In episode 30, I had the chance to chat with Dustin W. Stout, Digital Media Consultant and Speaker, creator of Social Warfare Plugin. Earlier this year I was fortunate to meet him in-person for the first time at WooConf 2016. At that point, I knew I needed to have him on the show.
Running your online store is a challenge and a lot of hard work, but the way you bring social into the mix can make a big difference between using it the right way—to generate sales and grow your site— and not just turn into a big time suck. In this podcast, we look at the bigger picture of using social with your online store and in future episodes, we’ll narrow it down to shows around more specific platforms and strategies.
We chatted about how to:
- Take advantage of social without having a blog
- Choosing a couple of platforms to focus on instead of spreading yourself too thin
- Share your products without it looking like nothing more than a big ad
- Avoid one of the biggest pitfalls online stores can fall into using social
Dustin also shared some really great tips on Pinterest and the success he has found in that platform, as well as highlighting a few of the cool features that makes his social share plugin, Social Warfare such a powerful tool.
Bob Dunn: Hey, everyone. Welcome to episode 30. Bob Dunn here, also known as Bob WP on the web. Today, I am looking forward to chatting with digital media consultant Dustin Stout. I had the pleasure of meeting him earlier this year at WooConf, and just recently started using his incredible social share plugin, Social Warfare. I’m giving a little plugging for that plugin, which I did a post on about a week or so. Check that out on my blog.
Hey, Dustin. Welcome to the show.
Dustin Stout: Hi, Bob. Thanks for having me.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. You’ve been on my list to contact, actually, ever since I started this list. Now that we expanded it more into the whole e-commerce and WordPress realm, I think you are just the perfect fit. For our listeners, they may have guessed or know by the title that we’re going to be talking about getting social with your e-commerce site. This show is taking a look at the broader picture of social media and how your online store can benefit from it. In future shows, I plan on diving more into some specifics around specific platforms, but thought, what better way to ease on into this subject area by looking at the big picture?
Before we move into our questions with Dustin, I’d like to thank our sponsor today, Pronto Marketing, who offers Internet presence management. Pronto understands running an online business and presence is more than putting up a site and saying, “It’s good to go.” There’s a heck of a lot more effort, time, and cash needed for the business owner. It can be overwhelming hiring people for design, development, SEO, and all those other needed services to make your site a success.
Most importantly, this is even more critical for the store owner. This is where Pronto Marketing comes in. They become your partner to develop and manage your online presence while you spend your energies working on your business. You can see them at prontomarketing.com. I’ll be telling you more about what they can do for you later in the show.
Back to our guest, Dustin. I’m going to start it off with a question around blogging, since I know that there are store owners that want to do it, and they feel the need to do it, but they wonder how the heck they’re going to do it. With that in mind, can an online store take full advantage of social without having a blog, Dustin?
Dustin Stout: Absolutely. There’s a lot of really great e-commerce stores online right now which already engage the idea of social sharing into their customer journey or their commerce workflow. The reality is that a lot of us people, we look to our peers. We look to our friends, family, those we know, like, and trust, to validate the purchase decisions that we’re making.
One of the easiest ways to do that is to share something, share a product that you’re looking to buy or share something that you’re looking to spend money on with a trusted friend or with a trusted ground of friends. That’s just part of our human behavior. We want to check with others to make sure what we’re doing is the right decision. That works right into the e-commerce workflow. E-commerce shops that have strategically placed sharing buttons will benefit from people actually sharing their products. What’s better than marketing your product in front of a massive audience? The answer is, having other people market your product in a massive audience for you for free.
Anybody who has products or a shop and wants more people to discover those products or that shop would highly benefit with, and I highly caveat this with strategically placed social sharing buttons. I don’t think any sharing buttons are the right thing to do, and I don’t think any placement of sharing buttons is always the right thing to do. There’s always got to be some intelligence behind what share buttons are offered and where they’re actually placed, so that they’re not intrusive to the buying experience, and that they’re not giving them the wrong sharing options. Many people may not stop to consider that you might be offering people the wrong sharing options for what your actual intent is.
Bob Dunn: That segues into the second question, although I had something else I wanted to ask about that. Moving into that, with e-commerce sites, I’m not sure if there’s the hard and fast rules to think about. I’ve got all these different social platforms out there, dozens of them sometimes it seems like. Are there any thoughts behind how to find those 1 or 2 special platforms that will work for you, instead of spreading yourself so thin across massive amounts of them?
