Social Networks Becoming Consumer Networks (Pt. 2)

In part one I talked about how the major social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are adding the ability for users to purchase products directly from their platforms. This effort is an attempt to make it easier to convert users who come across their advertisements on those networks into buyers.

I believe that Instagram and Pinterest are best situated to capitalize on this industry movement because their user interface (UI) is so dependent on compelling visuals. What has always set Pinterest apart from their competitors, other than the heavily slanted US female demographic, has been that it is very much a consumer-driven product. Users primarily go to Twitter to find news, to Facebook for their network of friends and family and Pinterest to dream about items they’d love to buy. Pinterest’s general manager of monetization, Tim Kendall, told TechCrunch that two-thirds of the content on Pinterest is pinned by people from business websites.

While a large number of Pinterst users are women, the demographic has seen a shift in recent years. According to Pinterest, “…men are actually the fastest-growing demographic on Pinterest. In 2014, the number of men using Pinterest doubled, and one-third of all signups come from men.”

With a willing audience of 70 million monthly visitors, Pinterest is perfectly positioned to be able to convert their users into consumers through their Rich Pins ad product. A Shopify study found that an average purchase made through Pinterest is $50, higher than any other social platform. The study also found that 93% of Pinterest users use the platform to plan purchases. Jason Del Ray from Re/Code put it best in reference to Pinterest’s positioning as a platform to convert customers when he wrote, “it’s logical to assume people are signaling some interest — if not clear purchase intent — in a product when they Pin an image.”

Additionally, Instagram has the advantage of a captive audience that reacts to engaging photographs. They may not come to the app in the consumer mindset that Pinterest users possess, but Instagram is still at a tipping point where there isn’t an over-saturation of content in a user’s feed like there is with Twitter. According to Simply Measured, the highest-performing Instagram images and videos see 50% of their comments arriving 13 hours after posting.

Instagram has frustrated many marketers because of the inability to add a link to images. The best way people have found to get around that is to try and drive followers to the link in their profile page, but the added step to click back to the profile page creates a friction point. The native buy button in the user’s feed will eliminate this problem.

Marketers have been trying to quantify the ROI (Return on Investment) for social networks as marketing platforms for years, and this is one of the best tools they’ll have available to prove the value of social media marketing. The fundamentals of properly marketing on social media will still remain the same. Quality followers, now more than ever, are more important that quantity of followers. Brands employing buy buttons will want passionate followers who can be converted into customers through the social network. Having a large number of unmotivated followers just to pad vanity metrics won’t be of any value. I’ve seen many marketers try to hack the system to gain followers either by purchasing them or using “follow for follow” strategies. In a world where we can track percentage of followers that are now customers, padding stats with uninterested followers affects conversion rates and ultimately doesn’t do the business any good.

The other truism of social media marketing is that quality of content will still be king. Sticking a buy button on a stale post won’t generate much activity. Compelling and engaging content that is native to the platform will always convert the most customers.

New information is coming out every day as the major players in social media jockey for attention and customers. Expect movement from other giants in this space, including Google, who announced this week that they’re going to be adding a “Purchase with Google” button to their mobile search results. It’s an exciting time to be in digital marketing.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please feel free to send them to me @FletcherRutland.

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