Can shopping work with social networks?

Looks like the American Marketing Association has its eye on social networks like MySpace as the shopping malls of the Web era. The AMA came out with a survey on Friday that said 47 per cent of people would go to such sites to research Christmas gifts — and better still, 29 per cent said they would buy things there if they could. You could almost hear the “cha-ching” while reading the story.

This idea has been commented on already by (among others) Muhammad Saleem at The Mu Life and Pete Cashmore at Mashable. As Froosh points out at HipMojo, News Corp. has been looking for ways to “monetize” MySpace ever since they paid more than half a billion dollars for it. But how best to do it? Not everyone is crazy about the idea of Wendy’s and Burger King setting up profiles for their advertising characters, and it’s hard to blame them.

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So how to integrate selling things with something like MySpace — or even just regular blogs, for that matter. As Pete has mentioned, there are plenty of companies trying to solve that problem, including MyPickList.com or “social shopping” sites like Crowdstorm, Wists, ThisNext and others. But the one I think has the most potential, although it doesn’t get written about a lot, is Goodstorm and its “MeCommerce” service, which is still in early beta.

In effect, it’s a sidebar shopping widget that allows blog readers to click and buy things without ever leaving the sidebar. It needs some work, but it’s an appealing idea — click to select a book or T-shirt or DVD, then click and enter your details, then click to buy it. And 50 per cent of the revenue goes to the site that hosts the widget. Goodstorm recently launched an API developers’ contest to see what kinds of widgets people could come up with.

18 thoughts on “Can shopping work with social networks?

  1. Pingback: Content Strategist: Manny Hernandez

  2. Me too, Anne. I hope MeCommerce — or something like it — catches on. I think it has real potential for micro-commerce or distributed commerce on the Web. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Hi Mathew,

    On the personal recommendation casual or impulse shopping side of things, I believe that some of these shopping ideas have the potential to work on a small scale and in a grass roots way.

    As to growth of serious shopping on the web, beyond the scope of established specialty retailers, I believe that the missing piece is the information architecture that underlies a good search function. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you just go to Google or your fav maven site in the category. If you’re browsing for yourself or gifts, however, with just a general idea, there isn’t a single network yet that’ll return many if any results, other than eBay.

    I do believe that this is an area with massive growth potential, but have not seen anyone come close to executing in it yet.

    Vera

  4. Interesting point Vera – right now a lot of social shopping sites focus on niche long tail items rather than anything mainstream. Actually, at Crowdstorm we’re trying to do both and give people the flexibility to share and talk about whatever product exists. Now the trick is do you either add all products across the internet into the site or do you let users upload them as they see fit so that you’re only talking about products that are seen as interesting by the community..?

  5. Hi Philip,

    imo the key word in your comment is community. A community is more than a congregation of people. I checked out Crowdstorm and was impressed by the fact that, despite all the product recommenders being anonymous, they give a good impression of being real and reputable. Tough thing to pull off. It often hinges on what I term micro authority (as well as communication skills, of course), and is most widely evidenced online for things tech related.

    On the question of bringing in wider selection of products, here’s the first idea that comes to mind. You could deliver a broad pool in any category that you have (an) active respected member(s) advising in and offer them as not yet commented on. When one gets recommended it moves into that primary category/area. Maybe also handpick through personal relationships a few maven types in categories you’d like to see the selection broadened to.

    Vera

  6. Thanks, for those comments, Vera — those are good points. I think community is the missing ingredient as well, and unfortunately it is also by far the most difficult thing to engineer. And thanks for stopping by, Philip — Crowdstorm is an interesting take on the problem.

  7. Pingback: Anne 2.0 » Blog Archive » links for 2006-11-26

  8. Now that’s an interesting idea…. have a kind of “product pit” where all the products exist but have not made it into the Crowdstorm community until they get recommended or pushed to the front by a trusted, reputable member…

    Sounds a bit like dig then doesn’t it…

  9. Pingback: Can Shopping Be Combines With Social Networks

  10. Pingback: Musings & Meanderings: Selling Your Reputation On The Web

  11. First off, thanks for sharing the info on MeCommerce. Seems like a very interesting concept, one that I feel now tempted to play with on my blog.

    As for Social Networks and shopping, here’s my two cents. I think Amazon has “not-so-quietly” been moving in to become a player to be reckoned with in the world of Social Networking and Shopping… they are missing on a handful of building blocks, but they are not far from it, in my opinion.

  12. I feel strongly that social networks can lend themselves to a shopping based website. To speak to Phillips question above, I believe that you let the members upload deals as they see fit as this leads to deals stored on a site that the members actually care about. It also helps to further strengthen the sense of community, which is what will ultimately be the lifeblood of these type of sites.

    My business partner, John, and I have developed a site that we believe will offer members a solid community experience and provide a practical shopping resource. We also have a few unique features that should add to our utility quotient. Check us out at http://www.dealarmy.com.

    Tom

  13. Pingback: Musings & Meanderings » Blog Archive » Selling Your Reputation On The Web

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