Waving Goodbuy: Facebook’s Big Whiff on Traffic of Commercial Intent

Commercial Intent almost never exists on Social Media.” What a crock. Every day my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of discussions about music, fashion, electronics, travel and other highly valuable verticals. The fact these conversations aren’t directly attributable to sales conversion aren’t fundamental statements about social traffic, but rather continued product gaps in the underlying platforms. They haven’t designed great commerce experiences across the (a) identification of relevant discussions, (b) presentation of features to convert commercial intent and (c) ad products to present in context.

Let me use a recent personal example to illustrate:

June 11th, I ask Facebook friends whether to buy a Macbook Pro or Macbook Air. I’m buying a new computer for my office. This is a $1000+ purchase. High value and I’m at a point of research. [for purposes of this discussion, i’ve set thread to ‘public’ but until this time was set to ‘friends only’]

June 11th-14th, 52 comments weighing in on things I should consider, including a few endorsements for the Chromebook Pixel. And a few friends stating they’re trying to make the same decision. Folks who weighed in included friends who probably fall into the “tastemakers & influencers” category – over 100k+ followers on Facebook, Twitter. In other words, the types of social referral that brands usually pay for!!!!

Despite an incredibly high density of product brand names in the discussion and words like “buy,” Facebook doesn’t seem to recognize this thread as any different than other types of posting. What could they be doing? Here are some ideas:

  • Aggregating all the similar product names into a “comparison” unit with pricing and availability from top merchants
  • Telling me which of my friends have liked “Apple” and suggesting I target the question to them via @names
  • Looking for other recent popular public posts or similar Facebook conversations from my social graph so I can read how those threads concluded
  • Giving me links to 3rd party research about these products on content partner sites like CNet, Engadget, etc

Instead I’m left to hope that some friends have pasted links into their responses and copy/paste any keywords into a separate browser tab for further research. This brings us into the world of ‘dark social,’ severing the direct referral attribution. Value leeches out of Facebook that they should be capturing.

For all intent & purposes, what I’ve done on Facebook is the commercial intent equivalent of searching MacBook Air on Google. Let’s see how they each blend ad products into this experience. You know where this is going, right?

Ads on Facebook irrelevant to the context of the discussion

Google inserts sponsored commerce results into the SERP

Here’s what I get from Facebook: “Tell Your Microsoft Story,” “Best Buddies Challenge,” “PoliTemps,” and “Go McGuire Mobile.” As Seth and Amy, might say, “Really?” I want to buy a computer. Please help me.

I realize these are hard problems to solve but there’s such upside available for both the user experience and Facebook’s monetization model, it’s the elusive Win-Win.

What am I missing? Am I overestimating the percentage of traffic that can be deemed of “commercial nature?” The complexity of the problem (I worked on AdSense so I know what’s hard and what’s easier here)?

Or does Facebook just like showing me elf boobs instead of Apple ads?

I don't like games or cartoon boobs. Stop showing me this.

I don’t like games or cartoon boobs. Stop showing me this.