A guest post at Mashable from Christian Taylor, CEO of Facebook e-commerce platform Payvment, suggests that, up to now, social commerce has been centered around relationship-based social graphs, the network of social connections an individual has. In his estimation, that is about to change. The operative factor going forward are what Taylor refers to as “taste graphs.”

According to Taylor, taste graphs are those that connect people based on things they are actually interested in, not on social connections alone. It’s this “birds of a feather” mentality that will drive growth in social commerce in 2012 and beyond, he suggests.

“In 2012, taste graphs will transform the process of product discovery and make it much easier to discover and engage around the products you really want. The graphs will allow sellers to get their products in front of the people most likely to be interested,” he states in the post.

Taylor says there are primarily three ways taste graphs will fuel social commerce in the coming year:

  1. Hyper-Targeted Deals and Offers – Group buy deals aren’t really all that social due to the fact they are based on demographics and location, not shared interests. By offering deals based on taste, deals can become much more hyper-targeted resulting in more sales and improved shopper satisfaction.
  2. Recommendations from Others with Similar Interest – A recent article in Wired says that peer influence plays a minimal role in buyer behavior. Taylor agrees. “The truth is, you don’t necessarily seek recommendations from your friends and family on many items — they simply don’t share all of your passions and interests. Relying on the social graph for recommendations is therefore an inherently limited approach to product discovery,” he says. The insertion of taste graph data will provide opportunities for shoppers to connect around their passions, not just on friend recommendations.
  3. Birth of Social Commerce Tastemakers – The influence of experts will take on increased importance, a trend that is occurring on social commerce sites like OpenSky and ShoeDazzle.

We couldn’t agree more with Christian; his vision is a variation on what we and Om Malik term the ‘interest graph‘.  With the ubiquitous new sentiment-hyperlink (we like the term ‘emo-link‘) powering the Web – aka the Like Button – we now have a portable taste-graph that will help people with similar interests connect where they buy, and buy where they connect.

However, the rise of the taste-graph and the opportunities for personalisation and curated commerce don’t imply any reduction in the impact of social influence in shopping – quite the contrary – in addition to being influenced by our friends, the social web will now connect us with passionistas via the portable taste graph – allowing social influence to flow along the lines of passion, expertise and experience.

What we think is exciting about the rise of the taste-graph in the context of social network influence is that it adds a new twist to the crucial “homophily vs contagion” debate in social commerce (do social networking platforms bring similar people together or do they create similar people?).  If the answer is mainly homophily, as the data seems to suggest, then the role of Facebook and other social networking tools in shopping behaviour may be less about friends influencing friends – and more about making new friends based on similar interests who can then wield collective buying power by clubbing together and buying with bulk-discounts.

Which leads us to our prediction; Groupon is not the last word in group-buy; our prediction is that rise of the taste-graph will give rise to a new generation of social commerce – dynamic demand-led group-buy around people’s passion-points.

Think Sam’s Club and Costco reinvented and disintermediated; that for us, is the future of social commerce. (which also means that the Next Big Thing in social commerce in 2012 may be based around this investor-friendly value proposition: “We’re the online Costco for…” (athletes/travellers/musicians/ other interest/passion area)).