Why doesn’t social commerce work? Theories abound. Among the most popular are “People use social sites to communicate, not to shop,” and “People don’t want to use their credit cards on a social network.”
I’d have to say I agree with these assessments, and I understand the fear of a new concept. It’s primarily about behavior. When social media users visit their favorite sites, it’s to share jokes, keep their friends notified about what they are doing, no matter how mundane, and to see what other people are up to.
There’s even a theory that despite the emphasis on communication, social media is really just the latest manifestation of the ‘cult of me’. Whether you’re a showoff, a drama queen, a troll, or a humblebraggart, it may be the little shot of adrenaline you get from being noticed that drives everything social media is about.
How does a brand, whether a B2C or B2B business, cut through all of that and do some real business on social media platforms?
The answer is: You don’t. At least not yet.
Some tricklings of s-commerce (or f-commerce) are starting to occur, as some companies have either figured out a formula for selling through Facebook, or were just lucky enough to be the right kind of brand for social selling from the get-go. Countless smaller brands came out of nowhere using social platforms, but many larger ones, strategy or not, have been stymied by their inability to monetize their social endeavors. GM, Nordstrom, The Gap, and JC Penney have all given up on selling through Facebook, for example, at least for now.
The verdict on social commerce is in: a direct selling strategy, like a mall presence, does not work for social media. Social media is not a mall, it’s a playground. It’s where people go to watch their kids play and bump into friends. It’s also a place where they hang out with business colleagues, but the closest they get to a sale is to trade business cards and promise to talk later.
When you try to sell using a social network, you’re basically acting like a used car salesmen at a kid’s birthday party. Instead of commerce, you want to build your community. The way to fit in is to lose the tie, drop the product slicksheets and raise a glass. When you represent a business, how do you do this?
The quest to ‘fit in’ may bring back memories of awkward moments in high school, none of them positive. But here in the social realm, you get to be the jock, the cheerleader, the class president, the genius, and the teacher’s pet all at once. As you represent your organization in the social universe, it’s better to take the ‘extremely soft sell’ approach rather than the carnival barker. To gather people to your brand, just be somebody people want to know better.