In the early days of eCommerce (well, I have been around a bit) I recall meeting after meeting with several well-known retail companies whose reaction to the rise of eCommerce was defensive in the extreme, and downright arrogant and extremely pedestrian with hindsight. 

The standard response was a combination of “we have X number of retail stores, why do we need to do eCommerce” to the worst “it will simply cannibalise our store network sales”. 

These days I seem to be hearing something similar about ‘Social Media’ versus their website. Why is that you might ask?

From what we can evidence most brands and companies still see 'social media' as yet another way to 'broadcast' the latest offer, promotion, fastest boiling kettle, award win, crisis management tool for the Customer Service teams, and what I had for breakfast etc. 

On LinkedIn it's seen as a way to 'get the next job', or brag about the new one - let me just say, that from our evidence 95%+ of LinkedIn profiles suck!

There are several established B2C and B2B businesses who appear to have unlimited resource, finance, and business savvy but are stuck doing stuff the way it’s always been done e.g. driving traffic to the website to complete the sale. I get it, you made a big investment, you have agencies and teams of people all relying on your website for job security. 

Unfortunately, your potential competitor or customer isn’t really bothered about any of that.

Wake up, the 'buying process' has already changed whilst you were blasting out your unwanted e-mails and cold calls. All the data points are telling you it's way past all of that, Gartner has already given you the info, but you still choose to focus on spammy unwanted advertising, and outbound intrusive marketing.

An awful lot of successful 'social media' driven businesses started on Facebook or Instagram as small home ran operations with little to no funds, resource, database, fancy offices, award wins, or business knowledge - and no advertising!

I have personally witnessed single parents grow a business on social media platforms because of their ‘necessity’ to provide for the family, work from home (at hours to suit them) combined with something they are extremely passionate about, and they have done all this with nothing other than a mobile phone, WiFi connection, trial and error, consistent effort and sheer spirit - so what on earth is stopping you?.

As a result, a number of them have managed to build huge audiences who are keen to see what they are up to daily, occasionally buy some of their product, and in many cases emulate their perceived success.

The key drivers are varied and well documented, but the most compelling is the individual motivation to share knowledge in pictures and words about a subject matter the individual is passionate about.

The rise of Social Media has simply helped to give a voice to the world, regardless if you agree with what they say or not - It’s the democratisation of the internet personified.

Blogging has been around since the birth of the internet, it was one of the first forms of basic ‘content’ long before adverts, and of course, way before Google's 'bat and ball' 'whackamole' algorithm, and eCommerce. 

People have always wanted to share thoughts, passions and experiences with other similar minded individuals, being 'social' is inherent in the human condition, it's what we did once we learnt to get up and walk in prehistoric times, we shared stories around an open fire in our cave, probably why we like our 'man caves' to this day.

The explosion of Social Networks simply helped the journey along with the likes of YouTube for video, Pinterest for images, Twitter for, well,  twittering, Facebook for friends and family, and of course Instagram which has managed to capture a bit of everything, and for businesses the most powerful of them all 'Linkedin'.

The traditional push advertising model has been the stalwart for all media companies on the web, however that model is increasingly coming under threat as consumers are empowered with the ability to ‘skip’ and ‘block’ those online ads. Major advertising and marketing houses are facing an existential threat in losing customers and revenues, including the lucrative retainers they have traditionally commanded to manage major advertiser spend.

Tech-savvy, Social Media aware consumers are rejecting blunt, intrusive push-advertising that targets the occasional ‘click & buy’ result and has dominated the on-line advertising space for the past 20 years. Today’s consumers are looking for evermore immersive experiences where extra information relevant to their current social media activity enhances their experience rather than detracts from it and access to related products and services are a convenience. 

In a world where the traditional 'push advertising' model is effectively the sale of 'attention' - intrusive advertising is rapidly turning audiences off, across all devices, yet the opposite is happening with Social Media- Why?

The rise of ‘Social Commerce’ didn’t start with the western platforms we have come to know; the innovation with 'Social Commerce' has come from the east. China now has the largest e-commerce market in the world.

e-Commerce has achieved a near complete penetration and integration into everyday life in China that it is no longer just ordering things off the Internet, but a form of social activity, called ‘social commerce’. Take WeChat for example. From what started out as a Chinese version of WhatsApp, it has now expanded to include direct purchase of goods, a payment tool (online and in-store), wallet, reservations agent, social sharing (photos, videos, reviews, comments) and more – an all-in-one for its 900 million users. One could literally pay for everything with just a scan of QR codes.

The folks doing a great job on social platforms take time to understand how the platform works, what a personal brand is, they tell stories, share things that resonates with others and are deemed as ‘authentic’ by their eager audiences - several them are probably your unheard-of competitor.

As such the guys at Instagram have watched and listened to the user base; Instagram says that over 90 million accounts are tapping to reveal tags in shopping posts every month.

Instagram began allowing UK businesses to tag photos in the feedback in March 2018. Users can tap on the tags to take them directly to the relevant product page on the retailer’s eCommerce site. The social media site does not take commission from any subsequent sales.

Gord Ray, brand development lead at Instagram, says the feature was introduced as a result of user demand.

“It came from the community telling us they are seeing products they like, and it was a little cumbersome to try and then contact the business or find out where they were located on their website,” says Ray. “We wanted to make it easier to make that connection.”

Game Changer Alert:

Starting 1st April 2019 Instagram will enable ‘in-App’ checkouts for its shoppable post. This is effectively Instagram (Facebook will follow) catching up with Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, its being rolled out to larger brands but it’s inevitable that the bigger picture value is with the huge user base of SME’s currently operating on the platforms.

As with the rise of eCommerce its vital that the Boardroom take responsibility for the knowledge, direction and leadership around the impact that ‘Social Commerce’ will undoubtedly have on your business today, and in the very near future.

Why is this important?

Because, chances are you are already way behind where you need to be.

When you invest time & effort to ‘listen’ understand how it works & get involved on social media you generate involvement, conversation & sometimes passionate debate. 

It helps people find the real ‘you’. 

Helping them connect with ‘why’ you do what you do, it creates authenticity about who you are. It opens endless possibilities to share, learn and tell your stories to groups of people who are already interested, researching, or looking to buy whatever it is your business is selling. It can connect people to you in a way that has never been possible - this is the immense power that social media now affords us.

At DLA Ignite we specialise in helping companies and the internal 'Change Makers' deliver on these points, and I'm pretty sure we can help you as well. 

We have a tried and tested methodology, we hold you and your colleagues hand throughout, ensuring we not only 'teach' you what to do, we also make sure its firmly embedded into your firms DNA.

We don't do retainers, we are not an agency that creates and produces copy/content or sells ads for you.

We are active 'practitioners' of what we do, we already know and can evidence the ROI of a robust and internally aligned 'Social' strategy.

Part of that evidence it that you are reading this blog, just like many others - including your competitor!

We also don't do outbound pushy, salesy marketing, so if you would like to explore more, please contact the author of this blog.