Shooting for the Moon with Social Commerce

This year social networks are going to give social commerce one more try. We've seen Facebook test a 'Buy' button to allow people to make purchases within Facebook. Now, things are getting a little more serious for  Twitter, which will reportedly have a 'Buy' button of its own that will allow users to purchase, submit payment info and share shipping information with sellers within tweets.

 Image Source: Facebook

Image Source: Facebook

To date, social commerce has been one of the most disappointing tactics for marketers leveraging social media marketing. Advertisers, including Gap and Nordstrom created online storefronts from within their Facebook Pages only to stop supporting them when consumers made it clear that they weren't interested in visiting a Facebook tab to shop and purchase.

Social commerce was an added bonus for users that they didn't ask for and had no reason to understand.

Going Native

The piecemeal approach to social commerce failed. Every brand offered a different experience and most didn't offer an experience at all. It was never prevalent enough for consumers to expect it and decide to shop on Facebook. Why do that when you know you can shop on the website? It's simpler to go to Facebook to connect with friends and brand websites to shop.

This could change. Facebook and Twitter are going to make social commerce a standard. Every brand will execute it the same way, and the experience will be the same across each platform.

With Facebook and Twitter building social commerce into their platforms, it may have a chance, but it's certainly no guarantee.

Shifting Social Platform Expectations

Brands have gotten used to altering their approaches and strategies for social platforms. The rules change and marketers change their approaches or risk declines in performance. It's a cycle we've seen before, and a re-introduction of social commerce has the potential to have the same effect for advertisers but especially for users.

Shopping just isn't a priority when people check Facebook or Twitter. Facebook has shuttered Facebook Gifts, a feature that allowed users to buy physical and digital goods for their friends. In addition, social commerce doesn't stand as great of chance when people say they actively avoid interacting with brands on social networking sites and nearly a quarter say they don't like seeing information from brands in their news feeds.

Social commerce is new, however, and users may find themselves more open to it than they thought, especially when advertisers are incentivized to create compelling, highly targeted offers. After all, in order to get your 'Buy' posts noticed, paid promotion will almost certainly be necessary, and to make the most out of that investment, ensuring the audience receiving the message is the right one will be more important than ever.

Getting users accustomed to social commerce will mean avoiding the hard sell at first. Encouraging sampling, sharing exclusive sales/products and digital downloads or content will offer low barrier ways to introduce people to transacting on social networks. After all, most sales pitches will be unexpected and impulse purchases at best when people see them in their feeds. Treating the products being sold or made available as special and involving low commitment will make users more likely to convert.

Social commerce feels like the antithesis of everything brands have attempted with social media: build relationships and encourage word of mouth, but that doesn't mean direct response tactics like social commerce cannot coexist with that approach. It will, however, mean shifting user perceptions and delivering something that invites them to participate and view their relationships with brands on these social networks in a new light.