Facebook vs Pinterest: Social Commerce Comparison

Social Commerce is a buzz word that’s been going around for a long time now. It’s something that most, if not all, businesses should be paying attention to – if not actively participating in. For a long time, Facebook was the leader of the social commerce pack, but over the past year, the explosion of Pinterest has led to speculation that it may supplant Facebook as the king of social media-related sales.

In fact, a recent survey by Boticca.com suggests Pinterest may have already knocked Facebook off its social commerce pedestal. Results indicate that Pinterest users spend more (an average of $180 vs $85 on Facebook) and that Pinterest delivers more new users to business e-commerce websites (86% vs 57%). The study also indicates that Pinterest influences more sales overall, being involved at some point in the purchase cycle in 10% of cases, compared to Facebook’s 7%.

There is no doubt that these findings should be taken with a grain of salt, particularly given the somewhat limited appeal of Pinterest to many businesses. However, it’s clear that it is definitely a platform you should consider when developing a social commerce strategy. So, how can you leverage Facebook and Pinterest to generate sales? This article will delve into the different tactics currently being employed by brands around the world to harness the huge opportunity social media presents to actually make a direct impact on your bottom line.

Facebook Social Commerce Considerations

Despite recent troubles with their stock price, Facebook remains the king of the social networking kingdom. With nearly a billion potential customers, one would think Facebook is a great place to sell your product. But is it? What options does it offer retailers? And how friendly is it for consumers?

F-Commerce Sites

When we talk about social commerce and the ability to actually generate revenue through social media, people often imagine making transactions within social networks. In reality, this is typically not the case. The closest you’ll probably get is an f-commerce site, which is essentially a store environment pulled into your Facebook page via an application. In some cases, this may be directly pulling in a normal retail site – as is the case for Australian retailer Harvey Norman (seen below). Most often, it is a purpose-built application displaying a simplified array of products including the ability to purchase either within the application or by directing you to an external e-commerce website.

F-commerce site

F-Commerce sites were a huge thing about 1-2 years ago. The idea was sound and there were some great success stories out there; however, they didn’t take off quite as well as many expected. Reasons for this result include:

  1. People are still distrustful of transacting in the online space, particularly on social-networking platforms
  2. People don’t often visit pages and apps enough; consequently traffic figures to the f-commerce applications were typically fairly low without constant page posts reminding people to visit
  3. Technical issues arose from pulling in sites via iFrames to Facebook or building custom-built applications that allowed end-to-end transactions
  4. People who were purchasing through Facebook also wanted to be serviced through Facebook, which sometimes led to resourcing and customer service issues

None of these roadblocks are insurmountable, but they have led retailers to use Facebook to direct users to their website as opposed to selling through Facebook. As a result, the majority of the earlier well-documented brands have shut their f-commerce sites down – as is the case with the clothes retailer, ASOS, which now displays the following message on their page:

Asos Facebook site

Deals and Offers

A couple of years ago, Facebook introduced “deals,” which was killed off shortly after and recently replaced by “offers.” Businesses can post offers to their page just like they would an update. All a user has to do is click “Get Offer” and Facebook will send him or her an email with a coupon they can bring to a physical location. The advent of Facebook-style coupons has given businesses a great opportunity to expand their reach as redeemed deals pop up in friends’ newsfeeds. Friends then have the option to redeem the offer and like the related page.

Here’s an example that appeared on my mobile newsfeed just the other day. A friend claimed a travel-related offer that went on to have 63,400 redemptions. Talk about effective marketing! I’m willing to bet most businesses haven’t managed to get that many interested customers through any other free marketing platform. In this case, the offer is online-based; however, the retailer was only able to offer this because their page is connected to an address.

Whilst the actual transaction is not executed online, it is still a great social commerce example because Facebook initiated the sale. It’s also free for businesses to set-up and execute, which is another bonus!

Page Posts

It may not be very scientific, but the promotion of special offers, sales and new products through standard Facebook page posts is also another opportunity for businesses to drive sales via Facebook. I know it works because I’ve purchased a range of things – from a camera to airline tickets – through branded Facebook posts coming up on my newsfeed. We’ve all been told a thousand times that social media is not for selling; however, this advice should be considered fairly archaic. Facebook and social media are perfect for selling, just as long as you do it right.

