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By Thomas Baekdal - February 2012

People Are Reluctant to Shop on Social Channels

Harris Interactive recently conducted a study that looked at people's willingness to interact with social commerce. They found (among other things) that 75% are open to recommendations by friends when shopping for products, but only 20% are willing to purchase the products on social sites.

They then came to the conclusion that this could mean trouble for the future of social commerce. They just have no idea what social commerce is.

The problem is that they think social commerce is a thing you do on Facebook. It's not.

People are used to thinking of the world as objects and destinations. A concert is a thing that you can watch in a specific place. A car is a thing you buy at a dealer. Food is a thing that you eat at restaurant, etc.

But the internet is not a thing, nor is it a destination. The internet is a connector, or a facilitator, linking things together. But in itself the internet is not a thing.

One good example is when we look at mobile. Almost all 'mobile' studies define mobile as a phone. They see it as a thing. When they talk about the rise in mobile shopping, they only mean the shopping you do from a mobile phone.

But that is an irrelevant way to look at mobile. The real mobile is a verb. It's not a thing, but the ability to shop, read, or interact from wherever you are. Mobile means connecting what you want to do, with wherever you happen to be, using whatever device you want to use.

Mobile is a verb. It's a feeling of being free to do what you want.

Social is just like mobile - a verb. It's not a thing, it's not a place, it's not a destination, it's not a specific channel, nor is it a specific site.

Being social means you are engaging *with* your audience.

The same is true for Social Commerce. Most think of it as a thing. As in, "create a shop in a Facebook tab and ask people to go there to buy your products."

But that is not what social commerce is about. That is F-commerce (or Facebook commerce). As in the act of buying something *on* Facebook.

Social commerce is, like mobile, a verb. It is the act of using social engagement to drive a sale. But that sale does not have to take place on Facebook, or on any other social channel to be social.

Harris Interactive didn't look at social commerce, they only looked at social as a thing. They looked at F-commerce.

They found that only 20% are willing to buy products on Facebook, which isn't really that surprising because Facebook is not a good platform for selling products. People are reluctant, in general, to do business on platforms that are designed around sharing. We love to share what we do and what we like, but we don't like to give Facebook or other social channels access to our money.

One reason is that we don't trust Facebook to keep our transactions private. Facebook would obviously never share our credit card information, but do you trust them to not auto-share every product you look at and every product you buy? That's what they do every time you listen to a song on Spotify or read an article in the Guardian.

People want to feel in control of sharing when it comes to buying products. What if it is something you don't want other people to know about - like an anniversary edition of Hello Kitty with a cute little exclusive plus toy. What if it is a gift and you want to keep it as a surprise. Do you trust Facebook to not auto-share that purchase if you bought it on a shop *on* Facebook?

I wouldn't...

Facebook is a terrible destination for selling products, but it is a brilliant platform for sharing.

Harris Interactive found that only 20% trust Facebook enough for shopping. But that is f-commerce, not social commerce.

They also found that 75% are influenced by friend recommendations before they buy a product, which is the real future of social commerce.

Social commerce is not a thing. It's a facilitator. When you engage with social commerce, you are not setting up a shop, you are facilitating the connection between people and your product. It's the act of selling, not the place of a sale.

You can read much more about this in my book, "The Future of Social Commerce". The key message is the same as in this article. Social commerce is not a thing, so forget about setting up a shop in a Facebook tab. That is not where the magic is.

And Harris Interactive, please stop asking people if they are willing to shop on Facebook. That's irrelevant. The power of social commerce is in the act of sharing, not if the link happens to go to a Facebook tab (or app).


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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