Social Commerce: A Simple Definition

“WTF does ‘social commerce’ even mean” venture capitalist Brad Feld recently tweeted, with a pointer to its buzzword-dense wikipedia page. I guffawed as well, but then paused – what would a reasonable one-sentence definition of social commerce look like? Is there such as thing? Here’s what I came up with:

Discovering a good or service via someone you know who does not directly financially benefit from the interaction.

Here’s my unpacking —

“Discovering” – doesn’t need to be a purchase, but rather a piece of information which may later result in purchase. This is lack of attribution is what drives social network platforms batty – they need to prove their value in the commerce landscape since users will often go to Google, Amazon or elsewhere and search for the item when they’re ready to purchase, rather than click through in the moment on a link in Facebook, Twitter, etc (or a link might not have even been included, just a statement like “Banana Republic jeans are the bomb”). Discovering might also suggest that it needs to be the first time you’ve been provided the information. I don’t mean it that way – you could, for example, encounter multiple people talking about Banana Republic jeans until finally you decide to make a purchase for yourself.

good or service” – social commerce can be about jeans, a plumber, a vacation destination, etc.

“via someone you know” – I don’t believe social commerce is merely hearing about a good or service via a social platform. If you don’t know (where “know” can equal “follow” – ie symmetrical and asymmetrical relationships) the person but simply encountered an ad on Facebook, that’s not social commerce, that’s a marketing channel.

“who does not directly financially benefit” – there are plenty of great affiliate programs, multilevel marketing businesses and promotional offers. The spread of these in my mind are *not* social commerce. Instead, the entity sharing the information is not receiving any direct financial benefit. They might be associating themselves with the halo effect of a brand or otherwise feel as if they’re being recognized or compensated in some form, but it’s not with an immediate, quantifiable $$ payoff.

Does this make sense to you? Limited to one sentence, what would you change?