what you’re posting which makes it more likely your feed posts will show up in their feeds. It works similarly to a user's email inbox. I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, how to make sure your emails don’t land in spam.
In that episode, I explain how everyone’s inbox is different. What hits spam for one person isn’t necessarily hitting spam for someone else. A lot of it has to do with how that user engages with your emails.
The same is true for Instagram. Those people who engage with you the most, are the most likely to see your content. So let’s give them lots of reasons and opportunities to engage.
How to Utilize Instagram Stories for Your eCommerce Business
For the next 30 days, commit to posting 3 stories per day; one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at the end of the day.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Try and make sure each one has some sort of engagement sticker or a reason why a viewer would reply.
- When asking questions, limit how often you ask open-ended questions as these typically get fewer responses… people don’t have time or the mental space to think about the questions they want to ask. Yes or no questions, polls… those will usually do better. For example, instead of asking someone what they want to see for new products ask them if they’d rather see product category A or product category B.
- Include at least one per day that includes your face or someone’s face
- Don’t rely on your existing feed posts to fill up those 3. If you have feed items you want to share, make that a bonus for the day, not a replacement.
- Mix up your content types so people don’t get bored. People probably don’t want to watch 10 slides of your talking head.
- Keep it more real & raw, and give people a glimpse into what it’s actually like to be you. Show them the behind-the-scenes, let them see your messy warehouse, let them see your cat trying to lay on your keyboard, or your dog trying to jump on your lap.
- Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. If you have a new product launch coming up or available, talk about it every single day.
Instagram Story Post Ideas for eCommerce
- A picture of you with your morning coffee and a checklist of your to-do list. Use a question sticker to ask them how they take their coffee or what their favorite Starbucks drink is.
- Unpack your newest shipment and show them your 3 favorite items. Add a poll so they can vote on their favorite item.
- Tell them about an upcoming product launch and invite them to sign up for your email or SMS list to be the first to know. Use the link sticker to direct them to your landing page.
- Share an upcoming live shopping event or product launch and use the countdown sticker so they can set a reminder
- Show how to style or use a specific product and use the product sticker to feature it in your shop
- Ask them if they’ve ever shopped with you and DM everyone who votes no with a special offer to make their first purchase
- Host an AMA about a launch, a topic you’re an expert in, or personal things. Use the question sticker so people can submit them and then answer them throughout the day. Hint… use strategic questions to overcome objections people might have about whatever you’re promoting. You can answer your own question box so that you can repost it with the answer.
- Show them pictures of items you are thinking about creating or bringing into the store and use the poll sticker so they can vote on their favorites.
- Use the guides feature on Instagram to create a curated collection of products from your shop. Talk about it in your stories and use a link sticker to send them directly to that guide.
- Share your pets. That’s it… just share your pets.
Use Instagram to Grow Your Email & SMS List
Okay, let’s talk about how to utilize these platforms to grow our email and SMS lists so we have more direct access to our people.
The number one thing to remember is that we have to be intentional about growing our list. Sticking a link in our bio and hoping people will take action is not enough. We’ve got to be diligent about telling people what to do and asking them to do it. Make a commitment to ask for the signup at least 2-3 times per week. You want to naturally weave it into your content and ask in different ways so it doesn’t always feel like you’re asking.
Create a Reason for People to Sign Up for Your Email List
Of course, you need a reason for people to sign up. That might be a quiz, a discount, an upcoming launch, a special offer that’s going out only to email subscribers, an educational PDF download, etc. And it’s okay to have multiple reasons for people to sign up. In fact, that’s great. Because what motivates one person might not motivate another.
Then you’ve got to talk about it. A LOT. This is honestly my number one tip, but here are some other ideas.
Tease Your Emails in Your Instagram Stories
One of my email friends will always tease her upcoming weekly email in her stories. She’ll give people just enough info about what’s inside to pique their interest and then encourages them to sign up so they don’t miss out. She typically sends her emails on Fridays and will tease it 1 or 2 days before.
Use Product Launch Events to Grow Your Email List
Product launches are one of my favorite ways to grow an email list for eCommerce businesses. These are a great way to grow your list with new subscribers and engage your existing subscribers.
Use Giveaways to Grow Your Email List
You can also use giveaways or sweepstakes to grow your list. These aren’t my favorite way because it does bring people who just want free stuff, but as long as you’re diligent in cleaning your list afterward you can absolutely use them in your list-growth strategy.
