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As a subset of e-commerce, social commerce enables consumers to connect with brands, view products, and make purchases directly through social media platforms.

Social commerce, as opposed to social media marketing, allows customers to make purchases directly through social media platforms. Or, in other instances, the social media platform may include links that take users directly to the product page of the shop, where they may finish their purchase.

The market for social commerce has grown significantly amid e-commerce sales’ consistent increase since 2003, not to mention an e-commerce surge during the COVID-19 pandemic. The US social e-commerce market grew by approximately 38% to $26.77 billion in 2020, and eMarketer projects that it will top $50 billion yearly by 2022.

While Facebook and Instagram are at the forefront of social commerce features, other social media platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, and even Snapchat are also enhancing their portfolios. Every platform has a distinct function and draws a certain audience, therefore each one has comparative advantages that influence how it approaches social commerce.

Here, we’ll examine the main characteristics of the top social commerce platforms so you can choose the one that’s best for your company.

1. Instagram.

With 70% of shoppers looking to Instagram for product discovery and 1 billion active users, it’s safe to say that this is one of the most promising social commerce platforms on the market. 

Known for its eye-catching photos, stories, and videos, Instagram is the ideal space for sharing high-gloss brand imagery. So, if your customers are already engaging with your content, why not place your product front and center and turn that engagement into sales?

All you need to set up Instagram Shopping is a Facebook business profile, which links your Facebook Shop to Instagram. Then, you can upload a product catalog and begin creating product tags for each item. This will allow you to create shoppable posts and streamline purchases directly from the platform. 

Additionally, Instagram shoppers can purchase through product stickers embedded in your story. Rather than uploading a shoppable post to your timeline, you can choose an image for your story and select the sticker icon in the top right corner along with the product you want to link. Then, move the sticker to your desired location, customize its color and size and share it to your story.

2. Facebook.

In 2021, Facebook had nearly 3.45 billion monthly active users — needless to say, the 17-year-old platform holds huge potential for leveraging new audiences and scaling globally. 

Launched in 2020 during the pandemic, Facebook Shops helped small- and medium-sized businesses to shift online and build shoppable storefronts. Not only is it mobile-friendly and free, but Facebook Shops are also fully customizable, allowing you to import an existing product catalog or create a new one on the platform.   

Read Also: How Does Social Media Impact B2C E-commerce?

Once your customers discover your page and products, Facebook does the work of featuring products based on the shopper’s unique preferences and search history, thus giving them a personalized customer experience. 

The customer may complete the purchase either within the Facebook platform, or they may be linked back to your ecommerce site. And, if needed, you can communicate with the customer via Facebook Messenger to answer any questions and offer support. 

Plus, you can use your Facebook page to share company news, engage with existing and potential customers and introduce new products.

3. TikTok.

A newer player to the social commerce game, TikTok is becoming far more than just a short-form video-sharing app. Now with shoppable posts, live stream shopping capabilities and opportunities for influencer marketing, TikTok is a social commerce platform worth noting.

Even before launching its TikTok For Business feature in 2020, the phrase “TikTok made me buy it” was already all too common. With a unique ability to make lesser known users — and now brands — go viral overnight, TikTok has the ability to introduce your business to millions of new potential customers. 

According to eMarketer, many of TikTok’s social commerce capabilities thus far have focused on product ads that appear as native videos on users’ For You feeds. Below each advertisement, users can tap the “Shop Now” button, which links them directly to the merchant’s ecommerce site to complete their purchase.

But as of recently, brands also have the option to build a shoppable storefront within TikTok through the Shopping tab. TikTok users can now add the Shopping tab to their business profiles, where they can sync their static product catalog and allow customers to make purchases straight from the app. 

And now, BigCommerce’s partnership with TikTok allows merchants to connect their online store with their TikTok profile, allowing you to engage with shoppers and share your products with more users.  

4. Pinterest.

The great thing about Pinterest is that most users care far more about the content rather than the creator. Compared to platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where the influence of the user or brand may hold more weight, Pinterest allows merchants to focus more on putting out great products and less on building their personal reputation. In fact, 77% of weekly Pinners have discovered a new product or brand on Pinterest. 

Launched back in 2010, Pinterest began as a platform to help people find inspiration for all aspects of their lives, whether it be home decor, fitness and wellness or fashion. But as of 2015, Pinterest began offering shoppable pins to an exclusive set of brands, allowing them to add a “Buy” button to their pins, but this feature became more widely available to other brands not long after. 

Using Pinterest for Business, merchants can create Product Pins, which display updated pricing and stock information and allows shoppers to save products directly to their personal boards. Or, if they’re ready to make a purchase, the shopper can tap on the Product Pin which redirects the shopper to the product page on the brand’s website. 

The platform also offers features for insights and optimization including an Ads Manager, which supports merchants in building and measuring successful campaigns. With advice for discovering new audiences, as well as retargeting existing customers, the Ads Manager allows merchants to track results and expand their reach over time.

We sometimes forget that these things were unheard of just a few short decades ago, but social media has opened doors for people to connect with long-lost acquaintances, remain current on world events, and express themselves through creative content online.

Social commerce is the new frontier right now, but it will undoubtedly catch on quickly. Larger, international brands may have initially been the only ones able to afford expensive campaigns, but today, brands of all sizes can experiment with social commerce and use it to expand their businesses.

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