Social media’s next big strategy: From conversation to commerce

By Paul Frampton, CEO, Havas Media and Group Managing Director, Havas Media Group

What’s the next evolution of social networks? What does it mean for brands? With WhatsApp reaching one billion users, we asked Paul Frampton to discuss the new frontier of social media. Havas Media and Bloomberg Media work together to create commercial partnerships with clients including Hermès, Lacoste and Source ETF.

All good marketers talk about the importance of understanding and connecting the customer journey. I believe social media networks are now on the cusp of truly revolutionizing the landscape.  


Ask anybody in any country about their favorite apps, and the list will be dominated by social platforms. For marketers, social’s inherent peer recommendation has created accessible digital advocacy at scale – and a significant shift in power in a short space of time. However, the less recognized, emerging strategy is around the bridges being built between social platforms and commerce.

All the social platforms you know and love have launched buy buttons of some kind. The data collected via logins already enables precision targeting, but they have, to date, lacked the sales and conversion data that Google has enjoyed through AdWords. That’s about to change.

Facebook has made the biggest play by connecting its Facebook Inc strategy – to own as much of the real estate on your smartphone as possible – into mobile messaging. The scale of mobile messaging penetration is beginning to dwarf even social usage. 

WhatsApp just announced one billion users globally and that 42 million messages are being sent every day. Some 80 percent of 25-34-year-olds in the UK use messaging every week already.

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The primary focus now appears to be Messenger, but the scale of WhatsApp is also waiting in the wings. The ex-President of PayPal, David Marcus, now runs Messenger strategy globally, so it won’t surprise you that Facebook is hell bent on turning messaging in to a conversational commerce platform.

Facebook sees the opportunity to disrupt the inefficiency of buying online, with multiple form-filling and emails back and forth between the buyer and seller. You only need to look at what WeChat has achieved in Asia with taxi and restaurant integration to sense the potential.

Meanwhile, this frictionless service between brands and customers is already being trialled on Facebook by some airlines, while retailers in the U.S. are experimenting with a combination of artificial intelligence and human intervention.

Tweet this: “It won’t surprise you that Facebook is hell bent on turning messaging in to a conversational commerce platform.”

Brands are now actively exploring how they can follow a customer from discovery – an article read on Facebook or a video watched on Instagram – to purchase via a two-way Messenger chat in just a few clicks.

Pinterest, for example, has been fairly vocal about the shift in its model to a transactional one, allowing users to seamlessly move from finding a new pair of shoes or piece of furniture to buying in a few clicks.

I am convinced that the next evolution of social networks will be towards becoming “marketplaces”, where brands and customers can interact and transact seamlessly, and where businesses will procure services from other businesses. Rich login data, plus behavioral breadcrumbs left on a social network, allow for the promise of “social selling” to become a reality.

Brands must think carefully about how they operate in this world. Arguably, there are huge efficiencies to be found, but once you are in somebody else’s walled garden, it may not be that easy to find your way out.

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