Dustin Stout: Absolutely. I’ve been consulting in the social media world for probably 8 or 9 years.
Bob Dunn: Wow.
Dustin Stout: Yeah, my very first client ever was actually … It was 2 things that he came to me for, was web design and social media consulting, because he wanted to figure out this “Twitter thing.” Yeah, one of the things I’ve always preached from my blog is that you should not try to be everywhere. You cannot be all things to all people, and every social platform has a specific type of audience, a specific culture, and you really want to just go where your audience is at, your target audience is at, and where you feel there’s a culture fit for you, your product, or whatever services you’re offering.
You want to take that into account. There are lots of different demographic studies out there on each social network. There are countless infographics and all that fun stuff, lots of data you can find on these networks. The easiest way for me, and this is what I tell to all the bloggers that I coach and the businesses that I consult, go first to your analytics. Dive into … Most people have Google Analytics. Go straight into Google Analytics and see where is your social traffic coming from. Where are the social visitors most coming from?
In a lot of cases, it’s Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, yes, it’s still a thing. First, go there. Find where you’re getting the most traffic currently. I actually have a blog post written about this. Start with those networks. I would say start with the top 3. That’s a maximum. If you’re going to engage and be active on a social network, you should have a maximum of 3 that you’re actually focusing on. For the solopreneur or the very small startup business, I would say focus on 1 platform. For the purposes of social sharing, when you look at your Google Analytics and you see what networks people are coming from to find your shop or to find your website, that’s telling you that there is probably a culture fit there. Whatever products or services or content that you have, it’s resonating on those platforms the most, so start with those platforms.
Bob Dunn: Okay. Let’s say somebody has gone through what you said and they’re saying, “I find that Facebook and Pinterest, they’re the ones that are going to do me good.” They start to do things with that platform, and they start to ask themselves, “I’m sharing these products. Is this looking like nothing but a big freaking ad I’m throwing out there all the time?” How are people taking it, or does it matter? Is there anything that you can recommend to them as far as soothing their anxiety, or is there some way to make it where it doesn’t look like you’re just always saying, “Here’s a big ad, here’s another ad, here, buy, buy, buy,” and shove it in their face?
Dustin Stout: Yeah. Obviously, you have to take your target audience into consideration. Millennials are going to respond a certain way to graphics and visuals, differently than say baby boomers will respond to graphics and visuals. You of course want to, if you can, do some market research on how millennials react to certain types of ads, or certain graphic treatments. The easiest thing to do is just again, research your audience and find what they’re sharing. Find out what kinds of things they’re pinning on Pinterest. Follow some of your best customers and see what they’re pinning, and try to replicate those. One good rule of thumb is that people don’t want to pin advertisements, they want to pin beautiful photos, specifically on Pinterest.
Pinterest tends to be a lifestyle type of network. People are pinning photos of high fashion items or things that they want, or lifestyles that they desire. When you’re creating a visual for Pinterest, number 1, you want to make sure it’s a tall visual, because it’s a vertical-oriented platform. The tall images, tall pins, tend to stand out and get the most clicks. You also want to make sure that it looks like something attractive, like something someone would be proud to have on their wall.
You have to think of Pinterest like a big pinboard. A lot of people have dream boards or big boards that they just put ideas on. You want to think of anything that you’re putting on Pinterest, or allowing people to share on Pinterest, as something that someone would go, “Yeah, I want that displayed on my board.” Nobody wants a flyer displayed on their board. I’m not walking out to my car after I go to the gym to find a supplement flyer with 150 different things and just a wall of text, and going, “Man, I’m going to put that on my dream board right there.” No, that’s not what you’re going to pin. Keep that in mind. People look at their pins as not just a utility of things that I want to remember, but things that they want to be proud of or showcase, or be okay with other people seeing on their public boards.
When it comes to Facebook, also along the lines of text, Facebook actually has some very strict text limitations on visuals. There’s a rumor that this is going away, but one general rule of thumb, just to be safe, is to make sure that your image is only 20% text. If you divide your image up, and their image guidelines are pretty strict too. There’s a maximum of 1200 pixels wide by 628 pixels tall. If you were to think of slicing it up into a grid, a 5 by 4 grid, you want your text to not fill more than 5 of those panels. Is that right? Did I do my math right? 20%?
Bob Dunn: I’m not good at math.
Dustin Stout: Yes, I think 20%. To that extent, that’s one of the tips you can apply, because it does pragmatically make a difference of whether or not Facebook will actually let you post it or let someone else post it.
