18 months ago, social commerce was no more than a twinkle in the eyes of many businesses, and whilst many still have yet to add a social layer to how they sell in order to improve customer experience, the Zeitgeist-surfing digirati are already asking what comes next.  Om Malik is the founder of the influential GigaOM Network and thinks that the “Interest Graph” is what comes next after social commerce

So what is the “Interest Graph”?  Well, if the social graph is a sociogram mapping people and their relationships, then an interest graph is an infogram mapping people and their interests.  Think Twitter, not Facebook.  Think enthusiast magazine, not college year book. The business opportunity is to generate value (discovery, validation, recommendation) for and from people with shared interests rather than shared contacts.

Built on top of the social graph, rather than distinct from it, a person’s interest graph may include personal contacts, but also experts, celebrities and public figures – people we consider trustworthy sources.  As Guy Kawasaki notes, we trust people who are knowledgeable and competent, and whilst we may trust our friends to tell us the truth as they see it, sometimes we trust experts more; would you rather trust a group of friends to conduct a little brain surgery on you or have a neurosurgeon do it?  Same goes for shopping.  You need metacritic not user reviews or friend feedback.  And you want Nike+ with track Olympians participating, not without them.

As a result, Om Malik believes that the formula ‘interest graph + commerce  = transactions’ may be more powerful than ‘social graph + commerce = transactions’. It’s an interesting hypothesis, and similar to something we suggested a year ago – in the four corners of social influence (experts, celebrities, friends, customers), and why we thought Beachmint was (and still is) a glimpse into the future of social commerce.

Social Commerce & the Four Corners of Social Influence

 

If the future of social commerce is with the interest graph, then Groupon’s purchase of Whrrl, the location-based check-in service based on people’s interests, this week, could be the shape of things to come.  More broadly, there will be opportunities for using tried and tested social commerce tools, notably group-buy, social network stores and curated reviews, within specific industry verticals (or rather ‘interest verticals’). Think specialist group-buy sites for business areas, sports, hobbies etc.