Social commerce is among ecommerce’s hottest trends. Brands are turning to creators on social channels such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to generate awareness and even directly make sales. But besides the obvious fact of so-called social commerce taking place on social platforms, what makes this growing form of commerce social? 
I entered the social commerce space myself after becoming a mother. Finding myself in need of products for my child that had been vetted by trusted third parties, I realized that the future of commerce was truly social — meaning it would not just take place on social platforms but be driven by digital word of mouth from friends, friends’ friends, and everyday people in similar situations to an individual consumer’s (for example, fellow mothers). This realization driven by my personal experiences added a new dimension to my understanding of ecommerce, an industry in which I had previously worked.  
If we think of social commerce as being about not just commerce on Instagram or TikTok but a truly social process where consumers look to advice from other, trusted consumers to facilitate purchasing decisions, we can understand what it means for brands to take full advantage of the booming phenomenon that is social commerce. 
Maximizing social commerce’s value means systematically producing social proof by everyday consumers so that in an age of fake reviews, misinformation, and ad fraud, consumers can discover and buy online from parties they trust. Taking advantage of social commerce means making commerce truly social — with all the benefits word of mouth has historically entailed, amplified by the network effects of social media. 
Having reassessed what it means for commerce to be truly social, here are steps brands can take to maximize the value of their forays into social commerce. 

Partner with creators your audiences trust

Many brands seek to unlock the opportunity of social commerce by partnering with influencers. They want to reach customers on Instagram and TikTok, and they bet that the best way to do so is by partnering with celebrities with millions of followers.
But this is not necessarily the best way to maximize the value of social commerce, especially for brands on a budget. Besides being expensive, influencers offer a relatively impersonal connection to consumers (who observe them from afar), and they often produce videos that barely mention a product or service. 
Don’t focus on follower counts when partnering with creators to reach social audiences. Instead, seek out creators with relatively small but highly engaged audiences that correspond to your ideal customer profiles. Also prioritize finding creators who are willing to work on a deadline and tailor their content to your needs, as opposed to celebrities who hold all the power in your relationship.
The promise of social commerce is about scaling the value of word of mouth — connecting consumers with products vetted by people like them. So, don’t limit your move into social commerce to celebrities, or people unlike your average customer.

Maximize the value of reviews

Another way to capitalize on social commerce is to facilitate the most efficient mode of social proof: reviews. Certain platforms, most notably Yelp, infamously discourage businesses from requesting reviews. But most platforms, such as Google and Amazon, allow review encouragement as long as the business does not take down negative reviews or explicitly encourage positive reviews.
There are two ways you can maximize the value of reviews. The first is by encouraging customers to leave them on social platforms and responding to reviews customers do leave. If customers leave a negative review, do not ignore or criticize them. Rather, approach all reviews with a spirit of customer service. Learn from the feedback, and show other customers via public responses that you are prepared to address dissatisfied customers’ concerns. This, too, is part of social commerce — developing a relationship with your customers in the public digital forum.
Take your review strategy a step further by partnering with creators who can review your products in shareable videos on social platforms. You should be able to not just solicit reviews but specify what in particular you would like the creator to consider when discussing your product. Of course, the creator will infuse their own perspective into the video; that, combined with your specifications, is how you win hearts and minds and even drive transactions via social commerce.

Amplify your reach

How does social commerce differ from old-school word of mouth like the kind of advice a mother shopping for her child might seek from her own mother or friends? Reach.
This is the true promise of social commerce. It is not ushering in an entirely new paradigm or form of social relationships the economy has not seen before. Advice from trusted third parties has always been part of the customer journey. But with social commerce, brands have the opportunity to orchestrate flows of information, organize those trusted third parties, and increase the chance that they reach prospective customers, driving products off the shelves.
Of course, new mothers like me will always look to their own mothers, aunts, and friends for advice when it comes to shopping for their families. But I’ve also discovered products and services through third-party brand ambassadors that have made my life easier and my child’s richer. With a thoughtful approach to social commerce, brands can take the reins, making sure consumers like me discover their products, too. 


Mya Papolu