We talk a lot about social media marketing - using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to market brands and drive traffic to sites. There is no question that these can be effective tools for doing both of these things.

As time goes on, it may become helpful or perhaps even necessary to use these tools for actual e-commerce. The common thinking behind social media marketing is that you don't want to be too sales-pitchy in your conversations, and in some ways that is still very true. However, while social media is largely about conversations, it's not only about conversations.

As time progresses, social media becomes a lot of things to a lot of people. We've reached the point where social networks are simply "where we hang out" online. People are not only having conversations. They're sharing pictures. They're playing games. They're looking for information. They're using social networks to help them make purchase decisions. Sometimes this is through conversation. Sometimes it's as simple as being a fan of a brand's Facebook page and receiving timely updates.
Facebook has virtual currency, and is starting to open up possibilities for transactions for physical goods. Facebook Connect has just been made easier for webmasters to implement on their sites. That's huge. As people spend much of their time on Facebook, they are pretty much relinquishing a certain amount of trust to the social network, whether they realize it or not (and whether they should be or not, but that's another issue).

If your site is plugged into Facebook via Facebook Connect, and they can log in to your site to make purchases just by being logged into Facebook, they may not find themselves as concerned with security issues. Security concerns have long hindered the true potential of e-commerce, and as a result, plenty of trustworthy e-commerce sites have likely missed out on tons of sales, just because of the distrust of the method of purchasing in general.

Now I'm not saying that Facebook Connect is a sign of security. In fact, some might even suggest that it damages security, simply based on the fact that Facebook is often associated with security issues. I'm just saying, users are always signed in to Facebook anyway, and if they see your site is connected with Facebook, they may have no problems signing in with their Facebook info.
"Facebook Connect would allow you to go to a Website like Dell.com and authenticate yourself using your Facebook profile, allow your identity to be known and access your friends so you could spark up a chat," says Paul Dunay, Global Managing Dir. of Services, Social Marketing with Avaya in an interview with eMarketer. "So I could say, 'Hey, Jeff, I’m looking at this new fancy laptop or this netbook. I heard you bought something. Would you recommend this to me?'

"So you could almost take your friends shopping with you. That is the potential with this example," he adds. "We're in a period now where we’re all starting to get comfortable with Twitter and get comfortable with using Facebook and LinkedIn and a lot of these other tools, and now we’re about to expand."

You want to stay relevant in real-time searches to stay current in people's minds as well. It's simple branding. That doesn't mean you have to send out excessive tweets promoting your product. It is information that Twitterers often seek, and by simply discussing information, you're brand is still visible, even if that information isn't directly related to your brand.

What role do you think social media will play in e-commerce in the future?


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