Digital media expert Thomas Baekdal has published the first book on Social Commerce (in English), entitled – naturally enough – ‘Social Commerce’, and it’s quite simply brilliant.

The 156 page book provides a clear strategic focus and purpose for social commerce – expanding, in a nutshell, IBM’s insight that social commerce is essentially the concept of word of mouth in the context of sales.  It provides clear principles and guidelines, with useful do’s and don’ts, and offers a practical roadmap for executing a successful social commerce plan.  It’s also refreshingly free from jargon.

Social Commerce can be purchased from Amazon’s Kindle store for $9.99 (plus tax) - or if you subscribe to Thomas Baekdal’s premium blog ($5/month), it’s free.

For the time-pressed, here’s our speed summary of some of the smartest thinking you’ll find on social commerce.

What is Social Commerce?

  • Social commerce is about connecting social communication about a specific product with a direct conversion to sale. It is about buying a product directly from the wall, from a tweet, or from a blog post.
  • Social commerce is about selling (remarkable products worth talking about) and (facilitating) the sharing (of remarkable products worth talking about)
  • Social commerce is not about creating a shop on Facebook. It is about linking sharing to the direct sale of a product.
  • Social commerce is primarily a post-conversion tactic, using the power of sharing to grow
  • Social commerce is product-centric commerce, not store- focused (or brand or campaign focused) – because people share products, not stores
  • Social commerce is about creating a virtuous cycle of sharing to buying to sharing to…

What Drives Social Commerce?

  • You need two things to succeed in social commerce – a remarkable product, and a community of fans ready to advocate it
  • Shares drive social commerce – social commerce is about managing shares to product pages (in social commerce your storefront is a link in social media)
  • The essence of successful social commerce is turn your product into a stream that people can share and follow
  • Social commerce required stream-thinking, not site-thinking – you want your product to appear in people’s news streams, not on a destination site

Key Social Commerce Principles

  • Social commerce is product-centric commerce (because people talk about products not brands, stores or campaigns) – it’s about getting your product into people’s news-streams and getting people to the check-out
  • Understand sharing – who shares, what, how and why – is fundamental to social commerce
    • Sharing links
    • Sharing product names
    • Sharing product advice
    • Sharing by tagging photos
  • Because social commerce is about getting from the news-stream to the checkout, it is important to understand the context of the news-stream – notably it’s not primarily about shopping (which means social commerce is about impulse shopping)
  • Social commerce is a process not an event – it is about building awareness and excitement over time prior to  a product launch, growing engagement level of your core group of followers (through interaction), launching the product with a wow factor, and becoming an active member of the product community (see social commerce plan)
  • Social commerce is not about selling one (remarkable) product just once, but selling an ecosystem of product accessories around your core roduct to keep fans coming back for more, buying more and sharing more. i.e. Your social commerce strategy should be an ‘accessorising strategy’
  • Social commerce is mobile by default. Nearly half of social media interaction is via mobile handsets – But the real mobile trend is that consumers are mobile – switching between locations and devices
  • Social commerce is global by default. Your core group of customers is not people living in a certain geographic location, but rather people who care.
  • Social commerce is fast and simple by default – as simple as posting a status update. Even in traditional e-commerce speed to checkout is critical (Amazon.com has calculated that if something takes 100ms longer to do, they experience a 1% drop in sales) – but the realtime and fast context of social media, exacerbates the need for speed and simplicity.
  • Smart social commerce requires a multi-device strategy – allowing people to buy from links on whatever device they happen to be using – with each device offering a gold-stadard experience (‘responsive design’ – product page and checkout adapts to all devices)
    • Ideally the best social commerce solution involves
      1. Creating a highly focused experience on your most popular channels,
      2. Making it embeddable on any channel,
      3. Build it using a layout engine that works with any format

Pitfalls & Mistakes to Avoid

  • Don’t think of social commerce as stores on Facebook – simply replicating a traditional store on a Facebook tab (where few people visit) is to miss the point. Social commerce is about driving sales by sharing
  • Social spamming (promotional updates in social media) is not the answer – build followers by being useful, by giving followers a compelling reason for you to be an active part in their lives
  • Shiny new objects – QR codes, NFC (near field communications), Facebook Credits – may become useful tools for social commerce – but right now they’re more likely to add friction and barriers to social selling
  • Over-focus on Facebook – You need to create a social commerce platform that links sharing to selling via any channel, any method, any device, at any time, everywhere – think embeddable and portable stores (e.g. Wazala), not just FB stores.  Think ‘with Facebook’ (using FB widgets), rather than (only) ‘on Facebook’
  • Friction is the biggest enemy of social commerce (others are selling the wrong product (unremarkable) at the wrong time (when people are not open to shopping). Sources of friction include – no 1-click sharing, having to click to see, dialogue boxes, and too many clicks to checkout
  • Group-buy and check-in deals can be useful, but avoid building building your social commerce strategy around price-promotions – offer more for the same, rather than the same for less
  • One-shot or ‘Big Bang’ social campaigns do not work because the lifespan of a tweet is 1hr, of a FB update is one day – social commerce is a process not an event, about building product awareness, excitement, traffic and sales over time

A Social Commerce Plan

  • Your social commerce plan should be built around product introductions (because the new has inbuilt newsworthiness/talkability). Your social commerce plan should comprise six phases around each new product introduction
    • Phase 1 (pre-launch t-3): The initial phase should be to build awareness of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what is in it for your followers.
    • Phase 2 (pre-launch t-2): Phase 2 is all is about building your product, service, or solution. At this point you show people that you are not just talking about it, you are making it real. Ask fans for input but always remember that people follow you because you can show the way. Do not ask people what to do, that is your job to figure out. Ask people “When we do this, what would it mean to you? What would you need?”
    • Phase 3 (pre-lauch t-1): Show that you are now getting really close to launching the product. Take a picture of your staff packaging your products. Make it abundantly clear that you will deliver as promised, start taking pre-orders
    • Phase 4 (launch t-0):  There is no point in creating a huge expensive launch event. It might look spectacular, but it is not going to change anything. It is just wasting money for the sake of marketing. The excitement of the launch, in a social campaign, is the result of the engagement over the past 3 months. It is not the result of a single date. The launch is all about delivering the product. One very important thing that you must do is to create a wow factor focused around your product. There must be some secret that you have not told you followers and early adopters about yet. Something that makes it 120% better – and therefore worth talking about – Always have your “one more thing”. For early adopters, include something just for them, “for early adopters only.”
    • Phase 5 (post-launch t+1): Go into tutorial mode immediately after the launch date. Help people get started, and make sure everyone gets all the support they need. Forget about marketing, this is all about customer support
    • Phase 6 (post-launch t+2): Wrap up - boost launch sales with newsworthy discounts, small events, location based activities, and Groupon – but avoid upset your full-price paying early adopters