What’s On

What’s wrong with Facebook’s Buy Now approach?

There has been talk for a while about f-commerce (Facebook commerce) or s-commerce (you guessed it, social commerce) and it finally looks like it’s here. Facebook has previously tried to launch this before through the form of ‘Deals’ and many brands have, in the past, built custom tabs within Facebook to drive buy-now conversion.

Facebook has taken a further step in ruining what is great about the platform by announcing they are testing an in-stream ‘Buy Button’ in the US. To you and me, more ads to sift through as you browse your ‘friends’ latest baby/cat/dog/holiday status updates.

As someone who advises brands on their digital and social business strategy, I am constantly saying that brands need to move away from distraction type media to attraction strategies, building brand love, engagement and ultimately audiences that will buy and advocate your brand or product. Specifically Facebook and Twitter would be key channels for this within a brand’s architecture due to their size of audience and spread of demographics. Twitter is also experimenting in this area, but I won’t go there today….

Facebook’s latest addition makes that sell a little harder, as it is clearly moving away from its core of being a platform based on storytelling and ‘connecting the world’ (< Facebook’s mission) to a transactional selling platform. To be blunt, this to me just seems like a ploy to get brands to spend (even) more media units with the social network, to satisfy the company’s IPO investor returns.

Let’s take it back to the core, and delve into the word ‘social’ just for a second and I’ll explain my point.
Social is a behaviour, and is inherently about connecting people and engagement between those people (or brands) – alike to a social setting in the real world. People have conversations on social ‘channels’, and brands who understand ‘how to be social’ are tapping into those conversations and building an association around a topic close the brand’s heart or beliefs. Done correctly people then build up an affinity to that brand because their values and/or wants and desires match. Think Nike and running (or World Cup); Red Bull and extreme sports.

Ultimately it’s about conversations, building relationships and publishing great content that resonates. When people muse Facebook, they are in a mindset for this type of interaction – they want to be entertained, or educated. Are people in a purchase mindset? I don’t think so. To go from ‘hi hello, let’s be friends’ to ‘buy my products’ the next minute seems strange as a behaviour. If a friend in your physical social circle was like that you’d soon unfriend them (or if that wasn’t an option, make fun of them). Facebook’s new feature is like the door-to-door salesman of the digital world – with the ability to knock on potentially millions of doors in one click of button – with little care for the amount of people disturbed whilst they prove ROI (make a sale).

Facebook should leave selling to platforms built for selling, platforms that people visit to buy things. Yes the watch in the picture above looks great, but I wasn’t looking to buy a watch (is the point).

Facebook should be a place for brands to build strong relationships with their fans, share their beliefs, show them why their product is amazing, and provide signposts to where the products can be purchased (such as website, physical retail or e-tailer). Facebook is a brand’s opportunity for an always-on conversation about why their product or brand is great – then when I think ‘I want to buy a cool watch’ I think about that company and visit their (hopefully) mobile ready digital shop-front.

Being interrupted with the same advert to ‘buy-now’ for days on end is alike to the old world of 30-sec TV ads, I’ll start ignoring them and worst-still subconsciously I’ll start disliking the brand that interrupts my downtime.

Brands should invest their dollars in understanding their target customers through listening and engage them with great on-brand content that will build a longstanding relationship and affinity with the brand. A ‘buy now’ button may create short-term sales, but will never build a longstanding customer base or brand love.

Chris Bell

The author, Chris Bell, is a Senior Account Director and Social Media Lead at SapientNitro Asia Pacific. This column is part of SapientNitro’s thought leadership series hosted on DMA.