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2012: The Year of Social Commerce

December 14, 2011

A lot of terms get thrown about with reckless abandon in our industry, and next year you could reasonably expect that ‘social commerce’ will be the latest hit.

We’ve hit the point where every 10 year old schoolkid, along with every freshly retired 60 something year old technophobe is able to provide expert commentary on ‘social media’ and how it impacts their sphere of influence –school, business, personal relationships and so on. I mean, we get it – social media, like every kind of media before it, has its ups and downs.

A part of basic human existence which no media has quite conquered though is the need to improve lifestyle by exchanging with other people. Prehistorically, that took the form of barter – people exchanged something of value they had acquired in return for something they desired which they did not have. It was the natural way that hunters and gatherers achieved equilibrium. In this human state, people discovered new things and new desires simply by walking around and seeing what other people were doing, eating, drinking, hunting, wearing.

We’ve come a long way from those days now, but the basic desire is the same – people want to improve their lives by discovering things they can acquire which might satisfy some need or desire – whether it’s food, accommodation, a product of some kind, a service, peace of mind – it could be anything.

Social Media – as that 10 year old social media expert and your grandparents will also tell you – have helped us realise the connectivity between people and their desires that technology can provide. It helps us to connect with people to learn new things, to understand what makes certain people tick, and to discover new things that we want and need.

But what’s lacking so far – is the ability to make the exchange. The ability to discover a new thing – product, service, club, group, whatever – and to make an exchange (these days, we call that a ‘purchase’) is still sorely lacking in current technology platforms.

And thus, the drive for true social commerce will continue in 2012. I’m not talking about eCommerce shopfronts hastily built inside a Facebook walled garden by the way. I recently judged an industry award here in Australia for Effective use of Social Media, and was disappointed to see the number of organisations that claimed successful campaigns that attracted thousands and thousands of Facebook ‘likes’ – but couldn’t demonstrate how they would turn those likes into customers, advocates, or real business transactions.

Whereas many business executives still struggle with the concept of spending time and resource on building non-tangible relationships with customers in social media, social commerce unlocks the value for such businesses to dedicate more resource to making it happen.

The technology is just around the corner, so hang on for yet another tumultuous year of change and growth in 2012.

  1. Good insights, check out they’re rolling out a pretty hefty platform that will address that “walled garden” you speak of, letting people fully complete transactions within FB.

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