Bob Dunn: It’s interesting, your comment about Pinterest and the vertical images. It takes me back to thinking of, I was going through your plugin, and on the specific post and pages when you can share, you have the spot for that specific page or post, you can put in a custom image for Facebook and a custom image for Pinterest, which is cool for a lot of various reasons. What you just said, that made me think that really makes a heck of a lot more sense, especially with Pinterest. I know myself, and my screen shots and images aren’t interest-worthy, really, but we tend to put in horizontal pictures because they fill the post. That is to make it easy, especially when people are sharing and not really thinking of what they’re doing, or being really particular, the fact that you can put in that vertical image, that is a huge piece right there.
Dustin Stout: Exactly. Let me tell you a quick story about that, because we made that for a very specific reason. When we were building Social Warfare, I had a friend, her name is Peg … I still have a friend named Peg Fitzpatrick.
Bob Dunn: Peg, I know her.
Dustin Stout: Yeah. She’s a close friend of mine, she’s a blogger, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jeff C., who is the host of the Manly Pinterest Tips podcast, also a friend of mine. They were telling me for years that I need to spend more time on Pinterest, and I was like, “No, Pinterest is not that big a deal. My blog is doing really well. I’m getting tons of traffic from Google+, a feat that many a blogger has failed to do. I’m doing really well. Pinterest is maybe 3% of my traffic. I already create beautiful visuals for every blog post. If Pinterest was a big deal, I’d already be doing well on Pinterest.” Right?
It turns out, Peg was relentless. She knew the power of Pinterest, and she wanted me to do it. She gave me her little trick, which was create a graphic for Pinterest specifically, that is tall rather than wide. The dimensions she recommends, and now everybody recommends, is 735 pixels wide by 1102 pixels tall. I said, “Okay, fine, Peg. We’re building this social sharing platform, and we’re going to build in a feature that allows you to pick a Pinterest-specific image, so that when somebody pins your post, they hit your little pin button, they get the exact image that you want them to pin, not the one that you hope they’ll pin.” That’s important. If you want people to pin your posts, likely you want people to actually click through, so you want to give them the right image that’s going to get the most clicks.
We get built that feature in. Long story short, I created a Pinterest-optimized image for every post. I uploaded it to Social Warfare. Literally within 30 days, my Pinterest traffic went up by 400%. A year later, after doing this every single blog post, 2000% increase in Pinterest traffic. Here I am today, over a year and a half, almost 2 years later, Pinterest is my number 1 source of social traffic. It’s unbelievable.
Bob Dunn: Now I’m going to start rethinking things. I’m done with the show. I’m going to go work now. I have some work to do.
Dustin Stout: It just was that one change, just creating a Pinterest-specific image and then making sure that people pin in. Because I’ve already pre-selected it in Social Warfare, that’s the option they get when they click the button. I can’t stop the Pinterest traffic, Bob. It won’t stop.
Bob Dunn: That’s a good problem to have. We even got some extra tip there. I’m glad I brought that part up. It got me thinking more and more about that particular piece of your plugin. I knew the reasoning behind it, the general reasoning. I really understood it, but not being as active on Pinterest, which may change now after this podcast, it definitely … Yeah, that’s fascinating.
Dustin Stout: Here’s the craziest part about it, Bob, too. I didn’t increase my activity on Pinterest.
Bob Dunn: You just basically …
Dustin Stout: All I did was put the Pinterest image for people to pin, and boom. People shared it. It got more clickthroughs. Because it got more clickthroughs, it was driving more traffic, and it was exposing more Pinterest users to my content, and then they were pinning it and getting the optimized image right away, and it just exploded from there.
Bob Dunn: Very cool. Now I have more work to do. Always fun, though. Stepping away from that, we’re going back to the blogging thing. You may have already answered this in a sense, but we’re sharing posts all the time. That’s a no-brainer. I know that some people that I’ve talked to that are starting e-commerce sites, they feel, “Do I really want to put these share buttons on the products? Is it cool to do it?” I know before you said that’s a critical huge piece to e-commerce sites. Maybe it’s a matter of they shouldn’t be questioning themselves, and more focusing on that if it is cool, but like you said, where do they strategically go?
Dustin Stout: Right. One of the things that I often consult business owners for is, it’s not right for everybody. For any business, you have to always go back to your own research, your own testing. Not every business, not every e-commerce site, not every product or service, necessitates the social sharing element. That’s fine. Every audience is different.
One of the things that I know to be true is that, again, human beings like that validation from other human beings that the decisions they’re making are the right ones. Anyone who has done any research in the area of conversion rate optimization, optimizing your pages for people to do what you want them to do, which is convert to buying your product or subscribing to your list, psychologically, you want to reduce the number of calls to action on the page.
One of the other words for it is … Gosh, it escapes me now, but it’s the attention-grabbers. How many links, how many buttons, how many calls to action are on your page that are distracting from your primary goal, which is to get someone to hit subscribe, or get someone to hit purchase? You do want to take that into consideration. You don’t want to give people a million things to click on when really all you want them to do is hit the buy button or add to cart.
In some instances, maybe you might feel that putting the social share buttons on that product page or on the blog post or on the subscribe page is not the right thing for your audience. That’s fine. What we then recommend you do is to create a thank you page. One of the highest emotional times for someone to share your content or to share their purchase is after they’ve purchased it. Even more likely to happen before the purchase, because they’re not sure. Once they’ve made the purchase, their brain is psychologically trying to convince them that they have made the right decision, even if they haven’t. Our brains try to justify, “We did the right thing.” They’re at their highest emotional peak of being happy about that decision.
One of the blog posts I just wrote was how to drive more traffic to your landing pages, but this also applies to your commerce pages. With Social Warfare, one of the things we made sure of was that you can place these buttons anywhere on your WordPress site. We have a little short code, but not only that, we can also have you set those buttons up, you can use the short code, but also say which page they’re sharing out. Most social share buttons, they just share the current page that they’re on. What if you want somebody, after they subscribe to your newsletter, to share your subscribe page, not your thank you page? We have the ability with Social Warfare to say, “All right, after they subscribe, they go to the thank you page. On the thank you page are these buttons, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Those buttons, when shared out, or when they click the buttons, it actually shares the subscribe page, not the current page or the thank you page.”
The same tactic can be applied to confirmation pages. Somebody just purchased your product. Now they’re at the thank you page. You can have a specific page for say if they just bought a pair of sneakers. You can set it up so that Social Warfare will share that exact product page for the sneakers, thereby saying, “I just bought this. You should look at it, too.” Then you get the endorsement of the person saying, “I bought this,” and that’s going to spike people’s curiosity. It’s going to drive more traffic to that page, and hopefully, your product is amazing and it drives more sales, and more sales lead to more shares.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, I discovered that setting you just talked about when I was in there digging around. I thought, “What in the world is this? I’ve never seen this with a social share. This is cool.” Right away I was thinking of all these different little ways of using it. It’s one of those things you could get very creative with, for sure.
This is my last question, at least in this series of the first few questions. I’m sure there’s always a ton you could probably spend quite a bit of time on this, but is there 1 really specific biggest pitfall or danger that an online store should be aware of when it comes to social sharing?
Dustin Stout: Yeah. I think it’s back to one of the things I said earlier. Having to troubleshoot a lot of sites and consult a lot of sites, the biggest mistake that I see people mistaking is that they want to put every sharing option imaginable. If they do have the sharing buttons, they go, “I want them to be able to share everywhere. I want them to share on Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbledUpon, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit. I want them to be able to share by email. I want them to be able to print this page out.
They want all the sharing options, but psychologically, there’s plenty of research. If you’ve ever looked up the paradox of choice, which is one of my favorite psychological marketing principles, it’s this idea that we think that we want more options and more choices, especially in our Western culture, but in reality, when we’re presented with more choices, we actually take less action. Again, optimize for your audience. Instead of having 15 social sharing buttons, have 3 or 4, maybe 4. You’ll notice a lot of very big, high-traffic sites, new sites, will only offer you 2 sharing options.
In fact, we have one user, he has a number of different news sites, a lot of them in the political field. He did a split test on one of them, where he had several sharing options available, and then he did a split test where he reduced it to only Twitter and Facebook options. When he reduced it to only Twitter and Facebook options, he actually had a 10% spike in sharing and a 30% increase in traffic.
Neil Patel, who is also a well-known marketer, he did a similar test. He usually only has 3 sharing options. He increased it to 5. His sharing dropped by 30%, and that also led to a drop in traffic. When he removed the extra options, went back to 3, the sharing percentage went up, and his traffic went up again. I see so many people … I actually have had people fight back on this when I’ve recommended it. If you have 10 sharing options on your page, you’re going to get less shares because the paradox of choice is true. More options equals less action.
