So we think f-commerce (e-commerce with Facebook) is a really good idea when you use Facebook as an e-commerce-enabled fan management platform designed to drive fan loyalty and activate fan advocacy through fan-firsts, fan-exclusives and fan-merchandise sold in a Facebook fan-store.

But not everyone agrees that f-commerce is a good idea.  Put your profanity filters on and head over to the smart and articulate ecompunk blog to see a demolition job, with attitude, on f-commerce from Magento guru Dr Roman Zenner (BTW it’s worth subscribing to the ecompunk blog; along with exciting commerce and get elastic, it’s the best source of e-commerce insight and inspiration out there).

The anti f-commerce argument goes something like this;

  • Facebook is an application, and applications are purposive, they are for something – the Facebook app is for exchanging with friends
  • You can use apps to do other things than for what they’re for (say write a letter using Microsoft Excel, or set up a shop with Facebook), but the result is likely to be sup-optimal for two reasons
    • 1) that’s not what the app was designed for
    • 2) people will ignore the extra functionality, because that’s not what they’re using the app for (exchanging with friends).  To pursue the analogy, setting up shop on Facebook is like adding a letter template to Excel – pointless.

Roman adds that of course there’s more to f-commerce than setting up shop in Facebook (you can integrate your e-commerce site with Facebook, or simply use Facebook as a blog to drive e-commerce traffic).  But integrating your external e-commerce site with Facebook to enable automatic sharing of what customers do on your site or elective sharing of stuff they like is crass; it creates social spam and is only likely to attract the desperate, lonely and compulsive. No future in it.

Well, we agree wholeheartedly with Roman – but with three caveats (two of which Roman makes himself)

  • 1) Yes, Facebook is an application for exchanging with friends, but Facebook has evolved from application to application platform – and has seen success (and profits) as an e-commerce enabled application platform for online gaming.  So there’s precedent for Facebook e-commerce apps.
  • 2) Yes, Facebook is a sub-optimal platform for running e-commerce apps, but it’s a cost-effective ‘second-screen’ for catering to fans, and as a fan-channel – a Facebook fan-store to drive fan loyalty and advocacy makes sense
  • 3) Yes, integrating e-commerce sites with Facebook can create social spam, but it can also help you learn about your customers, and help your customers shop smarter – by learning from each other

So don’t throw the f-commerce baby out with the strategy-free Facebook bathwater. F-commerce makes sense when you use Facebook for fan management and/or customer insight…  That, from an f-commerce perspective, is what Facebook is for.