What Brands Should Know About Social Selling Today

With social media use at an all-time high, social commerce or “social selling” is an intriguing proposition for brands. The halo effect of being connected to an influencer can be an appealing sales strategy, using their social media channels to connect with prospective customers, develop connections and drive sales. Social commerce can be a successful tool for brands and a fun and helpful way for consumers to discover and purchase new products. But it only really works if the connective tissue in this relationship, influencers, are set up for success. 

Unfortunately, not all brands have taken full advantage of social selling and the vast ecosystem of potential customers it opens. It’s not that social selling or social commerce is hyped or not, it’s that certain elements of it are not delivering on their promise.

While there’s no silver bullet to “doing social commerce right,” here are a few things to keep in mind: 

Make Creating Seamless

To work effectively, a social commerce ecosystem must prioritize the influencer (at Mavely, we call them “creators”) at the center. The platform needs to be seamless and efficient, the user experience should be top-notch and the payoff has to be worth the effort. 


Platforms that involve too many steps for creators to get started, or offer unnecessary hurdles like only being able to tag certain products, have struggled to gain adoption among the creator audience, causing some, like Instagram, to abandon their affiliate programs altogether. And being tethered to a single platform can undermine a creator by forcing their followers to only engage on one venue, or excluding them.

What is working is true connections and discovery. Social platforms each have a unique value proposition — YouTube for education, Instagram for discovery and TikTok for entertainment — and are optimized for fast, easy experiences, encouraging consumers to scroll, see something new and double-click to learn more. Relevant and authentic sharing drives conversion, so the brands that enable a seamless and enjoyable experience for the creator will enjoy the most social commerce success.

An important factor is giving creators the freedom to engage their audiences in a way that is authentic to them, versus boxing them into rigid briefs, which a variety of industry players have tried to implement. 

(Dis)Trust at the Social Checkout Counter

To make the experience more seamless for creators and consumers, there was a big rush to integrate social media platforms with payment platforms. The idea was to insert a “buy now” button so consumers could make a purchase on the platform(s) they were already using. Great idea, right? 

The rush led to a plethora of ‘Link In Bio’ companies that have popped up over the last decade, of which many look and feel pretty similar (experts are already predicting consolidation in the not-so-distant future). And while the convenience of buying in-app might be helpful over the long term, the reality is that consumers don’t trust social media to protect their financial information and instead prefer to be directed to a trusted brand or website. 

Most consumers use social media for discovery — finding new brands, products or creators that they haven’t heard of before — and that’s a main reason influencer marketing works. But the moment they’re asked to provide personal data like their home address or credit card information, the experience crosses an invisible line that consumers aren’t comfortable with. Instead, they abandon the on-platform purchase and  hop straight to the brand’s website to make purchases there. 

Early on at Mavely, we tested out a small version of this where consumers could check out directly on our social channel. We quickly discovered that the conversion rates directly on the website far outpaced those on our social channel. 

Live Shopping was a Bust (in Most Places) 

Live shopping is probably my favorite ‘flop’ of social commerce in the last few years. While short-form video content is great for entertainment value, the intent of live shopping — that consumers would engage with creators in real time, asking questions, discovering products, making purchases — just never came to fruition, as evidenced by Facebook recently shuttering its live shopping feature.

Again, the “Buy Now” button was its downfall, as consumers were forced into a transaction with the hosting platform, leading many to abandon purchases or leave the hosting site. As a result, many ecommerce companies are struggling and some social platforms have elected to abandon the live-shop ship and focus their efforts elsewhere. 

The exception to this is in China, where WeChat wallet is a seamless experience for consumers, who are already primed to trust and use the payment process on that all-in-one platform. 

Commit to Cross-Platform 

The real winners in social commerce are the companies that commit to a cross-platform ecosystem. Powerhouses like Amazon and Walmart are making a concerted push into influencer marketing, and even media publications like Buzzfeed are introducing influencer programs. 

These companies are having success because social platforms like Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook and Pinterest are all giving creators more tools to drive sales and monetization. That’s where affiliate marketing becomes the functional connectivity between creators and brands — enabling influencers to get credit for the sales they’re driving, without pigeonholing them into a particular platform.  Amidst a fractured media landscape and waning attention to traditional advertising methods, creators could be your brand’s best bet for meeting today’s consumers where they are. My hunch is that giving these influencers the flexibility to connect with their audiences the way they want will be the long-term model that benefits everyone. 

Evan Wray is the CEO and Co-founder of Mavely, a venture-backed social commerce platform (via proprietary tech) that’s building a robust brand partner ecosystem using social shopping to convert everyday consumers into a social salesforce for brands. Mavely also serves as a Venture Partner for TMV, which focuses on ideas that will transform industries and inspire new ones. He sits on the Venture Builders Advisory Board at Notre Dame (alma mater), is an active member of Emerging Young Entrepreneurship Society and has spoken at events like AdWeek, Collision and IAB.

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