Remember how Ford Motor Company launched its 2011 Explorer on Facebook instead of at the big annual Detroit auto show? Luxury carmaker Lexus recently did something similar when it debuted the new 2014 IS and IS F Sport models using a combination of Facebook ads and a 10-minute video live streamed in fans’ news feeds.

According to AdWeek, 100,000 individuals watched the live video and some 600,000 had viewed it online within a few days.

Lexus utilized Page Post and Sponsored Stories ads along with custom apps developed by social commerce company Moontoast to build buzz in advance of the live event.

Moontoast founder Marcus WhitneyI had an opportunity to speak with Moontoast co-founder and CIO Marcus Whitney about the campaign and asked him if he saw it fitting under the category of social commerce or the broader category of social media marketing. His answer: it was both.

“Social commerce is not always about the direct sale, but the entire purchase journey that includes brand consideration, preference, awareness and purchase,” stated Whitney. “At the end of the day, social marketing and social commerce are really one thing.”

Whitney then introduced another term, social activation, which he defined as the process of activating fans on social networks at all points along the customer purchase journey. (Moontoast’s suite of apps is referred to as the “Social Activation Engine.”)

“Brands should be able to engage with consumers on social networks at each point during the purchase journey, but it must lead to a real point of ROI,” remarked Whitney.

“For Lexus, the goal was to create buzz and awareness that was superior to its competition around the reveal of the new models,” he said, adding that the use of Facebook was “much more engaging, viral and memorable in the minds of fans, as opposed to more traditional advertising.”

But engagement via the News Feed and live streaming video was only part of the campaign – collecting consumer data to allow for follow-on marketing was the other. That’s where Moontoast’s app played a major role, grabbing up fan’s names, email addresses and zipcodes.

Whitney summed up the significance of the campaign this way: “Sticky brand impressions, data collection, superior number of views for new product – all of those things are meaningful from an ROI perspective.”

From Whitney’s point of view, social marketing and social commerce are synonymous – “to-may-to,” “to-mah-to” – and give way to his preferred term, social activation, which is something that should occur at all points along the customer journey.

How does that square with your definition of social commerce? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Lexus IS Facebook post

Lexus IS Moontoast app

Lexus IS Facebook reveal

Today’s article is sponsored by Payvment: The #1 Social Commerce Platform