In case you haven’t noticed, ‘Social Media’ is big news! Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus… the list goes on and on and these sites are a massive part of our lives these days. We are more likely to contact our friends via Facebook messages rather than sending a text, we tweet people instead of picking up the phone, and above all we have a constant 24/7 link with what’s happening right now – everywhere!
I, like many, am so guilty of failing to turn off my ‘technology’ at the end of a working day and instead find myself constantly checking my smartphone whether it’s for Facebook updates, Twitter posts or Sky News! If you look around you right now, I guarantee that it doesn’t matter where you are, or what you are doing, you’ll be able to see someone close by checking their smartphone – because this is how we live – hungry for constant new information.
But look, even though you might think it’s a shame that we can’t be without our fix of social media updates for even 5 minutes, the very concept is actually a golden opportunity for small businesses like you and me, because it gives you the opportunity to reach people and put yourself and your products in front of them at any time of night or day, weekday or weekend. On the other side of the coin, you can also connect with other businesses and individuals that will be advantageous to your business strategy – particularly your product sourcing strategy!
Sourcing products is one of the biggest challenges that you will face when reselling online and sometimes it’s in places that you wouldn’t immediately think of initially using as a research or sourcing tool that you find surprising results. Social media is one of these…
So, there are two main ways that you can take advantage of social media for your own buying and selling business
Use social media as a means to build trust and raise awareness of your own online business as well as advertising your own products and deals.
Subscribe to wholesale sellers operating in your niche market to keep an eye on bargain deals as and when they arise.
Selling your products using Social Media
Let’s consider the first item. There’s a right way and a wrong way to use social media. You can’t jump straight in and start advertising your products in every Tweet or Facebook update you post because this is far to ‘salesy’ and will turn potential customers right off. Instead you should provide other interesting information to your fan base such as snippets of news relevant to your product or niche and even the odd bit of personal information so that your followers get a little bit of an insight into you too. I don’t mean that you should divulge really personal stuff – just the odd tweet or post giving an insight into your daily life is enough. Then occasionally you can direct people to a particular product or special offer for a certain item that you are selling online.
Using social media correctly takes a bit of special care. Try to create updates that are relevant, useful and entertaining to those interested in what you have to offer. You could perhaps ask people to vote on preferred products within your industry and then throw out the odd link related to those items that you have for sale. Subtlety is the key here!
Concentrate on creating a social media resource that you’d actually be interested in following yourself. As your business grows you may find that the requirement to keep an active social media portfolio grows with it, so now is the time to learn how social media sites work and to start using them to build a following of individuals interested in what you have to offer.
Product Sourcing with Social Media
An alternative way of using social media sites is to use them to actually source products for your business. You can do this by simply following potential suppliers on Twitter or searching for businesses fan pages on Facebook. The suppliers that you follow or friend will depend on your own niche market but for example, if you’re selling cosmetics you might search on social media sites for distributors, wholesalers or manufacturers in this niche such as Mac, Bobbi Brown or Benefit, whereas for items of clothing you might gravitate towards ex-catalogue stock stores or well known high street stores such as Top Shop or similar.
If you don’t already have a Twitter account it’s worth signing up for one now by visiting the Twitter homepage and filling in your details in the appropriate ‘New to Twitter’ section.
It takes just a few minutes to register and once done you’ll have access to a wealth of tweets from all over the globe, but for now you should be more interested in finding some retailers worth following with the aim of sourcing stock in mind.
Let’s say we are a clothing specialist and so we do fancy keeping an eye on the Twitter account of Top Shop in case they reveal any up and coming sales that could provide a source of stock or a new trend that you can capitalise on by sourcing similar stock elsewhere. Using the Search bar at the top of any Twitter page you can enter the name of a particular retailer, or simply a keyword related to an industry or activity.
The results returned will feature any recent tweets with individuals talking about Top Shop, but also a featured result at the top for the actual shop in question.
In this example, the little blue tick to the right of the Top Shop name is a good symbol to look out for. It means that an account on the Twitter website is verified; therefore this Top Shop is legitimately the account for the popular high street clothing store. This makes it a genuine option for following in order to keep on top of the latest deals.
Alternatively, if you wanted to search for a wholesaler of ex-catalogue stock you could enter the keywords ‘ex-catalogue stock’ or similar and the results would be returned as before. In the example below you can see several interesting results for businesses that you could follow for updates:
It’s not just actual retailers that have the best deals however; sometimes individuals will post a tweet about a particularly good deal. The search bar at the top of Twitter can be used to search for organisations or brand names, but you can also enter any search term in there, for example ‘Digital Camera Sale’. So instead of directly following one of the camera manufacturers, searching for this term will help you spot any sales that might be out there at this very moment which you can then follow for updates.
Searching through the many thousands of tweets posted every day can take a significant amount of your time, so try not to get too hooked on it! Instead just allocate a few minutes here and there to have a search for products within your niche market area and build this method into your overall product sourcing strategy.
You can use the Facebook website in much the same way to search for retailers or pages specific to your niche market where offers may be posted. A simple search for Samsung Mobile reveals the Facebook page for this electronics provider; a potentially useful place to keep an eye out for deals or simply for knowledge of up and coming items for sale and new trends:
So, by setting up your own Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts you can not only follow retailers and wholesalers and make important contacts that will help your business and keep you constantly updated with deals, but you’ll also reach millions of potential new customers for your products – it’s a win, win situation!