Social's not FOR selling... is it?

I hear it all the time: “social media’s not for selling”.

To use the sailor’s language I grew up with: bulls**t. That’s like saying phones aren’t for computing.

Things change. But, sometimes, it’s only once they change that we can see how daft our old attitudes were. Phones can be amazing computers if you do it right. And social makes for an extraordinary commercial channel if you sell socially. And yet, I often encounter resistance from social media professionals when I talk about social’s transformational potential and how it’s destined to break free from its current limitations.

Why? Well, just as the terrific writer Nilofer Merchant suggests in the Harvard Business Review, I believe the problem is one of language. By calling this thing ‘social media‘, we’re already pigeonholing an incredible tool, tramlining it within some highly restrictive perimeters. It’s social media -> therefore it’s media -> therefore commerce can only rear its head in the form of adverts -> therefore no one wants to buy in social. But surely this is a wanton case of a predetermined definition being used to construct its own term? It’s cart before horse. Or, to use more sailor’s language, it’s a**e over t*t.

Who decided this thing should be called ‘social media’ in the first place? Why not call it ‘the social space’? Or ‘the social world’? Or ‘SOCIAL: THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL’? If we’re making this stuff up as we go along, surely we should be making up something expansive and expressive, not miserly and backwards-looking?

That’s why I’m on a mission to carve out a responsible definition for ‘social commerce’ – to make it abundantly clear that social does not begin and end with ‘social media’. Social commerce isn’t linking to your online store via social (that’s merely social media marketing; that’s the advertising paradigm we’re bursting free from). Social commerce is selling in social – and it’s hugely popular with the the brands I work with, with their communities and with new people who discover it every day. See? You can sell in social. I’m already doing it. You should be, too.