Beware the dangers of social media “buy” buttons

Most major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are testing or implementing a “buy” button. But don’t dive in without first checking what’s beneath the surface.

The rise of “buy” buttons on social media networks is an exciting new part of the e-commerce revolution, but retailers should be very careful of – and do their research into – these new buttons, experts warn. Used wisely, a buy button can be a powerful sales tool; if done badly, which describes the way too many businesses are currently using the offering, your loyal online customers could be easily turned away.

If your business has an established e-commerce service that is successfully selling, then the added functional component of a social media buy button, such as Facebook’s Buy buttonTwitter’s Product Card and Instagram’s Like2Buy button, could work well in the sales mix.

This, says Adam Vincenzini, founder and Managing Partner of specialist content marketing and social media agency Kamber, is because an e-commerce business typically only experiences long-term success if it already has several important elements in place.

Build trust through customer service

A successful e-commerce business is likely, for instance, to have integrated channel managers with customer service teams, meaning a customer experiencing a technical or product fault can easily seek assistance and receive a speedy response. A successful brand is also likely to have established a good level of trust and rapport with their market via their chosen social media networks, an essential before introducing a buy button.

“From a strictly marketing and communication perspective, a buy button shouldn’t be added in to day-to-day social media output unless a level of trust has been obtained from the audience,” says Vincenzini.

“If a business has a history of just pushing sales-based content, it reduces the likelihood of any mechanic driving clicks and conversions. Ideally, businesses operate with an audience-first mentality, adding value to the online lives of the people that matter to them. Then, and only then, should sporadic sales messages be integrated.”

Add value for the customer

While it is foolish to think that one general approach should be recommended for all businesses, says Vincenzini, the principle of being selective with the use of specific sales mechanics shouldn’t change. In terms of social media, this is especially important considering that people follow brands because they are especially interested in them and loyal to them.

“Adding a buy button without any special incentive can possibly alienate the people who are your biggest online advocates,” notes Vincenzini.

So, what should a business have in place before considering the implementation of the social media buy button? It should already have a strong and loyal following on the chosen social media platform(s), and a buy button should only be used sporadically and with an offer that truly adds value for the customer.

Consider online safety and security

Next, consider data security and privacy. Platforms such as Facebook invest heavily in creating a secure environment for businesses to operate within, but as soon as the buy button is clicked, all responsibility shifts to the vendor, says Vincenzini.

“Businesses with an established presence will ideally have procedures and policies in place to deal with this often-sensitive area,” he says. “For those that aren’t established and are considering options like the buy button, getting the operational systems in place first should be the priority.”

Own your own main sales channels

It’s also important to make sure you have a strong brand presence in a format that you control, such as a website or app. Social media should not be your only brand or sales tool.

“Businesses do not own the social media platforms, and they have to play by the rules of the platform in question,” says Vincenzini. “If anything, the importance of having digital channels you truly own, such as a website hub or a mobile app, has increased. Ownership of those platforms provides flexibility and control that social media doesn’t.”

Involve the whole business in sales via social media

Finally, ensure that social media as a business tool is not only owned and managed by the sales team but is shared between other departments, such as communications, brand, legal, HR and so on. In other words, ensure that reputation and other issues are taken into account, rather than them being trumped by sales.

“The introduction of the buy button has mostly led to improper use, as opposed to nailing it from the beginning,” says Vincenzini. “The businesses doing it well are the ones that have spent a sustained period of time investing in digital marketing as a whole. The most proficient sectors tend to be fashion, large-scale retail such as supermarkets and technology-based businesses.”

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