Bob Dunn: Well. I think I have 5 of them, and I’ve been thinking of dropping a couple of them. That’s one good reason, but another one is, I’m not really seeing that much share on those anyways. It’s good. Like you said, these people, a lot of them have been, and you have been, testing it. That’s what I love about your plugin, is there’s so many different ways I can test it and play around with it. I can see what works and what doesn’t work.
Dustin Stout: You have the premium version, so you can actually activate … We have a feature for button-click tracking that shows up in your Google Analytics. You can literally look at your Google Analytics after 30 days, see which buttons are getting the most clicks, remove the other ones.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, that’s one of the things I activated right away. I thought, “This is going to happen.” All right, great information. What’s amazing is I always think of all these people that are listening, how much they’re thinking, “Now I got all these things to do.” What’s really funny is it happens to me as much. I get out of these podcasts as much as my listeners do. I’ve got a list I’m constantly writing down. I need to do this, now I need to think about this. You’ve started me a nice little list here, Dustin, let me tell you.
Dustin Stout: I do my best.
Bob Dunn: We’re going to ask him to take off his speakers and social media consultant hat, and be the shopper. When you are online, what is the biggest frustration you come up against time and time again, when shopping?
Dustin Stout: For me, I don’t do a lot of shopping on my phone. I know mobile is a lot of where commerce is going, and having built websites, I know how important mobile is, but I buy pretty much everything that I buy online from a desktop.
Bob Dunn: Me, too.
Dustin Stout: I just feel safer that way. When I’m going through the checkout process, speed is very important to me, and security is also very important to me. The longer something takes to load or to happen, a transaction happens, the more nervous I get. It’s unbelievable to me that there are still so many online stores or marketplaces that have such a clunky and seemingly endless process for checkout. Having a commerce shop myself, I understand how challenging it can be, but there’s just too many plugins and too many systems and too many good developers out there to where …
I had some really nightmarish experiences where I pick a product, and then it gets added somewhere, and then I can’t find my cart. Where is the cart? How do I check out? Finally I get there, and then once I check out, it wants me to confirm this, and then I have to confirm something else, and then okay, now are you ready to check out? I was ready to check out 5 steps ago. Make these processes as simple as quick and possible. I think that’s my biggest headache, is just over-complicated and clunky checkout systems. I want to buy, let me buy.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, you want to just start yelling at your computer, “Why aren’t you letting me do this easily?”
Dustin Stout: Right, yeah.
Bob Dunn: I’m with you there. Is there anything that is available online that you’d never buy?
Dustin Stout: I was thinking a little bit about this question. I couldn’t think of anything really good. I suppose I would never buy a house online. We’re going through that process right now, so I guess that’s why that was the first thing on my mind. Without actually stepping in a house and walking around and being in the physical space of the house, I don’t think I could ever do that. I don’t think I could ever move somewhere far away, having never set foot in the house that I just bought. Yeah, so a house.
Everything else, I’m pretty much fine with. A car, as soon as I have enough to buy a Tesla, and will likely do it online with no problem whatsoever.
Bob Dunn: That makes sense, because you end up walking in the house and saying, “What’s this room? They never showed us this room. That’s interesting.”
Dustin Stout: That wasn’t in the photos.
Bob Dunn: Okay, so last question. If resources, time, and money were not an issue, is there another product or service or anything that you would love to sell online, if you could just do it and not worry about anything in the world?
Dustin Stout: I think I’m living the dream right now. Selling software, in the state of our current world, being able to create something out of literally nothing, just writing a bunch of lines of code and being able to sell that without overhead, without inventory, without having to have storage space or deal with shipping, I honestly think digital products, software as a service, for me is an e-commerce dream. I love what I do. I love being able to just focus my time and energy on creating something good, letting it sell itself, and then just helping the people who bought it when they have trouble.
Bob Dunn: Very cool. Actually, I’ve had a few guests say that, that they’re living the dream, and they’re doing what they want to do. That’s always great to hear. There you have it. We now know Dustin the shopper and the media consultant. You know what he does with his shopping, and you also know what he does with his business. He has a lot of great knowledge, and I hope you take a lot of these nuggets of wisdom, look at how you’re using social with your online store, and plugging them into your plan and strategies to get most of your online audience. I just want to thank you, Dustin, for taking the time out of your busy day to share your wisdom with us.
Dustin Stout: My pleasure, Bob. It was great being here. Always great talking with you, my friend.