Social media can bring sales success

Columnist Dean Swanson says building trust online means building a personal connection with your customers.

Ask SCORE column sig
We are part of The Trust Project.

Social media has increasingly become a more important channel for retail sales, so it’s even more an imperative to make social commerce a part of your sales strategy. According to a recent report from Accenture, "Why Shopping’s Set for a Social Revolution," global social commerce sales will grow from $492 billion last year to $1.2 trillion by 2025.

That growth, reports Marketing Dive, is driven by millennials and Gen Z consumers, who will be responsible for 62% of those sales.

Also Read
Columnist Dave Conrad says you need to be looking forward to know where you're going.
Columnist Dean Swanson says in business, absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder; it causes panic.

To give a glimpse of a social media marketing success, I will share a piece that Rieva Lesonsky, president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, did for SCORE recently as one of our content partners. She talked to Britney Renbarger, founder of PinkTag, a clothing boutique based in Louisville, Ky., to get the scoop on how vital social platforms are to retailers.

After giving birth in 2016, Britney decided she wanted to stay home with her baby. But she quickly realized she had to do something more. Her husband (his background is in marketing) told her he could build her a website, and she says she always loved fashion, so they landed on the idea of a boutique, and PinkTag was launched in January 2017 out of her bedroom.

When you started, where did you source your products?


Britney Renbarger: I did lots of online research, starting with wholesale websites. I tried to find U.S.-made products as best I could. And I also liked the idea of supporting other women-owned businesses. Anytime we find a small and women-owned wholesaler, we try to order from them.

You launched in 2017 in a hugely competitive marketplace. How did you figure out where to market your business?

Britney: I didn’t have a brick-and-mortar. So I knew I had to get in front of people’s eyeballs using online marketing advertising I could lean on. Everyone has social media accounts, and the eyeballs were on Facebook and Instagram, so we ran ads there.

I’ve never cut off advertising there because I feel that if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar, how would people know about it? But it was really hard for us to get our name out there on social media, so we decided to have our first live sale on Facebook.

Is that like QVC or the HSN?

Britney: It’s like that, but a little more homey. We’re not camera pros; we are not public speakers. It was the opposite of what I thought I would do. I don't like to be the center of attention. And it was my ultimate nightmare to speak in front of a lot of people.

But I had to get over that, being an online-only boutique owner. I wanted a way to connect with my customers. I wanted them to know us better because they only knew us through our website, a couple of photos, and email. We didn't even have a phone number at that time.

So Facebook Live was a way to connect with our customers and be—this is us. (Britney had hired her sister Kayla to work with her.) We are two sisters, and we’re this small.


How long do these events last?

Britney: Usually, they’re from 30 minutes to an hour. When we started, we thought we needed to do an hour every time, but now that we’re on four-five times a week, they tend to be 30 minutes.

When you decided to do your first Facebook Live, did you have any expectations?

Britney: No — other than being terrified that no one would watch, or I’d run out of things to say. But I learned that customers are interactive and like asking questions or just saying “Hi.” They like having a conversation with you. So I didn't have expectations. But I was really nervous. I would start sweating and have like a glass of wine or two.

How are sales? Are you seeing ROI?

Britney: After a few months of Facebook Live selling, we had over 100 million views, which has been a long-term benefit for our business, helping us build brand awareness. A live event can bring anywhere from 30 to 600 participants on a typical day.

It’s also changed the way we buy products. When we’re live, we get real-time feedback. I know what my customers are interested in. And we can answer their questions in real-time.

Doing Facebook Live also brings people to our website who don’t watch the Live events. It’s important to share the videos so people can go back and see the products at any time.


I read in Marketing Dive, “Trust in social commerce remains a high barrier to entry, with half of surveyed social media users concerned that such purchases will not be protected or refunded properly — a similar challenge when e-commerce first emerged.” So the Live events help establish you as real?

Britney: Yes, sometimes customers think we’re not in the U.S., or they believe we are much bigger than we really are. If consumers just see a website, how can they really tell? We show them through our photos and tell our story through our social media pages. And the Facebook Live events bring it all together.

Customers see we wear all the hats in the business. They see "those are the sisters on the website." And talking to them every day creates trust.

Do you inventory and ship your products?

Britney: Everything we sell is in stock in our warehouse. We ship orders within 24 hours.

And you’re growing?

Britney: Once we outgrew my bedroom closet, we moved to the basement of my home in 2020. And then, in 2021, we moved to a 4,000-square-foot warehouse. And we even have a phone number now. We have seven employees.

Obviously, Britney is not the only social commerce success. In the past year, 64% of social media users (about 2 billion people) say they’ve bought something on social media. This rise in revenues will give social commerce a 17% share of the overall e-commerce market. If you need assistance creating a social selling strategy for your small business, your SCORE mentor can help. You can find one here.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.

What to read next
West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Storage Rentals of America recently purchased a Rochester storage facility for $4.39 million and an Austin one for $2.1 million from the Minneapolis-based storage chain KO Self Storage.
Builder/developer Joel Bigelow built more than 5,000 houses during his almost 40 years as the head of Bigelow Homes, but his peers say he is best known for building communities throughout southeastern Minnesota.
Columnist Kristen Asleson says she believes so much in letting go of what she cannot control, she had a reminder tattooed on her left shoulder blade.
Ryan Stock never sought to become a martial arts instructor, the opportunities to teach always fell in his lap over the years to where he is now.