Social in 2014 is just like the web in 1996

If social media existed in the '90s

Take a look at your favourite brand's Facebook page. It's pretty mature, isn't it? It's well managed, it's active, those guys really know what they're doing. And it's not just Facebook - look at the way businesses use Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and a million other tools. Social has definitely come of age.

And then step back and put all this into context. It might seem like we've reached an end-point, like we've gone as far as we possibly can but, in truth, we've only just begun to scratch the surface of social's potential. How do we know that? Because it's happened before - with the birth of e-commerce.

Back in the early to mid '90s, the only corporates who saw a business use for the web were the marketing guys. Excited by this dynamic new platform, they were the ones who established websites for their brands. But the new tech didn't automatically deliver a new way of thinking and, consequently, these websites were little more than online versions of the print brochures and corporate resources they were already producing, coupled with some touchy-feely fun for the customers.

ASDA's website in 1996 offered everything from jobs and recipes to java games to entertain their customers. The one thing it didn't offer, though, was the ability to buy things. The UK supermark ASDA's website in 1996 offered everything from jobs and recipes to java games to entertain their customers. The one thing it didn't offer, though, was the ability to buy things.

Meanwhile, pioneers like Pegasus (who set up the world's first online travel agency, and now power giants like Ebookers, Orbitz, Lastminute and Hotwire), eBay and Amazon had identified an infinitely greater potential for the web - the ability to sell direct to customers, any time day or night, anywhere in the world, disintermediating traditional retail, shaving overheads to a bare minimum, reinventing shopping forever. These pioneers invented a whole new channel - e-commerce - and the reward for their innovation was 20+ years of dominance. Brands and traditional retailers are still paying the price for their tardiness back in the '90s, and you only have to look at what's recently happened to the likes of HMV and Jessops to see how costly that price has been.

The same thing will emphatically happen with social. We're still in the mid '90s when it comes to how brands interact with their customers via social. It's a toe in the water - something for marketers to play with. Just like the brochure sites of old, corporate social outposts collate information for their customers, they engage them with fun distractions (competitions, polls, Pinterest boards, pictures of fluffy kittens to share), they stick a flag in the sand for their brands.

But the future will only arrive when social expands beyond the social media we're playing with now, or even the social media marketing people assume is cutting edge. The inevitable, essential future is Social Commerce - shopping where we socialise, buying things with our friends, accessing offers and exclusives via viral networks, influencing the price and nature of products with our collective, social voice.

The question, though, is whether brands and retailers will make the same fatal mistake they made 20 years ago and allow someone else to corner the market before they can get so much as a foot in the door. There's still time to act, but the next six months are going to be fascinating to watch.


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Are you actually doing social commerce? Five simple tests.

Five ways to tell your social commerce campaign isn't actually social commerce 

Hey, look! It's a Friday! That must mean yet another company unveiling its great new social commerce campaign which ISN'T ACTUALLY SOCIAL COMMERCE.

NB: this also happens on other weekdays plus, occasionally, if the agency who've been commissioned to come up with this stuff are charging enough, Saturdays and Sundays.

It seems that social commerce is the buzziest of buzzing buzz trends right now, but very few people are doing it right. So, here's our top five ways to tell that your social commerce campaign isn't actually social commerce.

1. There's no actual in-situ commerce

Linking to your bog-standard e-commerce site from a YouTube video isn't social commerce. It's social marketing. Stop trying to pretend it's anything new.

2. User reviews, if-you-like-this-then-you'll-like-this widgets, Facebook commenting on product pages, Pinterest boards, etc...

These are all social things in and around the world of commerce. And that's wonderful. But it's not social commerce. It's still just social.

3. You're selling stuff just like usual but... wait for it... you've set up a store in Facebook!

That's F-Commerce and everyone realised ages ago that it's a stinker. Step away...

4. Every purchase is a solo activity

That's like calling a ready-meal-for-one a dinner


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Disintermediate! Disintermediate! How startups might exterminate agencies

Disintermediate! Disintermediate!

Two utterly fascinating articles from Giselle Abramovich recently on Digiday, the self-styled "Authority on Digital Media, Marketing and Advertising" (it really is, mind you - it's excellent). The first highlights how brands are cosying up to startups, directly approaching innovators to develop and float new ideas and platforms. Of course, that used to be the role of agencies, who would then sub-lease these fresh new goodies to their clients.

So it's no surprise that a recent follow-up article lists Five Ways Brands Are Cutting Out Agencies - a pretty terrifying read if you happen to work 'a-side'. Once again, it refers to this disintermediation of agencies - the way that brands are increasingly cutting out the middleman by sourcing and managing all the tools and resources they need to achieve success.

It goes without saying that the immense democratisation of recent technology plays a huge part in this. Where, once upon a time, you needed an agency to secure you the best rates for display ads, these days it's all done by machines with very little leeway for the creative flair agencies once brought to the table. As for social... well, which would you choose to nurture the bond between


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Off the peg social commerce for your brand's Facebook page: why wait?

Ready to wear social commerce for your brand's Facebook page

We've all been there. Someone has a brilliant idea about how to reach more people, sell more, do more... then it goes to the UX team, then the product team, then the dev team. It goes through 1000 stages of planning, wireframing, working prototypes, UAT, iterations. More and more complexity, more and more time, more and more money.

We were speaking to a very well-known drinks company recently about a fantastic social commerce campaign they had run on Facebook. It was beautifully implemented, it worked really well - people shared, people engaged, people bought - but it had cost them the best part of £100k to implement and they'd emerged with no way of repeating the campaign without spending a similar amount.

Needless to say, they were very excited when we told them we had a super-affordable, off-the-shelf solution which offers almost identical functionality, lives in your brand's Facebook page, takes less than a day to implement and is reusable again and again and again - at no extra cost.

All that is absolutely crucial for agencies who have heard that social commerce is THE #1 social media trend for 2013 and need to roll out quick-but-affordable solutions to their clients before they get left behind.

If that sounds like you, take a minute to drop us a line. That single minute could be all it takes to get a cutting-edge social commerce campaign up and running on your Facebook Page.

Robin Bresnark

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