The Art of Social Selling

If we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us spend more time on social media than ever. So it makes sense for businesses to capitalise on all that screen time to sell products to a huge, almost captive, audience. After all, when we’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, we’re not just looking at the pictures of our second cousin’s baby or what our friends are up to. We’re also engaging with content from brands whose target audience includes us.

The digital age has not only refined the way we shop, it’s also turned us into more selective consumers. We are used to getting what we want quickly and easily, and we expect brands to come to us, peak our interest and deliver a multi-channel shopping experience.


In a nutshell, social commerce is: social media + shopping. It might not seem like a new concept (there have been adverts on social media since its inception) but what’s new is the ease with which users can make purchases within the app they’re using, without the hassle of leaving the platform.

At the forefront of this push is Instagram (no surprise there, as it’s a predominantly visual medium) but Instagram are going the extra mile – providing shoppable posts and stories and a swipe-up feature (if you have the required 10,000+ followers or a verified account, that is). Instagram’s explore page even has a shopping feature where users can scroll through hundreds of products advertised by different brands and use the ‘buy it’ buttons within each post to make a purchase without navigating away from Instagram. This feature is open to small and large businesses alike and is an excellent tool to take advantage of. What brand wouldn’t like an audience of potential customers who are ​asking ​to be advertised to?

Of course, Instagram aren’t alone on the Social Commerce bandwagon. Facebook, who have the largest market share of UK users, were early adopters and introduced Facebook marketplace back in 2007. Pinterest, another aesthetic-based platform, offers features like Buyable Pins, Shop the Look and Catalogs.

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Who’s doing it? And who’s doing it well?

It should come as no surprise that fashion retailers have embraced Social Commerce wholeheartedly. Instagrams hashtags and tagging features already gave them access to user-generated content from their customers and in a happy confluence of social media tools, they can tag specific products in those images. Creating a seamless transition from social app to e-commerce purchase.

Topshop are a great example of this. A quick scroll through their Insta feed will show you that almost all their posts feature tagged products, which you can bookmark within the app to create a wishlist, or view on their website without leaving the platform. Consumers no longer need to close Instagram and go to the Topshop website and search for a product that caught their eye on Insta – a process so long and potentially fruitless that it often leads to abandonment. Instead, they can just click straight through to checkout.

Homeware retailers are also integrating social commerce into their marketing strategies. Loaf chose to hone in on Facebook as the best platform for their Social Commerce efforts, with featured tagged products in posts and an integrated shop feature which allows them to highlight particular products on the main page and navigate to a full list of products with customisable categories such as “Take a (TV) Stand”- who doesn’t love a good pun?

International brand MAC Cosmetics utilise Pinterest to showcase their makeup to 1.6m monthly unique viewers – a huge audience! Although products are tagged and users can click through to the MAC website without leaving the platform, the main driver of Pinterest is inspiration. Social Commerce can inspire shop floor purchases, just as an ad on a billboard or in a magazine can. Customers who seek out the brand on social media are choosing to engage with them and are likely to make a purchase, whether it’s on the platform or IRL.

Try something new

The aforementioned brands are all pretty sizeable, but don’t be dissuaded! The world of social media, and by extension Social Commerce, is a democracy and there’s room for your brand too. It’s not yet an exact science and even the big brands are still learning what users on each platform want to see and what drives in-app purchases. The technology that’s in place works smoothly and is showing results, so why not see if Social Commerce can add something new to your brand?