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Review: community engine Platform

There has always been a bit of a gap between Social Media & Selling through Social Media. Too many in the industry, to do both together is somewhat a bit of a taboo. But as Social Networks grow and flourish with users (Customers), businesses must learn to adapt to this market and have the ability to be able to not only use these platforms as a form of communication, but to monetize them.

Many people will read the above paragraph and think, “Social Media is not for sales” and simply not read on. However, we are fast entering a phase of Social Media where Social Commerce will become just as important as the media itself. Look around, we are already moving into a world where Mobile Wallets are being used, Social Media data is used for targeted advertising and big players like Amazon, Facebook and Google have implemented their own commerce facilities.

Recently, I was invited (and happily accepted) to participate in the beta release of a new Social Commerce Platform, called community engine.

What struck me first about this platform was the beauty of all being about me. If I wanted to follow a business, I would see its offers and notices. This has a deep connection with consumers such as myself, because frankly, I tune out to all the white noise online and only watch, listen, see, read and engage with the content that is relevant to me.

Coming from the world of Social Media & operating a Social Media company, I have used many platforms in my day to day activities. My phone has 32 Social Media related apps that I use at least once per day for both business and pleasure. But community engine seems to link all the pieces of the puzzle together in a perfect symphony that appeals to every one of my Social Media Receptors as a Consumer and a small business owner.

For the small business side – I am able to create my own piece of real estate on community engine and explain everything about my business. Surely this feature is available on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ but it is only on community engine that you are able to integrate this with a sense of Community amongst other businesses in your network. Be that current stakeholders or new invitees!

In fact you can build a community from scratch around your business, by creating the space and sending out invites. There is no intrusive ‘adding to a group’ feature like Facebook, or the constant begging of people to follow your business profile like that on LinkedIn. A simple email is delivered to the recipient and if it is in line with their interest, they accept and become part of your Community.

Think that none of your customers will want to visit yet another Social Platform? Here is where community engine has made it very simple. Import your existing mailing lists / database into community engine and the invite is sent automatically to them.  Such simplicity derives such beauty in the connections we need to make but struggle to find the time to do so in our daily activities.

community engine is not like a Facebook page where you can leave a post and your fans have to visit the page or see the post in the active news feed to interact with. No. community engine offers a real-time communication network with your community, your members through the usage of the noticeboard and newswire.

The newswire behaves like a status feed of all your connections recommendations and posts – be that news, a special offer or a notice. The left hand column provides a chronological history of real social qualitative data that your network has communicated – this ticks the first box because it reduces the white noise of everything else you really do not want to read about. The right hand column still gently reminds us that we are part of a network of businesses that have products / services we are interested in – deals, offers and promotions in an easy to digest presentation.

The Noticeboard, which behaves much like a Pinterest exploration tab, gives the user an overall easy to scan view of all the output the communities they follow have shared on community engine. This helps me as a time limited business owner to review visually the right information I need to make that engagement possible. No fluff, no time wasting.

To make this platform even more social, each business can claim their own business (most are already preloaded for you) and use the platform to customise their profiles, message, receive feedback and obtain recommendations from customers, in addition to the general social media buttons we have grown custom too (‘Like’ & ‘Recommend’). This completes the circle of Social Interaction between business and Customer. A direct social channel to help all forms of communication is now open through the community engine Platform.

And if you think all this has nothing to do with Social Commerce – community engine once again integrates the perfect facilitation of transactions between business and customer. The platform contains an online payment facility driving the customer to purchase from the business (through community engine) with the click of a few buttons. In the past many companies have struggled to obtain a merchant facility that can help drive this revenue back from the digital platforms into the ledger books. In fact attempting to obtain a merchant facility can prove to be bigger than Ben Hur these days. But the community engine platform has just revolutionised this with one quick step that when linked to offers and promotions. These purchases are based on offers directly created by the business and not based around the terms of a deals conglomerate (e.g. expiry date, limitations) with the intent on making a quick dollar.

Sure these might be a special offer, but as they are not created to be sold on mass, they won’t create a negative experience. If a business has a special deal to place, it places it directly, and within a 1 week turnaround time, Community Engine facilitates a smooth payment transition between business & customers. Goodbye Groupon. Hello respectful Social Commerce.

Thus there are many features that businesses can use on the community engine platform that help make life for business owners, in one word, simple. Yes as a business owner, it’s my favourite word to hear on a daily basis too.

