Social Commerce is a buzzword and it’s hot lexical real estate, evoking a fusion of two big digital trends of “social media” and “e-commerce”.

As a result, social commerce means different things to different people (see list below), and it’s been the target of a number definitional land-grabs by businesses seeking to define the term based on what they sell.

So here’s a no-vested-interests inclusive word cloud definition of “social commerce” that we created (with the wondrous Wordle).  We simply took 18 top definitions of social commerce and threw them together into Wordle, and this is the result; (word size proportional to word frequency)

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Okay, so you can’t use the word cloud definition of social commerce as your elevator pitch definition, but exploring the cloud provides a conceptual understanding of social commerce and its key themes (don’t want to go all Wittgenstein on you, but idea clouds approximate to how our minds store concepts).  The social commerce cloud is also a potentially useful creative stimulus in thinking about how to deploy social commerce.

Based on the word cloud we’ve come up with a simple inclusive definition of social commerce.

Social Commerce: A subset of electronic commerce that involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction and user contributions, to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services.

Or the cocktail party version:

Selling with social media – the use of social technologies in the context of retail

[Update] As the above definition denotes, the concept of social commerce has been expanded beyond e-commerce to include the use of social technologies in the context of retail – whether online or in-store.

Examples of social commerce include user ratings and reviews, user recommendations and referrals, social shopping (sharing the act of online shopping together), user forums and communities, social media optimization (for e-commerce), and social applications and social ads linked to e-commerce.

And hey, if you don’t like this inclusive definition of social commerce, you can always pick one from the timeline list of definitions below!

  • Definition 1: David Beach(Yahoo) (November 14, 2005)
    • Social Commerce: The Shoposphere and Pick Lists are examples of social commerce. We believe the community of shoppers is one of the best sources for product information and advice
  • Definition 2: Dave Beisel(Venrock) (December 6, 2005)
    • Social Commerce: Subset of “advertorial content”, where content is the advertising… generated by a friend [wishlists... giftlists... picklists... tags... recommendations]… to provide consumers with rich social context and relevancy to the purchases which they are making
  • Definition 3: Steve Rubel(Edelman) (December 23, 2005)
    • Social Commerce: Creating places where people can collaborate online, get advice from trusted individuals, find goods and services and then purchase them.
  • Definition 4: Dave Beisel(Venrock) (November 1, 2006)
    • Social Commerce: Social input in online shopping services [that] augments the experience [c.f Social shopping: Sharing the act of shopping itself with others; ...a subset of social commerce as a whole]
  • Definition 5: Ken Goldstein(Shop.com) (December 2006)
    • Social Commerce: Creating new and more meaningful ways for retailers to interact with customers [through] search, communication and community
  • Definition 6: Sam Decker(Bazaarvoice) (June 2007)
    • Social commerce: Strategy of connecting customers to customers online and leveraging those connections for commercial purpose
  • Definition 7: Linus Gregoriadis(eConsultancy) (August 2, 2007)
    • Social Commerce: Customers having the means to interact with one another in order to make better buying decisions.
  • Definition 8: Lee Raito(LeeRaito.com) (August 11th, 2007)
    • Social Commerce: A trusted environment where friends, family and acquaintances dynamically contribute content to the referral and sale of goods and services though positive and negative feedback, reviews, ratings and testimonials regarding their experiences past & present. In short, social commerce is a trusted environment of which prospective consumers make buying decisions based on the advice of a network of friends and family, not strangers they don’t know or trust.
  • Definition 9: Wikipedia(September 27, 2007 version)
    • Social commerce: Subset of e-commerce in which the active participation of customers and their personal relationships are at the forefront.
  • Definition 10: Jay Deragon(Social Media Directions) January 2008
    • Social Commerce: Conduct[ing] commerce using social networks
  • Definition 11: Brendan Gibbons(Practical eCommerce) May 2008
    • Social Commerce: Monetizing social media sites…applications transform[ing] a profile page on a social network into an online store, complete with payment processing.
  • Definition 12: Craig Agranoff(Scommerce) (September 2008)
    • Social commerce: Buying and selling stuff online with friends helping
  • Definition 13: Andrew Stephen and Olivier Toubia(Columbia / INSEAD) (September 2008)
    • Social commerce: Emerging trend in which sellers are connected in online social networks, and where sellers are individuals instead of firms. [The distinction between social shopping and social commerce is that while social shopping connects customers, social commerce connects sellers].
  • Definition 14: Jeremiah Owyang(Forrester) (April 2009)
    • Social Commerce: [The Fifth Era of Social Media]: Brands will serve community interests and grow based on community advocacy as users continue to drive innovation in this direction.
  • Definition 15: Paul Dunay(Avaya) (October 2009)
    • Social commerce: Working with or using your social graph, which is defined as your followers or your friends, and allowing them to help you make buying decisions.
  • Definition 16: Fumi Matsumoto(Allurent) (November 2009)
    • Social Commerce: Enabling consumers to browse, view, and add products to a shopping cart, within the context of a social site, like Facebook or a blog
  • Definition 17: IBM(October 2009)
    • Social Commerce: Connect and foster active participation with customers to help improve your customer experience… including ratings and reviews, blogs, micro-blogging as well as forums and communities
      • 17a Social Commerce: The concept of word of mouth in the context of e-commerce
  • Definition 18: Paul Marsden (Social Commerce Today) (November 2009 Updated)
    • Social Commerce: A subset of electronic commerce that involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction and user contributions, to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services.
      • Social Commerce: The use of social media in the context of e-commerce
  • Definition 19: Pierre Raiman (Sherpad) (December 2009)
    • Social Commerce rises through trusted advice in conversations and word-of-mouth among your friends and relations in social networks, blogs, and communities, helping to make shopping decisions and transactions
  • Definition 20: John Jackson(DecisionStep) (February 2010)
    • Social Commerce: The ability of two or more people to collaborate online, to share opinions and influence each other’s buying decisions
  • Definition 21: Bill Zujewski(ATG) (February 2010)
    • Social Commerce is about customers having the means to interact with one another in order to make better buying decisions
  • Definition 22: Jochen Krisch (ExcitingCommerce (cited here) (June 2010)
    • Social commerce models are ecommerce models that focus on people instead of products
  • Definition 23: Jason Weaver (Shoutlet/ LinkedIn Social Commerce Group) (Jun 2010)
    • Social Commerce: Selling with social media
  • Definition 24: Lora Cecere(Altimeter group) (Nov 2010)
    • Social commerce is the use of social technologies to connect, listen, understand, and engage to improve the shopping experience