The Marketer’s New Role: From Branding to Buying on Facebook

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest are challenging marketers to not only rethink their digital media campaigns, but their roles within companies as well.

In previous years, marketers were tasked with driving brand awareness and engagement while monitoring consumer perceptions. With the advances in social media, marketers and their digital agencies have redefined their roles and, arguably, they have expanded, even solidified, their responsibilities beyond branding to buying and e-commerce.

Digital agencies must understand these shifts occurring within an organization and offer up ideas to clients that straddle marketing and operations. They must develop campaigns that move consumers through all aspects of the purchase cycle, including brand awareness and consideration to securing the sale.

Social media presents a huge opportunity for digital agencies to work with brands on marketing initiatives that turn social connections into social commerce. That doesn’t mean agencies should scrap likes and shares for sales, but social commerce needs to be a complementary layer to existing digital marketing campaigns on Facebook – especially for retail of digital and physical goods.

So what do digital agencies need to consider before they pitch brands on turning social connections into social commerce? Here are the top three things they need to know about social commerce.

Social Experiences Define Social Commerce, Not Facebook Storefronts

Some digital agencies have questioned whether social commerce could be social suicide for marketing after news reports heavily criticized F-commerce after GameStop, JCPenney, and Nordstrom shut down their storefronts on Facebook. These reports have sparked widespread fear among many digital agencies, and their clients, who see social commerce as more of a media unicorn – too good to be true.

It’s not about if people will buy from brands on Facebook, but how. Storefronts don’t define social commerce and they’re only one of many social experiences that provide commerce. Branded micro-apps like my company, for instance, offer another way for consumers to connect and engage with brands on Facebook, allowing them to make simple yet secure purchases if they so desire.

Unlike many of the commonly used storefronts that are typically a tab on branded pages within Facebook, my company designs social applications for brands that combine engaging and entertaining experiences with a social commerce play.

These types of branded micro-apps don’t sit and hide behind a fixed tab, but on Facebook newsfeeds via posts made directly on branded pages. This means that consumers can easily discover, interact, and transact with brands in ways that invite, rather than disrupt the social experience. Arguably, no other division within a company knows about social experiences better than marketers and their digital agencies.

Hundreds of Millions of People Are Already Window Shopping on Facebook

According to Campalyst, 97 percent of the Top 250 Internet Retailers are on Facebook and the average number of fans there is close to one million.

That’s a lot of people who are window shopping via Facebook. The majority of these fans “window shop” through posts from those brands that appear on newsfeeds rather than on branded Facebook pages. This indicates that marketers need to power up their posts in ways that are interactive and engaging, as well as discoverable, so that these window shoppers on Facebook become social shoppers.

So what’s the difference between a window shopper on Facebook and a social shopper? Basically, window shoppers online, offline, or on a social site don’t have a desire to bring their wallets out.

Social shoppers do.

Many shoppers, online or offline, see shopping as a social experience – especially among women. They like to discover products with others, share thoughts and considerations, purchase the item, and show off their purchase to friends. Social commerce, when done right, can possibly recreate the entire social shopping experience found offline.

Current e-commerce platforms can’t come close to achieving this.

Relevance Is King of Social, Not Revenues

Major companies like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Disney have all built a social brand based on relevant conversations and content. These brands have been able to form a powerful connection with their consumers on social networks, thus making social a necessary endeavor for marketers.

But building a social business on Facebook is an investment, and an important one for brands to make. It requires marketers to be involved in every part of an organization. Marketers need to lead conversations and create content within companies, and then extend the dialog to consumers in ways that are informative, but more importantly, entertaining.

The number of people, and the number of time spent on social networks is astounding. According to a post from Brian Solis of Altimeter Group, people spend more time on social networks than other forms of entertainment like watching full-length TV shows and movies.

Yet the amount of ad dollars spent on social media campaigns is nominal compared to other areas of advertising. Social media represents only 10 percent of all marketing dollars in 2012, yet social media represents the largest category of entertainment – if you consider social networking a form of entertainment.

Technology has restricted branded content from flowing freely across social networks in a way that is relevant and rewarding, but branded apps change that. This means that marketers can focus on creating relevant and entertaining content that drives more mindshare, and thus more wallet-share, through enhanced marketing apps on Facebook.

Finally, Facebook now accounts for 14 percent of time spent online globally, strongly suggesting revenue potential of $14 billion globally and $6 billion in the U.S., based on estimates of $98 billion in global Internet revenue in 2013 and $46 billion in U.S. Internet revenue.

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