While social media and social networking are big power plays for businesses, social commerce is an essential element as well. You may not know exactly what social commerce is, but you experience it every single day in the form of the reviews you read from other purchasers, product ratings as determined by those who've already purchased and used them, and Facebook posts from your friends touting a particular product or service.

Integrating a social experience into your eCommerce website means matching the social experience online consumer’s demand. A comments section, integrations to various social media sites, and a mobile presence are all required by today's social consumers.

Here’s an overview of social commerce and how you can overcome the challenges of being a business owner in a highly mobile and social marketplace.

What is Social Commerce?

In short, social commerce is how merchants and customers use social networking as part of any eCommerce transaction. These include such things as user reviews, product ratings, comments section, product advice and/or enhancements, user tutorials, expert instruction provided by users, and user advisory boards.

The purpose of these and other useful shopping features and benefits is to create a shopping experience so compelling that no one leaves disappointed or uninformed, and a high percent of shoppers return because the experience was so positive.

How Social Commerce is Used

Consider your experiences at some of the most popular online shopping websites, like Amazon or eBay. Each of these successful online merchants has several things in common.

  • They provide a channel for consumers to leave product reviews.
  • They encourage product ratings while at their websites as well as through email requests.
  • They engage with their customers, seeking feedback on everything from packaging and shipping to the ease-of-use of their shopping carts and catalogs.
  • They use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media outlets as extensions of various aspects of their businesses.

This is not so much a byproduct of one company emulating another, as it is tried and true customer relationship practices adapted to an online world.

Online Communities, Social Proof and Your Customers

Large retailers usually understand the psychology of informational social influence, also known as social proof. It's a type of conformity where people who can't or won't make informed decisions take their cues from larger groups of people. This can be observed in large and small groups and includes situations like a group of friends deciding on a movie to see or where to go to dinner or families making purchase decisions based on opinions from close friends or relatives. In each instance, there is likely one or more of these people who don’t have an opinion on the situation; they simply go along with the majority opinion.

Where commerce is concerned in the above example, the merchants are greatly benefited by social proof because they landed paying customers they didn't actively pursue through their various marketing and advertising campaigns.

Using Social Networks

Businesses choose to use Facebook in large part because of its propensity for social proof. After all, it's one of the most peer-influential communities in the world. Active Facebookers with many friends can and do influence purchasing decisions by reviewing and recommending products.

Successful online businesses also use Twitter for social proof, albeit to a lesser extent. The real power of Twitter, for successful online merchants, is the natural extension of their customer service programs. Customers tweet about various products and the service they received, which directly speaks to the service they experienced.

Twitter is a great way for merchants to demonstrate to their customers who follow them, and the followers of these customers, the quality of the service they deliver.

YouTube is an excellent social media platform for merchants who want to create "How To" videos, promote new and future products, and to link directly to customers creating their own videos to demonstrate how they're using a particular product or service.

Social commerce empowers consumers to be active in their purchases, and creates an "open book" environment for merchants. Your online business can grow exponentially by involving your customers through opinions and ratings, and following up with them as a means of inviting them back to your website to leave further feedback.

How can you enhance your social commerce programs to gain more loyal customers?

About the Author(s)

Elli Bishop

Elli is the community manager of BusinessBee, a place to research and compare business service providers.  She also manages The Daily Buzz, a blog dedicated to answering all of your small business questions and concerns. | Facebook | @BusinessBeeCom | More from Elli           

Community Manager, BusinessBee
Social Commerce