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How to Sell Online as a Beginner: Part 5 “Roadblocks"

10 min read

Despite the hundreds of inspiring success stories out there, creating an ecommerce business is no easy feat. In fact, the journey can be quite difficult, exhausting, and resource intensive. It requires a lot of dedication (and a fair number of pep talks!) along the way.

My business partner Kate and I have been on this journey for quite a few months now, and our fledgling business, Bad Asta Vintage, is both an incredibly fulfilling and sometimes exhausting experience.

In earlier installments of our series on selling online as a beginning, I’ve written articles covering topics like creating a budget, sourcing inventory, setting up a website, and even how to use Instagram to build engagement.

Read the full series: How to Sell Online if You’re a Beginner

Today’s “episode” is going to be a little different: I’m going to walk you through some roadblocks we’ve hit in our journey, and how we’re pivoting to meet our challenges head-on and power through them. So, if you’re interested in not only celebrating our successes, but also learning from our mistakes, this article is for you!

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Our Biggest Bump in the Road: Facebook

As I mentioned in our last article, Kate and I were excited by the idea of selling our vintage clothing through a feature called Instagram Shopping. This feature allows you to advertise products right from a post or story, and allows your followers to make a purchase without even having to leave the Instagram app. Sounds nifty, right?

Well, as I mentioned in Part 4, it turns out that to sell on Instagram, you need to go through Facebook. Which brought us to a larger question:

Facebook vs. Instagram

Originally, Kate and I did some strategizing about the difference between how we were going to use Instagram and Facebook. We were finding a decent amount of success in our follower count growth and even engagement on Instagram, and wanted to figure out how to be equally successful on Facebook.

But then we hit a roadblock: we have lots of support from people in our target demographic on Instagram. But in looking at the numbers of Facebook, we just didn’t find the same thing. Our target demographic is younger, and female, and generally interested in high-aesthetic visual presentation of our inventory.

This just didn’t seem to translate well into Facebook, where the demographic is generally older, less interested in visual content, and less interested in using the platform to shop or create outfit ideas. So, where did that leave us?

Our Facebook Page

We came to the conclusion that Facebook just wasn’t as relevant a platform as Instagram for our particular business, and therefore, we shouldn’t spend too much time or effort into creating a separate strategy for the platform. Instead, we just linked our Instagram to our Facebook, meaning that, from now on, any content we make on Instagram will also show up on our Facebook.

This, at least, will ensure that we post regularly on both accounts (this will hopefully help us activate Instagram Shopping in the future, as I mentioned that Facebook requires you to have a presence there to be perceived as “real”), and allow people who don’t use Instagram but want to support us (namely older relatives or the stray lover of vintage shopping without an Insta) to keep up with what we’re doing.

We also made sure to link back to our website and list updated contact information on Facebook, so that anyone interested in getting in touch or making a purchase would be able to do so relatively easily. And ta-da! We have a little digital Bad Asta home set-up on Facebook, and learned some lessons along the way about how to best strategize around multiple platforms.

More Lessons from Facebook

I made a weird mistake when I was setting up Bad Asta’s Facebook account. Not wanting to mingle business with pleasure, and hardly a Facebook user myself these days, I decided to create a brand new profile exclusively for Bad Asta.

Not a page, a profile. Don’t do this.

Maybe everyone on the planet knows this except me, but regardless, I’ll say it for the people in the back: Facebook wants Facebook accounts/pages to be run by real humans. Unlike Instagram, where you can create an account for your cat, turtle, or pet rock, Facebook wants profiles to be tied to real human identities. These profiles can then make “Pages” based on anything they see fit, but there is a difference between a page and a profile. A line in the sand.

Lo and behold, about three days into the new profile I made for “Kate Asta,” we ran into difficulties with identity verification. Luckily, I had added Kate’s and my profiles to Bad Asta’s page as admins, so when we lost access to our fake person profile, we still had control of Bad Asta.

Our Facebook strategy? Cross-post from Instagram!

The best advice I can give you as far as Facebook strategy goes is to find your own way, to not get too bogged down in the logistics, and to be yourself when you make your page (I mean this literally).

Website Woes

Another roadblock we’ve hit along the way is that we now have two websites! As I discussed in Part 3, all about launching our Instant Site, we weren’t able to merge the two sites because of a WordPress hosting issue. So, for the time being, we are stuck with a lovely, clean and crisp Instant Site through which people can make purchases, and an older, nearly abandoned website which had extra tidbits like blog posts, and a more detailed about us page.

As a result, sometimes people (even people we know!) will stumble upon one when looking for the other, and get confused. While this is probably not really hurting us that much, it is confusing.

A Google search for “Bad Asta Vintage” still puts our WordPress website before our Instant Site

Because of this, one of the next things we plan to tackle is buying a domain and figuring out how to streamline our sites. While this might have been a lower priority without this mix-up, it’s really shot to the top of our priority list.

Making Sales?

Perhaps our biggest roadblock to date: we haven’t made a sale through our website yet! Luckily, we do have everything in our inventory separately posted to an Etsy page, through which we have had some success (article on using marketplaces in tandem with a website coming soon). But by and large, to us, ecommerce success means selling through our website, and freedom from a third-party seller to whom we have to pay fees.

Still Using Etsy as a sales channel…for now…

We are hoping to remedy this problem by better hyping up our website on our Instagram page. And eventually, we also want to try out some paid advertising to see if it can help generate traffic to the site. We also think merging our sites could help with this, as our WordPress site has some more dynamic content which might drive further engagement. But it’s all up in the air.

Some Takeaways from the Journey So Far

All in all, now that we’ve spent some time laying the groundwork, we’re excited to move forward into the next phase of our business lifecycle. Hopefully this article has helped you see where we’ve been and where we’re going, and encouraged you not to give up when things get tough or confusing.

On the bright side, our Instagram audience is growing

A huge part of being successful in selling online is just not giving up! And believe it or not, roadblocks happen to everyone. I hope by talking through some of ours, I’ve shown you that wherever you are in your business, you have had both successes and failures, and given yourself room to grow. Take that on as an opportunity, and who knows how far you’ll go?

No seriously. We don’t know how far we’ll go either!

Also in the series:

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About the author

Nicole is a writer and Content Marketing Manager at Ecwid. As newcomer to e-commerce, it’s her goal to provide informative and user friendly articles that are accessible to all stripes of sellers. She is based in Southern California, the perfect place to chase the sun and watch old movies.

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