As a consumer, I can tell you that these features are so in line with what I want. I don’t want to be harassed by business in any way, shape or form. This includes my Social Media newsfeeds being flooded with constant invaluable information or selling from companies. I don’t want to have to go through a middle man such as the Daily Deals companies where I may or may not receive the end product with ridiculous clauses and restrictions. I don’t want to have to scroll through a never ending feed of jargon that doesn’t apply to me.

I simply want to glance over the things I’m interested in, have special offers capture my attention, communicate with the communities I’m interested in (on my own terms) and use Social Media in my own way. After all, this is also my piece of digital real estate. I am your customer, but I am not just another statistic on your social metrics.

Speaking as a Social Media professional and as an everyday customer, community engine offers an extraordinary experience that feels respectful of my needs and wants. It has bridged the gap between Social Media, Social Commerce and the customer in a way that allows Social Media to be used as a selling tool without having to do the selling.

Most importantly for me, it opens up the doors to small business owners around the country to a new tool that allows them to harness the power of Social Media to something more than a communication channel. And teaches our customers that they are the biggest influencers and assets our businesses will always have.

Simple.

As always, Share + Enjoy.

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An Introduction to Social Commerce

Music Producer David Guetta, recently released an album through Facebook. With 24 million fans on his Facebook page, Guetta utilised the ability to use Social Platforms like Facebook to sell directly to the people whom want to buy his product – his biggest fans. The fans that spent the time to ‘like’ his page.

This is the start of the Social Commerce age.

But what is Social Commerce? Why should businesses take note of Social Commerce? Who is currently using Social Commerce and utilising tools like the Facebook Store (FB-Store)? And where is Social Commerce heading in the future?

Social Commerce is a new and emerging field that is the next step of evolution in Social Media. Whilst businesses and customers have now been thrown together at high velocity in what we term today as ‘Social Media’ this engagement will more than likely not be enough in the near future. And its businesses whom are driving this change.

As economies contract, businesses are looking for the most efficient and effective way to reach their customers utilising free media tools, such as Social Networking  and Microblogging sites. Whilst businesses today are starting to respond to the need to be ‘were the customer is’ they have still found it difficult to monetise this presence in Social Media.

A question I am nearly always asked when speaking to businesses about Social Media is:

“How can we make money from this?” or the more direct “Show me the ROI?”

This burning desire to capture every dollar out of every connection to the business is the holy grail of business revenue dreams – and Social Media the catalyst!

Enter stage right, Social Commerce.

Whilst many old school business owners would shudder at the thought of transacting over social networks or social media sites, this is the direction we are headed in.

Social Commerce moves businesses away from traditional ROI models of financials into 4 quadrants of Social ROI: Financials (of course); Brand Equity; Online Reputation Management and Digital Assets.

Social Commerce is thus then reflected through businesses transacting through platforms like Facebook (Social Networking Sites) and Mobile devices.

Social Commerce already exists, and several large companies like Coca-Cola, Startbucks and Disney are already transacting through their Facebook account. That is they are directly selling on Facebook.

Want more proof? Here are some statistics on Facebook Commerce:

Number of Diapers P&G sold on its FB-Store in under an hour: 1,000

Number of retailers who have opened up a FB-Store: 50,000

Starbucks customers using their e-commerce-enabled FB CRM loyalty program: 1M+

Customer using Wal-Mart’s group-buy FB app on day of launch: 5,000+

FB-Store conversion rates: 2% - 4%, which is on par with most web-stores: 3% - 4%

Click through rates on Facebook Walls: 6.5%

And it doesn’t end there. With the web now becoming the MobileWeb, we are all more connected to our Social Media platforms through our smartphones. The introduction of NFCs and the Mobile Wallet will mean that businesses and consumers now have a way to transact through the MobileWeb. And Social Media will lie at the heart of this.

So what should we expect to see in the next few years in Social Commerce?

More than likely it will branch into two types: The first will be based on consumer to consumer recommendations through Social Media – where connected friends on Social Networks will drive sales based on experience, preferred brands and the way businesses behave in Social Media. The Second will be based on special offers, loyalty and incentive programs. The most certain prediction is that both these scenarios will be played out on the mobile platform utilising mobile wallet and Smartphone technology.

To conclude, Social Commerce can be summarised in a great quote by Sumeet Jain, Principle of CMEA Capital:

“It’s a matter of time – within the next five years or so – before more business will be done on Facebook than Amazon”

Now businesses, I ask you: “What will be the impact on your ROI if you don’t get involved in Social Media Now?”

Next week, we look at an Introduction to Social Monitoring

As always, Share + Enjoy!

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