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What Will Buy Buttons Mean for Social Media?

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Perhaps the most unifying momentum towards social media advancement at the moment comes in the form of consumer appeal. Over the past year or so, Facebook (with Instagram), Pinterest, Twitter and Google have all started playing around with 'buy' buttons and more extensive shopping features so that users can add online shopping to the already impressive compliment of features available on each platform.

The levels of success have varied, Pinterest have limited their shopping functionality to buyable pins, basically pins which act as direct windows to product customisation and purchase. Instagram meanwhile offer a similar service, but only for sponsored accounts, likely a gambit to increase corporate interest in the platform. Although it was only officially announced in September, Twitter have been quietly expanding their reach for retail capability for ages, gradually pulling more users and partners. In typically extravagant fashion, Facebook have been trying out all kinds of different approaches, from the acquisition of a retail search engine to the introduction of an eBay style flogging function to the ability to transfer money through the messenger.

Google, finally, have been taking steps to embed a shopping function into the main search engine, effectively eliminating the need to navigate away from Google when making a purchase. This momentum shift is as much about attracting retailer attention as much as consumer attention, and it makes sense that the most subscribed sites on the web would want to become active marketplaces as well as social networks, but will it pay off?

It's still early, but trust is going to play a massive role in this system. Monitoring horror stories have done little to aid people's faith in platforms like Facebook and the idea of keeping any kind of financial information stored on the site might be a bridge too far for many people. Equally, retailers will need to be assured that they will be allowed the same kind of autonomy they have on sites like eBay, rather than just some regimented digital market stand. Facebook in particular need to prove that their service is more effective than simply linking to the retailer's main website.

Ultimately it all comes down to advertising, product purchase is just one step up from user engagement and the more of that process users can enact within a given platform, the more attractive it will look to advertisers. It's the different between having a poster up somewhere and actually having someone standing in front of it selling the product. The magic word is e-commerce, mobile platforms are becoming the most popular for web browsing, but are far behind with e-commerce, social media platforms, being so retrofitted for mobile use, could bridge that gap, especially ones like Pinterest.

The relationship between the platforms and their retail partners will be key. Most retailers absolutely loathe Amazon for the way it manages its own stocking and advertising so this will always be an attractive option, but Pinterest, Facebook et al are going to have to work very closely with them to ensure mutual satisfaction. What does it mean for us though?

For the time being, not a lot. You might start seeing more 'buy' buttons cropping up and experience more targeted advertising on Facebook and later Twitter, but Pinterest will remain largely the same, since it still relies on you to find what you're looking for. At large, this will probably come down to the ongoing battle for supremacy between Google and Facebook, but retailers have suddenly been given a lot more power in that fight.



Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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What Will Buy Buttons Mean for Social Media? Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 Rating: 5

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