Selling products on social media used to involve a lot more steps—and a lot more luck. You’d promote a link to your website and cross your fingers that potential customers click it, add a product to their cart, enter their details, and check out.
In recent years, major players across the social media landscape have integrated commerce directly into their platforms, making it easier than ever for customers to buy the products they discover, without ever leaving the platforms.
And with the average internet user spending 147 minutes per day on social media, the question for busy entrepreneurs isn’t whether selling via social media is worthwhile, but rather where and how you should invest your precious time.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through what selling on social media looks like today, the best social media platforms for selling products and your options on each platform, and help you decide on the best channels to set up shop for your business.
Tap into social sales for your products
- The difference between social selling and social commerce
- The top 4 social media platforms for selling products
- How to sell products on Facebook
- How to sell products on Instagram
- How to sell products on TikTok
- How to sell products on Pinterest
The difference between social selling and social commerce
Just like any other channel, selling on social involves two distinct steps:
- Building interest in your products and brand and engaging with prospective customers (often referred to as “social selling”).
- Removing as much friction as possible from the checkout process itself to convert that interest and engagement into sales (known as social commerce).
Both steps are equally important but require different approaches. Let’s take a look.
What is social selling?
Social selling is the use of social media to sell indirectly by focusing on the networking part of social networks and building genuine relationships with potential customers or the people who influence them.
Here’s what social selling might look like in action:
- Monitoring for relevant conversations and replying to comments from prospective customers
- Turning on post notifications for influential people so you can engage with them and their audience
- Posting social media content that shows off your expertise, charisma, and values to attract your ideal customers
- Sending direct messages to introduce yourself to potential buyers, leading the conversation with value rather than a sales pitch
Platforms like LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook Groups, where discussions and community take center stage, are ideal avenues for social selling, especially if your niche spends its time there.
Social selling is especially impactful for service-based businesses selling to other businesses, or in situations where there’s a large return on nurturing individual relationships that makes the time investment of networking worthwhile.
If you’re selling products directly to customers, social selling may take the form of community management: an ongoing effort to engage with potential customers on both your profile and the accounts they follow.
Blueland, for example, shows just how to sell its eco-friendly cleaning products on social media with educational content and consistent community management. Regularly sharing its expertise about sustainable products on Instagram provokes questions from its audience that the brand can field in the comments to build a relationship with its followers. Source: Instagram
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the use of social media to sell directly by facilitating some (or all) parts of the online shopping process, from browsing products to buying them.
Social commerce connects people, products, and content together for a more social shopping experience by:
- Making product information available where engagement is highest—on content featuring the product
- Allowing shoppers to browse comments and likes, not just reviews, to gauge how people feel about the product and brand, and then buy in a few taps
- Empowering content creators to curate and feature your products in their social media shops
- Making product links more shareable by embedding them in shoppable content
- Eliminating the gap between consideration and checkout by saving shopping details like the customer’s email, credit card, and shipping address
A fully realized social commerce experience on Instagram lets users discover, consider, and purchase a product without leaving the app.
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The top 4 social media platforms for selling products
When it comes to social selling, not all platforms are created equal. Certain social media sites are better for selling products simply because they’ve already invested heavily in social commerce features, or because they make attracting your target audience easier.
The good news: almost all the most popular social platforms offer integrations with Shopify, letting you connect your social media channels to your online store, sync your entire product catalog, and sell in many places at once.
The order may vary depending on your business, but when you consider daily active users (DAU), overall influence on product purchase decisions, and social commerce functionality, the best social media platforms for selling products today are:
For the purpose of this article, we’ll explore the specific social commerce features on each of these platforms designed to help you sell products directly.
But first, a quick caveat: Because commerce varies between countries, social commerce features are often made available in certain regions first (usually the US) before being rolled out more widely. Some of these features may not be available in your region at this time, but check back to see if that changes in the future.
Facebook: Selling products on the largest social network
Facebook is the largest social network in the world, boasting over 2.9 billion users. But the longtime social heavyweight offers more than just an audience—it was also one of the first social networks to take social commerce seriously, with features for selling through Facebook Pages, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Business owners can find an abundance of options at their disposal to deliver a great shopping experience on Facebook.
Curate your own social media storefront with Facebook Shop
If you have a Facebook page for your business, you can create a Facebook Shop section where you can curate products and collections, display relevant information such as price and available sizes and color, and even add the ability to check out directly on Facebook, if you’re eligible.
Setting up your Facebook shop—or installing the Facebook channel for Shopify—should be your top priority if you’re interested in selling on Facebook, as it unlocks or augments many of Facebook’s other social commerce features.
Canadian clothing brand Peace Collective makes the most important parts of its Shopify store experience, such as catalogs, product details, and variant selection, directly available to Facebook users through its Facebook shop.
