Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Is MySpace the next WalMart? AMA thinks so…

I know. The post title is misleading. But, now that I’ve got your attention: In a recent survey commissioned by the American Marketing Association (AMA), it is suggested that visitors to social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, etc… would be interested in purchasing products recommended by friends directly on these sites. Here are the stats:

* 47% would visit these sites to search out and discuss holiday gift ideas
* 29% would buy products there
* 51% would be willing to go to a social-networking site this holiday season to find out about store sales — or download coupons. (Source: USA Today & Mashable)

The goal is to create an online WalMart where you can buy products that your friend/s recommend/s – definitely the holy grail of shopping. Imagine strolling into WalMart and being directed to products that your friends have bought recently. AMA’s survey suggests sites like MySpace can leverage the vast pool of intelligence they’ve gathered around social communities and leverage that to sell stuff! (correct me if I’m wrong). In my opinion, it’s like selling Dominos Pizza at Thanksgiving Dinner or an Xbox at your next Christmas party!

I think the survey may actually work for service recommendations that a few social networking sites (such as LinkedIn and Yelp.com) are already experimenting with. Yelp.com, a recent entrant into the social networking space has done a stellar job of gathering a ton of reviews on services ranging from food to beauty and shopping — all built around user communities. But are we ready for product sales on Yelp? Would the community be fine with it? I know it seems inevitable, but it just doesn’t feel right to me. Here’s what Pete Cashmore from Mashable thinks on product sales:

But real world products create real world problems that these companies aren’t equipped to deal with, so they’d inevitably end up partnering. (Source: Mashable)

So, will MySpace become the next WalMart? I don’t think so… but a partnership with Amazon seems so enticing in this brave New World of online social marketing.

My question to you: “Would you buy a product/service because I recommend it?”


Tidbit
: I belong to the board of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA). The above survey was “done ahead of a discussion of social networking at an AMA forum on new media next week in Orlando called Mplanet 2006.”

Filed under: Uncategorized

4 Responses

  1. Paul McEanny says:

    I hope they figure something like that out. It’s seems like an exciting next step. MySpace will soon become a de facto music label when it allows non-label bands to start selling their music directly from their myspace pages. Why not sell other things?

    Netflix’s killer friends service is another great example of extending friend’s recommendations into actual purchases.

    It just seems like a natural extension. Recommendations are already happening, but it saves some of the leg work.

    Like

  2. Mario Sundar says:

    Hi Paul,

    You’re right! The post by Pete (Mashable) actually talks about MySpace as a bona fide music label and now upcoming video label as well.

    I’m sure that selling products is a natural progression, but I’m not sure if that’s the best way to leverage community – to sell stuff.

    We’ll soon find out if they succeed on that count.

    Mario

    Like

  3. Hi Mario,

    “My question to you: “Would you buy a product/service because I recommend it?””

    I would be more inclined to listen to what you say. Generally speaking, if I buy something online, I do the following with reviews:

    1. Look at how many reviews are actually written positively/negatively. I look for reviews of at least 20+, largely because a smaller number is much less reliable.

    2. Look at professional reviews about the product as well.

    3. Compare the product to what my actual needs are, while also using the information in #1 & #2.

    I think the real value is that people can become aware of products/services/sites that they may not have been aware of…I think that’s where the “products you might also like…” features are interesting on shopping web sites.

    Concerns:
    Recommendations/reviews can be gamed.

    Like

  4. Mario Sundar says:

    That’s interesting, Damon.

    I think social networking sites like MySpace and LinkedIn can help avoid your concerns that they may be gamed.

    If you look at your network as ripples of influence starting out from you, you may be more inclined to trust your best friend’s recommendation vs. mine, you may trust my recommendation more than that of the guy you met at a recent networking event just once. Thus, I think it’d be important to add a higher value to the opinions of those closer to you.

    This, is where social networking sites can score big.

    What do you think?
    Mario

    Like

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