While it’s tempting to just leave it at that, I suppose people who read this might like a little context. Fortunately there are actually boatloads of it, as both Facebook and Twitter made it clear this week they are getting much more aggressive about turning their social platforms into e-commerce portals.
Let the follower beware?
Facebook is doing a “limited” test that involves putting a “Buy” button within ads on its platform. For Facebook, the big deal is that clicking on that button doesn’t take prospective purchasers out of Facebook. They can buy whatever it is that’s being advertised and go right back to lengthy brawls about politics or sharing Weird Al videos. Talk about nirvana!
But nirvana, apparently, isn’t limited to Facebook. Yesterday Twitter amped up its e-commerce aspirations by buying Cardspring, a payments platform that promises to have “in-the-moment commerce experiences,” whatever those are. Well, essentially what Cardspring does is link deals to people’s payment cards, so, for instance -- and this is just one way it works -- if I’m on Foursquare and check in at CVS (there I go mentioning CVS again!) if CVS was a participating merchant, I’d get a deal on, maybe, cat food, when I swiped my card. In Twitter’s case, per TechCrunch, this could involve things like merchant discounts, communicated via a tweet, which could then be easily activated via Cardspring. Or something like that.
Cardspring is only the latest commerce play being made by Twitter. It, too, is experimenting with a “Buy” button, and also has products like #amazoncart, which allows people to add items to their Amazon shopping cart via Twitter.
So what does the Social Media Insider have to say about all this? So what!
The hard truth about social commerce is that when we’re in the moment on either platform, we’re usually not shopping, and not interested in shopping. I can see a market developing on these platforms of impulse buyers who reflexively buy things just because they see them; I’m hoping for our nation’s financial health, there aren’t too many of those. I mean how many tchotchkes from One Kings Lane can someone buy?
The exceptions to this rule are Pinterest and Foursquare. Interestingly enough, Pinterest made a move this week that edges it closer to commerce too. It just unleashed a feature that lets you follow interests along with individual pinners -- and if your interests include, say, buying a new couch, eventually you can see that being a natural e-commerce play for Pinterest. As for Foursquare, so much checking-in goes on at merchants that it’s a no-brainer -- though, as I’ve said before, the merchants I shop at are so boring (hint: CVS) that I hardly want to advertise how much I shop there. Let’s keep it private, eh?
So what will Facebook and Twitter get out of all this? Incremental revenue, along with the knowledge that they are not ignoring the potential of raking in money from commerce. Maybe that peace of mind is worth it for them -- but as for me, I’m not buying.