Social Commerce and The People’s Republic of Facebook

One in eleven human beings are now on Facebook.

In fact if Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest with a population of 585m (it grew by 248m in 12 months by the way!)

Now consider that the entire population of Facebook by definition has access to the internet and therefore has more economic power than possibly any other country.

So when people claim that China is the world’s fastest growing economy – in fact it has officially just taken over from Japan as the world’s second largest – just think about the power of People’s Republic of Facebook.

Of course a Venn diagram would show a huge overlap with the other physical economic giants on the planet – the USA of course would take the biggest slice (147m Americans are registered on Facebook), but surprisingly, the UK comes in at number three (28.4m) – Indonesia is second (32.1m)

Given these numbers, it’s no wonder that more and more brands are looking to monetise their presence on the planets largest social network and so over the last few months we are seeing a rise in the phenomenon of social commerce, but recently renamed ‘f commerce’ for obvious reasons.

There appear to be two distinct ways in which people are directly trading from their Facebook page. One is to show merchandise with ‘click’ to buy buttons, but that simply then take you to the normal online store.  This is simply a shop window for the main store. Coca Cola and Barneys New York have taken this tack, by simply adding a ‘shop’ tab on their page.

The other approach is to drop in a store that pretty well replicates the brands online store, but is housed within the Facebook page, allowing fans to shop and checkout, all without leaving Facebook. An API can manage stock levels and make the whole process seamless.

How this will evolve is to be seen. My third party applications allow brands to drop ‘shoplets’ into their Facebook page and the technology behind these will no doubt develop rapidly over the next few months.

But the rush to F Commerce is most certainly on.

A word of warning however. F commerce makes your focus on customer care even more critical. If this rush to push products to the potential market of 585m consumers gets in the way of listening to them and understanding what their immediate needs and wants are, then they will find themselves not even a click away from telling their friends and other fans of the brand just what they think!

Nearly half of all Twitter users don’t read a word you say – that many?

Here’s an article I came across, bizarrely enough, on Twitter the other day. I’m not sure where the author has gathered the information, the source isn’t quoted, but it makes the claim that although the number of people subscribing to Twitter continues to grow inexorably, those who ‘use’ the site are relatively small in number.

The headline says is it all – Half Twitter users don’t read a word you say.

So what?

If you imagine that Twitter is another channel to push your message out to your audience, then of course that message will continue to be mistrusted. That’s not engagement. Remember, the key to winning on the social web is to listen and then to engage.

I continue to see company Facebook pages that don’t allow people to post messages. Is the expectation that people are just waiting to hear what they have to say like the sermon on the mount?

Twitter and Facebook can only really be called ‘social’ media if they facilitate conversations and discussions between brands and their customers and prospects. Those who follow a brand on Twitter are doing so for a variety of reasons, to wait for discounts, find out when the next store is opening etc etc. But more and more, these people are going to have questions. When is the next offer? When is the store opening in my neighbourhood? And they will ask these questions and expect answers – quickly. Those people will be listening to what you say becasue you’ll be saying it to them directly.

That’s the real power of social media.

 

Facebook Messaging

Yesterday I sat and watched  Mark Zuckerburg and Andrew Bosworth announce the trial of the new Facebook messaging system.

I am left with two conflicting thoughts and so am slightly troubled.

Firstly, the words and phrases they used to describe the new system sounded great ; “immediate”, “personal”, “simple”, ‘minimal”, “short” and best of all, “technology getting out of the way”!

But then watching the demonstration and hearing how it would work with outside clients (including Gmail!), left me quite befuddled! By no means am I a tecchie, which was why the language was so appealing. So expecting to then see a super simple to understand product, I felt slightly let down and confused.

I get the objective – to consolidate all your online conversations with people into one stream (including SMS). The analogy used by Bosworth was his Grandmother’s box of letters sent to her by his Grandfather that she lovingly cherishes – “where’s my box of letters?” he said.

The announcement had been teed up in the press as a Gmail killer and when Zuckerberg claimed ‘Gmail is a really great product”, I was left waiting for the ‘but’, which never came. Even after hearing that “Email is still really important to a lot of people”, I could sense that by people he meant ” sad old people”, but then what we heard was that users of this new product could claim an @facebook.com email address!

Search Engine Land’s comment, “Whatever-you-do-don’t-call-it-email-but-hey-here’s-a-Facebook-email-address-for-you email and messaging system”, raised a smile!

I do get the fact that for a lot of people email is outmoded. My wife says she has “emailed” someone, when what she means is that she has sent them a message on Facebook, so it’s not just the college kids he met, who Zuckerberg claims were the inspiration behind this product, who don’t use email because it’s too slow and informal.

But I remain unclear as to just what has been created here. Over a year in development, commanding more internal resource than Facebook have ever committed to a project before, this is clearly seen by them as a gamechanger.