If you do want to use giveaways, consider using a tool like ManyChat. Not only does it gamify the process for your audience, but it automates the email collection part. Learn how to use ManyChat to implement a giveaway on Instagram. You can get 30 days of ManyChat pro with my affiliate link.
Diversify Your Marketing & Sales Channels
Okay, let’s talk about not putting all your eggs into the Instagram basket.
If you’re noticing a decline in reach, web visits, and conversions from these platforms it might be time to shift your energy. Not that you have to abandon the platform altogether… hence the strategies I just walked through but maybe it’s time to consider other marketing and revenue channels.
What that looks like for you is going to depend on your business of course… but it could be expanding your best sellers to a marketplace, starting wholesale, doing some in-person events, partnering with some other small businesses which we’re going to talk about in a bit.
Are You Resisting a Marketing or Sales Channel?
And if you’re having resistance to any of those ideas… let me tell you a little story.
Here’s the story, of a lovely lady, who is bringing up a very lovely business. Okay… that didn’t work. If you know what that reference is, please DM me on Instagram and let me know.
So, a client of mind and student in the Lounge was trying to decide how she wanted to structure and grow her business. We were talking through the options of what her business could look like to hit the goals she wanted and she kept coming back to the fact that she really did want to keep it on the smaller side, as a lifestyle business. She didn’t want to hire a bunch of employees or find a manufacturer for her hand-poured candles; it just wasn’t sitting right with her.
She also had this weird resistance to wholesale. We were talking through on it a velvet rope call and she was telling me how another business friend who was encouraging her to do wholesale had given her the idea to make her minimum increments equal to one shipping box of candles. So if she can fit 12 of her boxed candles perfectly into the shipping box, to only sell them in increments of 12.
She talked about easy it would actually be for her to fulfill. How many candles she can pour in a month while still enjoying her life compared to how many she needs to sell to hit her goals, her products were properly priced to allow a wholesale margin, etc. She was essentially talking herself into doing wholesale, she just needed to say it out loud to someone, ya know.
Anyway. I think it was about 2 weeks after that call she messaged me to say, once I admitted to myself that I was leaving money on the table with wholesale, was resisting it for no good reason, and said it out loud to you… I closed 4 new retailers in one week.
So look. Not every revenue channel is going to be the right one for you. You have to decide what you want your business to look like and what makes sense for your products, but if you’ve been resistant to something in the past it might be time to reconsider.
Optimize Your Existing Marketing Strategy
And maybe it’s not necessarily about diversifying your sales or marketing channels… at least not right now. Maybe it’s about optimizing what you already have. It’s a lot easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to find a new one.
That might look like sending more damn emails to your existing people, working on raising your average order value, investing some time into SEO, or all of the above. Don’t try and do it all at once though, okay? Either do it one at time, or hire someone to help you. Here are some tips of deciding who and when to hire in your eCommerce business.
This might also look like going deeper into your marketing campaigns overall. Think about the last product you launched or the last gift-giving holiday… did you really do all you could to create hype and excitement around it? Creating a really solid omni-channel marketing campaign is a great way to take full advantage of the people who are already paying attention.
Use Paid Social Advertising
You might also want to consider paying to play. I know it’s annoying. Why should you have to pay to get in front of an audience that has already raised their hand and said they wanted to see your shit. Well, because it’s not your platform. Because they have to pay a lot of smart people with specialized skills to build, maintain, and innovate their platform. Because they have to line the CEO’s pockets. Because it’s technically their audience.
Whether or not you want to pay for exposure on a social platform is completely up to you. But it’s definitely one of those don’t hate the player, hate the game type situations. It is what it is. It’s a lot like working in corporate or being in politics.
Sometimes you just gotta play the game to get what you need. It’s not fun. It doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes you feel like you’re sacrificing your principles. But sometimes it’s a means to an end and you get to decide if you’re good with that or not. All I can say is that if your end goal is to make more revenue in your business, so you can put more money in your pocket and ultimately use that money for good… maybe playing the game ain’t so bad.
Resources to Learn Paid Ads for eCommerce
If paying to play is something you’re interested in exploring I have a couple of resources for you. I’m not an ads expert. But we do have Nicole Diedrich, an ads strategist as my co-host in the Lounge which includes Facebook Ads training and support. She focuses a lot on lead generation ads and conversion ads.
