Is Social Commerce Right For Your Business?

Everyone knows about social media, but what about social commerce?  Social Commerce is a hot topic right now, and many people online are talking about it.  I have seen many articles, blog posts, and e-books on the topic.  By now, you are probably asking  yourself what social commerce is all about and what does it mean for your business?

Quite simply, social commerce is this:

Social Commerce = Social Networking + Shopping

For quite a while, social media users have been disinterested in combining both networking and shopping together.  Little interest was paid to product offerings and most businesses had either never heard of the concept or were choosing to ignore it altogether.  The marketing messages were considered off-putting and have not been welcome on social networking websites.

However, things are changing because businesses are getting more involved in social networking and are forced to have a more humanized presence.  Since customers can now interact with businesses, comment, rate products, and share information with both peers and companies, people are feeling more comfortable combining both social networking and shopping.

In light of these recent advancements, you should consider adding social media features to your new or existing online store.  Add Facebook “like” buttons, Twitter “tweet this” buttons, or choose to add several social bookmarking sites so that customers can share information across their networks and interact with your employees.  Another way to create a sense of community on your website is to add ratings and reviews to further encourage your clients to share information with other clients.

In addition, you should add e-commerce functionality to your social networking sites, if possible.  Some sites, like Facebook, have the functionality already built-in for you.  Take advantage of the tools they give you and try it out to see if it works for your business.  But tread carefully, it is still early to tell if social commerce will catch on, and it would not be wise not to spend all of your time and effort on social commerce while ignoring more traditional methods of obtaining customers.

Is social commerce part of your marketing plan?  How do you make it work?

Ways to Use Social Networks to Market Your Business Online

Considering setting up a social networking site or fan page for your business? At first, you may feel overwhelmed, confused, or uncertain about where to begin. They all offer free personal branding and methods for connecting with others and sharing information – but which is right for YOUR business?

A good starting point is understanding what each individual social networking site does – and then evaluating which site (or sites) would best help your business.

Twitter allows you to send short, quick updates to large numbers of people at once. In fact, the focus is on the message itself – and not on a profile page with pictures or extensive biographies. Another unique thing about this social network is that it links people to celebrities and people who are experts in their fields. It’s a great way to build relationships. Twitter is rapidly growing and some experts believe it may one day surpass Facebook as the most popular social network.

Facebook is great for staying in touch, maintaining more personal relationships, or building relationships with people you may (or may not) already know. Especially with the new profile page redesign, Facebook puts an emphasis on photographs as well as status updates and an information “feed” of all other activity. Businesses can create fan pages that allow people to “like” them – and provide status updates, photos, contests, and other methods of keeping customers, clients, colleagues, and other business owners up-to-date and connected. Best of all, Facebook can be linked to Twitter and simultaneously updated with minimal work. It’s been said that ignoring Facebook is business negligence, due to the sheer number of people (ahem, potential clients/customers) who use the network.

LinkedIn is first and foremost a business professional’s social network. It is perfect for connecting with and maintaining relationships with current, former and potential colleagues, customers/clients, business owners and business partners. The best part is, due to the business focus, there is little likelihood that your LinkedIn connections will be given an unprofessional glimpse into your life – which is certainly a risk with some other social networks. One downside of LinkedIn? It doesn’t have as large of an audience as Facebook or Twitter, so reaching your target audience of potential customers and clients may prove to be difficult.

The New Social Commerce Revolution and the S-Commerce Wave

It isn’t too long ago when e-commerce was the topic of dialogue everywhere on the internet. E-commerce was a hot topic because it broke the bounds of traditional offline commerce. Web 1.0 began with that. In a short few years, Web 2.0 dawned on us with more users online interacting with each other. Videos and high-speed broadband made syndication possible and with that the sharing of content began as well. Blogging has now become the way of life. Forum participation caught on fire. YouTube became a house-hold term for everyone on the net.

Web 2.0 took another giant leap forward. Traditional blogging is paving the way to micro-blogging as the preferred route. Twitter led the way and still to-date continues to dominate. It has become very easy for anyone to share their thoughts, news, opinions, reviews, opinions and agreements to other people’s thoughts and views, and to share links of what they like and what they do not like, all in a 140 character snippet. “Viral” marketing truly caught on fire. Social began to take new shape with the coming together of social networks. Facebook has made it possible for users to interact with people they want to associate with and know/trust, with ease and in style. Social Media Marketing and Social Networking have become synonymous with Facebook. Facebook, with its 600 plus million user community, has taken the world by storm, sufficient to say that Facebook would be one of the top most populous places, if it were a country. Facebook could well be a country on its own and a bank too with its social currency! Today, people live, sleep and wake-up with Facebook and social has become the new standard.

The world of internet commerce is on the path towards transformation again, and for the good. The wonderful world of e-commerce and the awesomely addictive world of social networking are coming together. E-commerce and Social Networking are joining forces and the result is fascinating. Welcome to Social Commerce!

Wikipedia calls Social Commerce as the “Use of social media via social interaction and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services”. What exactly is the meaning of this and how can this be useful? Simply put, people trust other people than products, brands or companies. When people hear good or bad things about anything, whether a product or a service, and the more they hear about it in a particular direction (good or bad), they naturally incline to the decision that the product or service is as-such, without having to try the same themselves. This does make perfect sense and is applicable for our everyday life. References, feedback and reviews are worth gold, obviously. In the space of electronic commerce, with its difficulties around buying or selling products or services remotely, where one cannot touch and feel the offering prior to buy, will particularly benefit from social interactions and user contributions in a manner that is beyond words. Rather than simply purely depending on what the vendor claims, we can finally actually see what the users of the product or service feel, prior to committing ourselves to buy.

Social Commerce is equally applicable to services as it does to products. Social Shopping is fast becoming the way to buy products today. With services, Social Marketplace is gaining traction as the way to seek and fulfill services. Just in the first quarter of 2011, nearly $2 billion has been invested by Venture Capital firms across the varied facets of Social Commerce, whether in group-buy, social shopping or in social marketplaces. Business has found its new ways. Social Commerce is the way forward.