Turn customer service into sales using Messenger
Facebook also offers commerce features within its Messenger platform to help you communicate with prospective buyers. Like a retail store rep walking the floor to help customers decide what to buy, Messenger lets store owners set up automated responses and prompts to provide self-serve solutions to common questions, such as what you see below when reaching out to Peace Collective through the Message button on its Facebook page.
Preempting customer inquiries with automated messages like this can take some of the load off customer support while handling objections on the path to purchase.
Source: Peace Collective
Business owners can recommend a product or send pre-written replies and discount codes in a couple of taps. You can even create an order and request payment through Facebook Pay directly within the chat.
Bouncing between different inboxes for each social media channel can be time-consuming. That’s where Shopify store owners benefit from Shopify Inbox, which allows you and your team to quickly access products, discounts, and customer support scripts to turn inquiries into sales from Facebook and other channels—all in a single app.
📌 Consolidate your customer communication channels—live chat, email, Messenger, direct messages on Instagram—in a single inbox. Set up Shopify Inbox
Tag products in your Facebook content to make it shoppable
The same way you might tag a friend in a post on your personal Facebook page, you can also tag products in posts on your business page through your Facebook shop so your audience can browse your collections as they consume your content.
If you’re putting out content about your products or promoting a new launch, this can convert the demand you generate through content into direct sales.
In the example below, Kate Mcleod uses the product tagging feature to add a shoppable carousel to a Facebook Watch video announcing that its body stones are now available at Sephora.
Source: Kate McLeod
Sell your products on Facebook Marketplace
While Facebook Marketplace is regarded as a place solely for the peer-to-peer selling of second-hand items, it can be a great place to promote your products, since users are already looking to buy. Try creating your own individual listings for products to attract new customers, especially if you’re a small local business or just looking for creative ways to make money on the side.
Facebook may recommend your shop to relevant users searching for specific products that you happen to sell. And, you can run Facebook ads with Marketplace placements to appear alongside organic listings.
A Facebook Marketplace search for “keyboards,” for example, doesn’t just show you personal listings for second-hand keyboards—it also surfaces the Facebook shops of brands that may match the search too.
Pay to reach new customers with Facebook ads
Perhaps the first option to come to mind for many, is Facebook advertising: paying to promote your products to Facebook users.
If you want to consistently get your products in front of your ideal customers, paid advertising on Facebook is your best bet.
And there’s no shortage of ad placement options around Facebook.
You can promote your products in ads that may appear in:
- Facebook feeds on desktop and mobile
- Between Facebook videos in Facebook Watch
- The right column on Facebook
- Messenger inboxes
- Facebook Stories
- Messenger Stories
- Facebook in-stream videos before, during, or after video content
- Facebook Reels
- Relevant Facebook search results
- Sponsored messages in Messenger with people you have an open conversation with
- Facebook Instant Articles on the mobile app
- Facebook Marketplace pages and search results
Taking that same search for “keyboards” from before, not only does the Facebook app recommend Facebook shops to check out, but the feed includes sponsored listings that match the products being searched.
An example of a Facebook Marketplace ad for NuPhy keyboard in the search results for “keyboard” on the Facebook mobile app.
📌Adding the Facebook channel to your Shopify store lets you set up your Facebook shop in minutes and take advantage of many of the methods we just covered. Add Facebook channel
Instagram: Harnessing social media’s most influential app for sales
Nearly half of people surveyed by Instagram use the app weekly to shop for products. It’s no surprise when you consider how content-oriented and creator-friendly the app is, with plenty of social commerce features that integrate shopping experiences into content.
Sell through your Instagram Shop
Instagram is part of the Meta family of brands, alongside Facebook. While setting up your Facebook shop, you’ll likely notice an option to set up your Instagram shop too. Both Facebook and Instagram can be set up through Meta’s Commerce Manager (or in a matter of minutes in your Shopify store).
N/A Stock Company frequently adds new luggage tag designs to its Instagram shop for its 50,000 engaged followers to share, save for later, or buy.
Make Instagram content shoppable with product tags
Adding an Instagram shop lets you tag products directly in your Instagram posts—whether they’re single images, videos, image carousels, Stories, or Reels—to make them shoppable.
What’s more, Instagram recently announced that other accounts will be able to use your products tags, too.
Not only does this make collaborating with influencers, creators, and affiliates easier, it also means existing customers will be more likely to share content about your products and tag them directly.
Reach your customers with Instagram Ads
Meta’s ad manager also gives you the opportunity to buy placements not just on Facebook, but Instagram too, including:
- Instagram feeds in the mobile app
- Instagram’s Explore tab
- The Instagram Shop tab (the homepage, not individual Instagram shops)
- Instagram Stories queues
- In between Instagram in-stream videos
- The Instagram Reels tab
An underrated benefit of running Instagram ads is it can be an effective way to grow your following.
TikTok: Getting creative to sell on the vertical video app
The short-form video app TikTok has skyrocketed in popularity and is on track to become the third largest social network, thanks to its easy-to-use video creation tools and unique blend of authenticity, education, and fun.
TikTok has also embraced social commerce in partnership with Shopify, with features that you’ll be able to harness to sell your products.
Access a suite of selling features with TikTok Shopping
Like Facebook and Instagram, TikTok Shopping lets you sell products from your catalog directly on your profile and through your TikTok content. On some TikTok profiles, you might notice a Shopping icon—tapping it reveals any products that the account has tagged in its content.
For ecommerce brands like Gymshark that have spent the past few years growing a large TikTok following through relatable content, TikTok Shopping has turned what was once a brand awareness channel into a sales one. Their followers can now discover products in the Shop section of its profile or within individual content.
Engage your following with LIVE Shopping on TikTok
Like the cooler equivalent of TV infomercials, LIVE Shopping lets you leverage TikTok’s live streaming feature—known as TikTok LIVE—to connect directly with an audience in real time, while also integrating products into the experience viewers can purchase on the spot.
Viewers can easily go back and forth between the content and the product collection with a simple swipe, making it a great way to demo a variety of products in a single piece of content.
You can see below how one LIVE event can garner hundreds of engaged viewers at once while promoting several products. Since you can partner with other creators to co-host a LIVE, the addition of social commerce effectively creates a new kind of influencer marketing partnership on the platform.
@hotgirlsfinds Reply to @pisces9669 #tiktokshoplive #uktiktokshop #shoppinglive #bargain ♬ Material Girl (Bass Boosted) - Saucy Santana
Highlight products within TikTok content using product links
Like product tagging in Instagram Stories, product links on TikTok let you feature your products in vertical video content. This makes it easy to promote your products from your TikTok shop in TikToks where you can’t directly link out to your store.
Massive brands like Kylie Cosmetics are already using the product links feature to promote new product drops on the app.
Take advantage of new product-oriented TikTok ads
TikTok Ads were once the primary way for merchants to generate sales from the platform. With the addition of the shopping features mentioned above, TikTok ads have also gotten an upgrade.
TikTok has begun rolling out new product-friendly ad formats, on top of its existing ad types, to bring social commerce to the platform:
- In-feed ads show up in between regular TikToks in your feed
- TopView ads show up right when you open the TikTok app
- Collection ads allow users to browse through an entire collection of products within the app
- Dynamic Showcase ads (DSAs) are personalized based on the person’s interests on the platform, showing products and creative that they are likely to be interested in
A Collection Ad on TikTok that shows how easy it is to shop between products while you watch the video ad.
📌 Integrate your Shopify store with TikTok to easily run TikTok ads and harness other social commerce features to convert engagement into sales. Add TikTok Channel
Pinterest: Getting your products discovered and curated
Pinterest has been many a shopper’s best friend, with people using it to plan and curate everything from purchases for big events, home décor updates, gifts, recipes, and more.
But Pinterest isn’t just known for being a place to curate products. Its users also hold great purchasing power, with 45% of US households with an income over $100,000 using the platform. That makes Pinterest a natural choice for product discovery and curation, and the platform offers a range of features you can leverage to facilitate product sales.
Add a Shop tab to your Pinterest profile
Enabling shopping on Pinterest lets you feature a Shop tab similar to Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. What’s worth mentioning about Pinterest is its Verified Merchant Program, where approved sellers not only get a badge on their profile to help secure trust, but may gain more visibility in organic Pinterest search results.
Sukoshi Mart, a Korean beauty and Asian goods brand, has a well-organized shop on its Pinterest profile that allows its content and repins to generate awareness and its products to generate sales on the platform—all organically.
Promote your products with Pinterest ads
Pinterest is a great source for organic sales, but also for the paid advertising features you’ve come to expect from social media platforms.
Here are two types of product-centric Pinterest ads:
- Shopping ads that show up in Pinterest feeds and include product-specific details like price and availability
- Collection ads that show in the Pinterest mobile app and when tapped will expand to reveal a browsable collection of products
Below you can see how a search for “coffee” on Pinterest not only brings up coffee-related organic pins but a mocha iced coffee ad—perfect timing for Pinterest users interested in cold caffeinated summer drinks.
Sell your products on social media—where your customers already are
Convenience has always been at the heart of ecommerce innovation—and social commerce is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Building a presence on social media—where your customers already spend their time—makes more sense than ever.
As social media platforms further embrace social commerce over time, social media marketing will go from a channel focused on brand awareness and engagement to one that can become a valuable source of recurring sales for ecommerce brands.
So, which ones will you build your business on?