No one wants to be bombarded with posts about your products and how great they are, but customers do like being kept informed of what’s new, when you’re having a great sale and especially when you’re offering your Facebook fans an exclusive offer. Ordinary Facebook engagement is a very easy and effective way to drive sales if you know how to do it right. Just look at the post by Harvey Norman below. Not only is the engagement good for a page that has 140,000 fans, but look how many people shared the post with their friends. The extra viral promotion this deal would have gotten from these likes, comments and shares could have potentially driven hundreds of dollars worth of sales for local stores, and all at the cost of a free post on their Facebook page.

social commerce Facebook post

Pinterest Social Commerce Considerations

Pinterest is certainly the most recent “hot” social media platform and with over 10 million users worldwide, it definitely shouldn’t be ignored. However, when you compare 10 million to Facebook’s 900+ million users, you start to question just how viable a marketing platform Pinterest really is. So why do the numbers indicate that it’s such a great platform for social commerce then?

The answer lies within the premise of Pinterest and how users interact and engage with the site. Pinterest is purely about visual imagery. There are no status update “distractions” or even advertisements at this point. It’s not meant to be about “stalking” your friends or creating events. It’s just about images – inspirational, functional, yummy, practical, funny or otherwise.

So the question is, what are e-retailers doing to cash in on the Pinterest craze?

Pinterest Presence

Like any social media platform, simply being present and engaging with your customers (current or potential) is going to help your bottom line – albeit perhaps not in a measurable sense. The more you’re out there being “seen,” the better your reach and exposure will be. Pinterest not only gives you this opportunity, but also the opportunity to share your products so that users can comment on, like or repin them for others to see. Again, it’s not necessarily about purely selling – the brands that are using Pinterest well don’t focus on just sharing their products, but create boards that relate to their brand personality and share relevant images. However, from a social commerce perspective, it’s about getting your products out there. By sharing images directly from your e-commerce website, people can not only like, comment and repin but also click through and actually purchase the product directly from your site. They see it, they like it, they click it, they buy it – easy as that!

pinterest social commerce

One thing to keep in mind is that this platform isn’t necessarily appropriate for just any business. If you’re selling lawn mowers or plumbing services, you may not find it to be that useful because your products and services just aren’t interesting, pretty or inspiring. But if you sell fashion, jewelry, housewares or anything else that looks good in an image, you’re much more likely to make a sale through the correct use of Pinterest. 

Here’s a real-life example of a pin that I came across on my Pinterest feed, I immediately wanted these shoes and not only re-pinned them to a “Want” board of my own (effectively sharing them with my Pinterest network), but also clicked through to zappos.com to purchase them immediately. Sadly, Zappos doesn’t ship to Australia, so I then went on the hunt to find them elsewhere (with no luck). Though it didn’t work out for Zappos in this particular instance, had I been in the US (or if they shipped to Australia) this would have been an easy sale for them – all for zero cost.

Optimizing Imagery

The key to being successful on Pinterest is not just about being active and sharing your products. It’s about optimizing your website images so that they can be easily shared and look as appealing as possible on sites like Pinterest. In the cases below, you’ll notice they have added the price to the top-left corner – that way people not only know these products are for sale, but also how much they cost. Cues like these further encourage people to click through and purchase directly from your site!

Pinterest social commerce examples

Facebook + Pinterest

Social commerce may not even involve an actual branded social media profile – the actual definition of social commerce is “the use of social network(s) in the context of e-commerce transactions.” This means that when you’re integrating social media with your current e-commerce website, you’re also “doing” social commerce. The most prominent example of this would be the use of Facebook “share,” “like,” “recommend” and Pinterest “Pin it” buttons on business websites – particularly in relation to specific products, as the Nordstrom example below illustrates.

social commerce on site

By allowing people to share their favorite products with their friends within Facebook and/or Pinterest, you’re allowing them to do your advertising for you – they’re actively telling their friends that they like the product, which may then prompt these friends to buy the very same product, or at least browse your site and find something they like more. It’s one of the easier and most important social commerce functionality options you should be taking advantage of.

So which platform is the key to your social media sales success? The answer isn’t as straightforward as some may have you believe. It will always depend on what your product is and who your audience is. If you’re unsure, it may be worth testing on both Pinterest and Facebook. After all, with most of the examples above there is very little cost involved from your side!

One thing is certain. Social media is not going anywhere anytime soon. And while you’re putting so much effort into engagement, you may as well be making some money from it.

Are you already doing any of these social commerce examples? What results have you seen so far?

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