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The buy button is a big story lately, but it’s not social commerce. A recent survey by email marketing giant Campaigner indicates that 36 percent of marketers surveyed have seen an increase in purchases since adding buy buttons to their social media campaigns. On its face, this makes perfect sense, and it’s positive news. Make it easier for consumers to make a purchase on any widely used channel, and they’ll be more likely to do so, right?

However, there’s a danger in equating consumer convenience with social commerce. Buy buttons add convenience, but do little to move the needle on the engagement side of things.

Let’s start with the positive. Adding new, convenient ways for customers to make a purchase is good for business. When you can add those options on the channels your customers use most, even better. It’s important to avoid being too intrusive with your offers, but otherwise adding the option to buy on social will typically have a positive effect.

The downside is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of considering the buy button to be more than it actually is (as far as engagement is concerned). A buy button on social media is simply another way to make a transaction. There’s nothing social about the button itself—the sales boost comes from convenience.

The concept of social commerce is bigger than a transaction, though a buy button can certainly be tied in. If all you’re doing is posting, sending, and sharing advertisements, then you’re missing out on the biggest benefits of social commerce.

Backing Your Buy Button with a Real Social Commerce Plan

Instead of being happy with the short-term bump that comes from integrating buy buttons, it’s best to take the long view. Social commerce requires a sustained commitment, and the steps start long before the shopper is ready to make a purchase. Your social feeds represent your brand and present a great opportunity to show off your creative side.

Real social commerce requires content and engagement, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. A fun blog post leads to a lively social discussion, new relationships, and ultimately new customers. A customer-centric photo contest shows off real customers enjoying your products for the whole social world to see. Someone posts a tricky, urgent question to your Facebook wall, and you provide a prompt, thoughtful response that wins you a customer for life… and scales due to the vicarious participation of all those watching.

Each of those examples requires interaction, either with your business directly or via the content that you share on a social channel. The best part is that those interactions have long-term value. We often say that “the internet is forever” as a reminder to avoid being rude or insensitive, but it also means that your positive interactions remain on social, waiting for anyone who’s interested in researching your company.

So add a buy button, but don’t stop there if you’re aiming for true social commerce. The real value of social commerce comes on the social side of things. When you get that right, the commerce boost follows naturally.

Originally posted at The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce

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