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Social Networks Will Become Marketplaces

For the last few years I’ve been promoting the idea that social networks are like outposts, in many respects, best suited to point the way to your hub or main content site.

Product for sale on Shoply.com

While I still believe this to be a fundamentally sound way to view social media use, I see a future that contains a shift in this thinking as well.

As the level of social behavior continues to evolve and social networks grow more important in the lives of their users, they will become much more than outposts – they will move increasingly towards self-containment and wholly functioning marketplaces.

There is a growing mass that simply sees the Internet as Facebook and Facebook is really okay with that. Other marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, Buy.com and eBay are moving to socialize your product search and sort and become decision engines. These online destination are making moves to merge this behavior with pop up offline presence as well.

As mobile users depend upon apps like Siri (personal assistant on iPhone 4S) and Yelp and gain access to large amounts of research via QR readers, search engines will play a diminishing role in how buying decisions are made.

Buy.com just launched a feature that allows you to connect and shop collaboratively with friends making social shopping a real-time phenomenon. Paypal just released an app called Send Money that makes sending money to friends on Facebook a snap. As trust in doing business on these platforms merges with increasing levels of content and engagement, expect people to do more and more in these marketplaces.

What this behavior signals for small business marketers is the need to begin to view some outposts as destinations. In other words, it’s time to start looking at building a store on Facebook, Shoply, Amazon, Buy.com, Etsy and eBay.

I know many business sell in these places already, either as a primary distribution channel or as a supplement to their own online or offline store, but it may be wise for all businesses, regardless of what they sell, to set up shop in one or more of these destinations.

You may not see an immediate profit from your eCommerce enabled Facebook store, but it’s time to make that an option and start teaching those that interact with you there how and why they might also want to buy from you there.

The key, as it has been so clearly for the last few years, is to also up your engagement, education and participation in these markets rather than simply look at them as transaction enablers. These are growing major cities and you need to claim and grow your holdings there before it becomes overcrowded.

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