If it really is simple, easy, short, personal etc etc and really does get the technology out of the way, then I can’t wait. (I’ve applied for an invite to test this thing, so will report if lucky enough to be granted one), but right now I just can’t picture it.

Can you help me shed some light on this?

The Monarchy Gets Sociable

No doubt many of you have already picked up the fact that H.M. The Queen has launched a fansite on Facebook.

This is tremendous stuff and I will avoid trying to make a witty quip on the subject, but have this post simply serve to record this great event!

The iPod toting Monarch now lives on Facebook and I for one see this as adding certain validity to FB – I think that’s just me.

Already on Twitter, You Tube (The wonderfully named “The Royal Channel”) and Flickr, the Queen is now showing how irresistible social tools are in messaging her subjects.

Perhaps this also highlights the older demographic that social tools are now attracting?

Facebook Launches ‘Deals’

As social commerce has grown over the last few months through sites like Groupon and location based apps like Four Square and Gowalla, Facebook today dropped their bomb in the middle of all of this.

Facebook Deals launched today in beta and is only available in the US to those businesses who have claimed their ‘places’.

‘Deals’ offers local businesses the chance to launch four types of deal – one off, group, loyalty and charity and the opportunities it affords local businesses are growing customer loyalty, growing through WOM (word of mouth) and recruiting new customers.

Let’s look at each.

Growing Loyalty – A local retailer can create a deal whereby a discount can be claimed if a customer checks in between 2 and 20 times.

Growing through WOM – If the average facebook user has 130 friends, the hope is that a deal will viral through you fans network very quickly.

Acquiring new customers – with 200 million people using Facebook through their mobile device, an opportunity now exists to attract nearby potential customers to your store.

This all sounds great and the sheer size of Facebook means the potential is staggering for local businesses.

But just a few months after Twitter dropped their offers function, I guess Facebook are treading lightly.

A gamechanger? What do you think?

Does ‘Like’ Go Far Enough? – Rosa Parks’s Facebook Status

Someone I spoke to the other day made a the comment – “What would the Victorians or Tudors have made of social media?”

Got me thinking. And then I read this article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker – an eloquent condemnation of the notion that it’s social media tools that have empowered people to make real change. He sure has a point.

Martin Luther King didn’t need Twitter to mobilise a movement. He didn’t say “I have a mission statement”, and Rosa Parks didn’t post on Facebook “Rode the bus today – some people got a bit angry when I wouldn’t give up my seat. Let’s start a revolution. Please ‘Like’ this”.

In fact when you consider relatively recent historical events of say the last 200 years, it’s quite humbling to see what has been achieved, all without social networks.

Think, William Cobbet’s pamphlets opposing the Corn Laws and support for Catholic Emancipation. Think, the Great Reform Acts, the Suffragettes, the Chartists, the Levellers, the overthrow of Ceaucescu and the Poll Tax riots. All examples of people power and mass mobilisation. The power of word of mouth and engagement. “Come down to Kennington Common – bring a friend” probably wasn’t exactly how the Chartists organised themselves, but you get the idea.

And so are we any more different or more powerful than these people in history, now that we have Facebook and Twitter?

Well, as I wrote about this week, a movement of people have persuaded Gap to change their logo inside a week of launching a new one,  by mobilising quickly and effectively on social media and scaring the bejeezus out of a major brand.

But now doesn’t that sound lame?

The best we can do through these channels is to persuade a business to change its logo because we don’t like it. I’m not disparaging this event. In the history of business and commerce I think it’s a massive one. One that will be written about for years.

But where are the flashmobs organised on Twitter and Facebook to protest against the travesty that is  young carers having their childhoods taken from them as they have to perform the tasks that their handicapped parents are unable to carry out for example?

Have we lost sight of what really matters and of what social tools could really do to help raise awareness and mobilise action? Has the nature of these tools themselves actually isolated and numbed people from what’s really happening in the world?

What if people had clicked ‘Like’ on Rosa Parks’s Facebook status? Would they have left it at that and gone back to their lives?

I’m not sure. What do you think?

 

Facebook Jumps Into Bed With Microsoft

This week Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be joining forces with Bing, by adding a ‘Bing Social’ search facility providing links to topics being discussed on Facebook.

This new collaboration with Microsoft puts Facebook in further competition with online search giant Google Inc. But Zuckerberg called Microsoft,  the “underdog” in search.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better to work with on the next generation of search,” Zuckerberg said.

So recommendations for restaurants or movies will now appear as a result of Facebook discussions and ‘social search’ will be a powerful element in making word of mouth truly the greatest channel that marketers will need to address.

But the adage “You are what Google (or Bing in this case) says you are” will be never more true!

So be careful when updating your status. If you wouldn’t say it to your Granny, then it’s probably best not to say it – it will be there forever!

For as the even truer adage goes, “You can’t take pi$$ out of a swimming pool!”