My friend Katie Wight teaches her zero-waste social system which includes using paid ads to boost the visibility of your organic content. You can learn her full system in the Content Strategy Accelerator* course.
Collaborate With Other Small Businesses
And of course, one of the best things you can do for your business no matter what stage you’re at is by getting in front of other people’s audiences through collaboration.
This could be a giveaway, a product bundle, or a brand-new product that you create together. It could be as simple as swapping shout-outs in emails or inserts in shipments. It can be a group gift guide where you all feature each other’s products. It can be educational content that you share with each other’s audiences. There are so many ways to collaborate together.
We’re not going to go through how to do X, Y, Z to execute a collaboration today, but I do want to give you some things to think about and some tips to help you along the way.
Be the First to Reach Out
First off, you can’t be afraid to be the one to reach out. I know this personally holds me back a lot.
I mentioned it on the episode with Cara and Cary of goodbuy. I initially hesitated to reach out because I figured they were this big huge business and they weren’t going to see value in my tiny niche podcast. Turns out they’re a small but mighty team of 8 people, the founders work in the day-to-day of the business, and they answered my inquiry pretty much immediately.
The same thing happened when I reached out to TikTok strategist Wave Wyld about doing a guest workshop in the Lounge Membership.
Every other small business, no matter how big they look on the outside, is often struggling with the same things you are. They are looking for more visibility. They feel lonely behind their computer all the time. They are afraid to reach out to other people about a potential collaboration.
A few months ago I was working with a client on her email and we talked about her potentially doing some collaborations for her business. She hadn’t really thought about it before but was intrigued by the idea. So she reached out to I think it was like 5 or 10 people. and they pretty much all said yes.
And what's the worst thing that’s going to happen? They’re not going to answer your email? You’re going to feel dumb. I feel dumb every single day. I was just having this conversation on a podcast guest spot I recorded recently. We are always getting in our way. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Tips for Collaborating with Small Businesses
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some other things you’ll want to consider and have in place before you reach out.
Have a general idea of what you want to do.
Just like you, these business owners are likely overworked, overwhelmed, and have a lot on their plate. Not that you’re not open to their ideas and suggestions, but you want to make it really easy for them to say yes. Don’t make them think unless they have to.
Be prepared to do the work.
Because you’re the one reaching out, you’ll want to make sure you actually have the time to execute it. Whether it means creating landing pages, creating graphics, setting up a tool like ManyChat to automate list growth, and maybe even writing marketing copy. You want it to be as done for them as possible so all they have to do is show up.
Focus on going deep vs. wide at first
As you’ve heard time and time again, consumers need multiple touches before they take action on something. So partnering with someone one time might not have the impact you’re looking for. Instead, create a deeper relationship with a handful of other businesses so that you can consistently support each other and your audiences get used to seeing the other person.
Keep it simple in the beginning
Depending on the nature of your business, you might not want to create a brand-new product together off the bat. Especially if you don’t know each other that well. I’ve always said you don’t really know someone until you live with or work with them. So don’t propose marriage on the first collaboration. Have a few dates first with some easier-to-execute and less committal projects. Make sure you enjoy working with this person, they you guys mesh before you go in too deep.
Take advantage of technology to make it easier
What technology you need will depend on what you’re trying to do, but lean on it when you can. For instance, using the collab post feature on Instagram, using ManyChat, using an app to connect your Shopify stores so you can drop ship for one another, or setting up an affiliate platform so you can earn commission on purchases you send to each other. Maybe you use a specific giveaway platform so everything is in a central place.
The main thing I want you to take away from today’s conversation is that instead of continually trying to push a square peg in a round hole and putting all your energy into what isn’t working or what you can’t control… is to instead double-down on what does work. Better serve the people who are there. Lean into things you haven’t already tried.
Of course, you can’t quit something after 1 try or 3 days and say this doesn’t work for me. There is a balance. But when you really do start seeing the writing on the wall, try something else. There is no one way to run or grow your business. Social media is not the end all be all of marketing. And rarely is there going to be one silver bullet that changes the entire game for you. Yes, it happens. But that’s the exception, not the rule. Typically it’s the compounding of many small things that leads to the biggest growth.