What Is Social Commerce?

Social commerce is the use of networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as vehicles to promote and sell commercial products and services. The success of a social commerce campaign is measured by the degree to which consumers interact with the company's marketing through retweets, likes, and shares.

Key Takeaways

  • Social commerce uses networking websites as vehicles to promote and sell commercial products and services.
  • The numbers of retweets, likes, and shares are the measure of success for social commerce campaigns.
  • Social commerce also engages online shoppers by offering expert product advice and support.

Social commerce posts messages and interactive features that promote online sales or other e-commerce initiatives. Some of the marketing tactics social commerce employs include:

  • Inviting users to vote on product style or choices
  • Offering personalized buyer options
  • Applying large and striking graphics to attract viewer clicks
  • Using videos to show the product in use and from multiple angles
  • Encouraging user-submitted photos, commentary, and feedback
  • Using celebrity endorsements of the product line
  • Linking directly to the checkout or shopping cart
  • Offering promotions or giveaways to users who share the product on their feeds

The concept of consumer marketing promotions online first appeared on the internet in November 2005 in Yahoo! "Shoposphere pick lists."

Social commerce encourages the use of social shopping tools such as forums and communities in which buyers and sellers discuss their online shopping experiences and compare notes.

A Closer Look at Social Commerce

In an article, Social Commerce: A New Electronic Commerce, Yao Zhong said the concept of consumer marketing promotions online first appeared on the internet in November 2005 in Yahoo! The site promoted their "Shoposphere pick lists," which highlighted the most popular products. 

The notion of social commerce developed further with efforts to engage online shoppers by offering reliable advice and support from online experts regarding their purchases.

Marketing blogger Jeff Bullas identifies the following four brands as being among the best in the business:

  • Nordstrom, which pins a "popular on Pinterest" label on store items that are trending online.
  • Coca-Cola, which personalized its labels on bottles in stores and then invited social media users to post photos of their name-branded soda with the hashtag #ShareACoke.
  • Lolly Wolly Doodle, a fashion brand which allows followers to design and order their own clothes right on its Facebook page.
  • Starbucks, which awards bonus points to customers who unlock Mayor badges on Foursquare.

Social commerce is different from social shopping. While social shopping is a collaboration of online shoppers networking together, social commerce is a collaboration of online vendors. The popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Instagram allows vendors to showcase their products and quickly respond to follow buyer-led trends and fads.

Social Commerce in the Real World

Social commerce is a growing and changing field of online marketing which works in conjunction with social media and the growth in online shopping. Fashion and shopping-related blogs use social commerce and media to entice shoppers to purchase linked items online. For example, many popular fashion blogs have Instagram accounts that allow followers to like, share, and comment on the offered product. The tagged article frequently links directly to the store's shopping cart or check out desk.