I recently found an interesting presentation on this subject which covered how social utility drives our social behaviour and ultimately helps drive sales through platforms like Facebook.
Before anyone reads further, I think it is important to understand what social utility is and how it differs from the networking and commerce aspect of digital. An earlier interview with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, provides a good definition of what social utility stands for, in Mark’s words:
“I think there’s confusion around what the point of social networks is. A lot of different companies characterized as social networks have different goals — some serve the function of business networking, some are media portals. What we’re trying to do is just make it really efficient for people to communicate, get information and share information. We always try to emphasize the utility component.”
Social utility drives user behaviour and is the catalyst for any successful social commerce platform. In order for a social commerce platform to work, it needs to solve a social problem AND provide a socially friendly way to communicate and interact with others – for example looking at 8thBridge’s new Graphite platform which gives shoppers more opportunity to express their thoughts on products and makes it easy for them to share that experience with others.
Why Social Utility Works in Social Commerce
The reason why social utility works hand in hand with social commerce is that humans by nature are social creatures, we need to communicate with others and express our opinions. If a social platform can harmoniously bridge these two components together (shopping and interacting), then you have the basic equation for success.
Digging deeper into social utility you must always keep in mind the factors which drive social utility and look at the psychology of consumer behaviour:
1) We want to fit in:
By nature humans want to follow the crowd. It was found in a recent study that 81% of consumers receive advice from friends and family when uncertain about a purchase online through a social network. By solving this problem and developing an open source network where consumers can share their thoughts and opinions freely, your platform is solving one of the most important aspects to social utility.
2) We look to thought-leaders for advice
The masses always turn to the top 1% of early adopters for their guiding light on products, travel destinations, fashion items, electronics and so on. Actually 77% of us use reviews as a qualifying source before making a purchase online. This again is an important factor driving social utility and cannot be ignored, second opinions drive sales and your social commerce platform should factor this into its usability.
3) We by nature avoid uncertainty
Do you remember sitting in psych class hearing your teacher talk about “Uncertainty Avoidance?” This same rule applies to social commerce and helps drive social utility. With 62 % of consumers being loyal to their top brands, you want to build a platform that enables the consumer to return to their favourite brands easily and you will help build your consumer loyalty.
4) We want to have what you can’t get your hands on
We can’t forget the competitiveness of human beings. The exclusiveness trait might actually one of the most important to driving social utility with 77% of consumers LIKE getting exclusive offers (who wouldn’t?). By offering exclusives available to only your most loyal fans, this will help boost your own sales and also generate buzz amongst your fans; again all points that can’t be ignored in social utility.
In the end, social utility is all about the psychology and behavioural science of how we interact with one another given the social tools that are provided to us as consumers. The social commerce space is going to be an explosive one in the coming years and is picking up traction quickly across North America and parts of Europe. Don’t get left behind as a brand and always consider the psychology that drives social utility; after all, this is what drives social commerce and revenue generated from social media is always a good thing.
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