Did you see it? In the last two years or so, a radical paradigm shift has swept through social media and indeed, the internet at large. A sea change of business strategy brought on by the oldest force in the world. Gravity? No, we’re talking about money.
Social platforms have, over the past few years, been pressured to adopt revenue generation policies that have radically reworked their business strategies. Facebook was perhaps the first in this new generation of monetization, but Twitter is not far behind. And Twitter just introduced a new feature that could upset the balance between the old adversaries (Facebook is testing a similar feature).
Twitter’s “buy button” introduces purchases directly within the Twitter app or website. This upends the traditional role of social media working in an informational capacity, like a TV or radio ad. And this was always a problem with social media, because the real return on a social media investment was so difficult to define. After all, you can’t withdraw brand awareness from a bank.
As Facebook and Twitter do, so does the rest of the social sphere. Brand managers and social marketers should expect similar monetization efforts from most social networks to emerge over the coming months and years. It’s important to position your brand in such a way that you’re able to take advantage of the rise of social commerce and most benefit from it when it finally becomes the norm.
Third-party solutions have existed for some time. Instagram, as of yet, does not offer any support for social commerce. But one company, LIKEtoKNOW.it, promises to bring a form of that to the photographer’s social network by combining the social aspects with traditional email marketing. By closely monitoring your account, it catches when you like a photo, and sends you an email featuring the products that appeared in that photo. Not exactly a one-stop shop, but easy, and the email feature allows customers to easily store things they’re interested in for further consideration at a later time.
Perhaps the network best-suited to this commercialization is a relative newcomer to the field: Pinterest, home of cute crocheted pillows, costumes for your cats, and designer bedrooms. Indeed, with its christmas-list-meets-scrapbooking format, one wonders if it was specifically designed with e-commerce in mind. It almost looks like a catalogue already, and people often create specific “things I want” pinboards, so the transition to in-app purchases would be a small one.
The irresistible march of capital has finally enforced its will on the social media ecosystem. The last time this happened, it was called the “dot-com bubble,” and it didn’t exactly end well for the businesses involved. But, despite a perhaps rocky start for many companies, this growth seems sustainable and even, we daresay, mature compared to the Wild West days of the early internet. It seems that social commerce is indeed here to stay, the question is: will you be first on the train, or last?
Nick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas.