Social Video Optimization in eCommerce Today (and What To Look for in The Future!)

e-commerce-social-mediaI’m going to be speaking at Mediabistro’s Social Media Optimization Conference (SMOC) on May 23-24 in San Francisco, and presenting on the subject of “social video optimization.” I thought it would make for a good opportunity to share here about the role of social video with eCommerce today, showcase how some successful companies are using video eCommerce to maximize performance and profits, and dole out some of my own tips for optimizing your social video program for the buying and selling of goods, services, and solutions over the Internet.

Social Video Optimization, Defined

Lately, I’ve been doing a series here on social video marketing, which has helped explain what exactly a “social video” in eCommerce is.  For business in general, “Optimization” typically refers to getting the maximum performance out of anything, such as a business activity including a marketing campaign. I also like to say that “optimization” is based on “improvement through regular adjustment,” since many things about doing business in the Internet can be in a constant state of flux, and require the ability to quickly adjust to things both in and our of our control.

When people in Internet marketing hear the word “optimization,” they tend to immediately think about search engine optimization (SEO); or if they’re in the video space, they think in terms of Video SEO. However, I wrote in my article “Social Video Optimization Vs. Video Search Optimization: Which is Better?” that Social Video Optimization (SVO) has actually become more important than and Video Search Engine Optimization (VSEO). The main reason comes down to the fact that Google and other search engines are becoming more dependent on social media for the results they service to their audience than the other way around.

Why eCommerce with “social video?”

Let’s first start off with a definition for what is ecommerce? As the Website Web Panache expertly states,

The common theme in e-commerce sites and storefronts is the ability to do an instant purchase, an instant payment (if desired), and the ability to provide instant gratification for you and your cus tomers”

Social video in eCommerce truly adds to the customer’s interest and influences their purchasing decision. It’s best applied the following ways:

  • Creating interesting videos that people will want to share with others. These are videos of your products and services for sale (demos, features, testimonials from real people, presentations in-house and at actual public events, and other types of storytelling), or of the people behind the products that are appealing enough to make customers want to share them with others (and reach potential customers through search, discovery, and word of mouth).
  • “Seeding” videos of your products and services to the social media channels where your customers and customer prospects congregate, create, and participate. The Viral Ad Networks’ co-Founder Chris Quigley had this to share: “Seeding is all about planting as many seeds [of your content] around the Internet, and seeing which ones take off the most – i.e., which ones grow and get shared the most. In practice, this means syndicating content to as many sites as possible, and seeing which seeds result in the video getting shared the most.”
  • Dialoging with customers – video is a great way to answer customer questions about your products and services, and to respond to their own feedback in positive ways.
  • Incentivizing – Contests or special discounts can work well for getting people motivated to create their own video content and share it with your customer base and audience, allowing you both to share in the extra attention and generate more awareness for what you’re selling. Stonyfield Farm and Honest Tea’s “cooperative video contest” is one such recent example we’ve covered here earlier on The Video Commerce Consortium.

The benefits for businesses doing social video in eCommerce are manifold. Here are just a few:

  • Instant purchasing, including the ability to buy directly from the video, or from a “buy” button around the video.
  • Improved customer service, such as being able to see an actual rep talk about the product you’re interested in, and answer common and niche questions for you.
  • Providing expertise, having your own staff, or the original people behind the brand/product/solution, or an expert with an engaging personality is a great way to combine authority with being personal.
  • Better purchase decision making for customers, including a decreased rate of returns.

Companies That Are Doing Social Video in eCommerce

Fortunately The Video Commerce Consortium has a boatload of examples. Here’s just a handful:

  • Zappos uses their staff as product presenters, and has a special YouTube channel for customer questions and feedback
  • Crutchfield Electronics offers video conversations with customers – featuring demos, text transcripts, and answers via video to common customer questions
  • BlendTec’s WillitBlend YouTube channel takes audience ideas for all the things they can put into one of their moving blenders, making for lots of viral videos pointing people to their consumer and commercial-grade blender products.
  • Haul videos – where web video celebrities are hired by brands to showcase what they purchase on their own YouTube channel, and influence the purchasing decisions of their own large fan base and demographic (and sometimes include in-video links to the brand channels where the products can be further demoed and available for online purchase.)
  • Kiddicare utilizes online video communities that include its own video reviews submitted by customers, along with thousands of product video overviews and demos.

Social Video Optimization Tips for eCommerce

Here are some of my own tips for how to maximize the performance of your eCommerce videos. Treat it like growing a garden:

  • CREATE: Gather your seeds – each video is its own seed. The more seeds you have to plant, the more opportunities you’ll have to “feed” your audience with interesting and helpful content.
  • PROPOGATE: Plant your seeds wherever they’ll be likely to grow. Treat YouTube, Facebook, Google, other search engines, and any social media channels and community sites where they will provide the sunlight needed.
  • PARTICIPATE: Nurture your seeds – by that I don’t mean just leave them to others to water (or just expect it to rain!) You need to spend some time watering them yourself, so participate in the discussions and dialogue online. That means offering comments to others videos, pointing people to your own videos after you’ve responded to their comments, and encouraging them to make their own user-generated content (and videos) that you can feature on your own site as video responses.

What I’d like to see happen with eCommerce and Social Video

Here are some ideas I have for where I think people would really like to see eCommerce technology advance to:

  • “Live video chat” with a customer service representative, in which both parties are watching the same video.
  • Live video chat with other customers who’ve purchased the same product.
  • Aggregated video reviews of a product at the landing page of the video or another POS.
  • For high-end purchases, the ability for me to contact reviewers to ask them questions via live video chat when appropriate (as a paid consulting/review, perhaps with a middleman broker).
  • An HSN/QVC style show, where everyone could sell their own products or solutions in a live video feed where they could answer questions that people have about what they’re selling.

So that’s my overview for you of why eCommerce businesses now need to start thinking seriously about doing social video – not just to influence people to purchase, but to build better customer relationships. Optimizing social video for eCommerce isn’t about immediately increasing sales; it’s about building the most interesting video content and features for your customers to engage in and share, and in turn, nuturing better relationships with your brand.

Want to Learn More About Doing Social Video in YOUR Business?

You can catch my speaking event at Mediabistro’s Social Media Optimization Conference (SMOC) on May 23rd in San Francisco’s Mission Bay Conference Center, where I’ll be presenting and taking questions on the subject of “social video optimization.” If you happen to be attending the conference, email me at grant [at] with “SMOC Attendee” in the subject line, and I’ll be glad to meet with you!