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Should Brands Sell On Facebook?

A popular topic on Reddit involves confessing your dumbest impulse buy. The lists are priceless. People have bought self-flushing cat litter boxes, 50 pound bags of glitter, remote control shark balloons, half a pound of pharmaceutical grade caffeine, and a set of bagpipes (the buyer admitted to being drunk at the time). 

You might be wondering what this has to do with Facebook and Twitter. Recently, both took big steps towards ecommerce. Facebook announced that it was allowing businesses in some markets to sell products directly in users’ feeds. Twitter purchased a company whose technology may make it possible for users to buy with a tweet. 

Some have compared the moves to Amazon and Apple, but I think that’s a bad idea. Amazon and Apple don’t merely provide a way to buy. They also offer reviews and other tools to help customers make considered and informed choices. 

Facebook and Twitter shopping will probably be much more in the moment. Sure, some users may take a friend’s recommendation or have already made a conscious decision to purchase a product before an offer appears in their feed. In my opinion, marketers will use the new capabilities to try to trigger fast, unconsidered sales.

Reddit offers one perspective on the danger: buyer’s remorse. Its bagpipe buyer confesses that “I tried to play them once or twice but I could only make the majestic sound of an elephant dying.” The self-flushing cat box, raves its owner, is great if you enjoy putting your hands in “cat poop soup” once a week.

A recent article in Psychology Today explains that impulse buying involves a disruption of our normal decision-making process. We don’t do it because we’re making intelligent choices. We do it because we fall victim to things like shopping addictions, loss aversion, and self-delusion. As a result, I’ve found, we often wish we hadn’t made those purchases and may blame the brand offering them to us.

Still, I do believe you can intelligently approach selling on Facebook and Twitter. The key is to use digital technology to ensure that the benefits of doing business on them outweigh any costs. Here’s how:

1. Benchmark your social strength. Today, you can find a variety of tools to measure social sentiment towards your brand. The good ones typically isolate two metrics: 1) how often your brand is mentioned on social media and 2) whether those mentions are positive or negative. While social sentiment is not brand strength, it gives you a quick snapshot of the effect your activities are having.

2. Start small. Try to get comfortable and familiar with the platforms first. If you can, run a test program in a few markets. See what works before going big.

3. Target. One size fits no one in this game. Twitter and Facebook will likely provide plenty of tools to get your offers in front of people who actually want to see them. You should take full advantage of them.

4. Optimize. It’s hard to predict in advance what layout and messaging will work best or be most welcome to customers. Be sure to prepare multiple versions of offers for different audiences. Then test and refine them to improve your performance.

5. Keep an eye social sentiment. Continually check your social sentiment against your benchmarks. If negative mentions of brand increase sharply, you might want to rethink the kinds of ads you’re running, the customers you’re targeting, or whether you should be in this game at all.

Like all new things, we don’t know exactly how ecommerce on Facebook and Twitter will play out. As a result, we should make sure we strategize well, execute intelligently, and track the metrics that matter. Our customers will probably not like us if we sell them musical instruments they can’t play or more glitter than they can possibly use. That said, whoever bought the pharmaceutical grade caffeine might want to get in touch with me. Some mornings I could see a use for that.

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