Social media platforms have historically made money by running ads. Nowadays, they offer an eCommerce functionality known as social commerce as another revenue source.
Social commerce allows businesses to sell products directly within social media apps. Users can buy a product without leaving the app, and the social media platform keeps a percentage of the sale as a fee.
Sounds easy, right? The question is, between owning your own eCommerce website versus selling via social commerce, which is best for you? Let’s take a closer look at both.
Social Commerce’s Growth
TikTok is planning to increase its social commerce offerings over the year. The company recently appointed a new head of eCommerce and Data Operations and will be ramping up its eCommerce options in 2023 to diversify its income streams. TikTok Shop lets merchants sell products directly on TikTok through videos, live streams, and a product showcase tab.
Meta offers a service called Shops that lets you sell products on Facebook, Instagram, or Facebook Marketplace. Instagram has some unique options for its “Checkout on Instagram” feature, such as product launches and live-stream shopping.
If you can sell products directly within social media apps, where your customers already are, then why should you bother developing and maintaining your own eCommerce store? Can’t you cut out all that trouble and just sell on social platforms?
Don’t Close Your eCommerce Shop. Here’s Why.
The social media landscape is unstable. Young people born in the 2000s or later are growing up with social media as an integrated part of society and view it as a staple of the world, but anyone older has lived through the churn of these platforms and has experienced their volatility.
Sometimes, social media platforms lose their luster.
Myspace is a classic example of this social media churn. Launched in 2003, Myspace was the first social media site to gain global adoption.
From 2005 to 2008, it was the largest social media platform, but it was overtaken by Facebook in 2009. Myspace has declined in usage ever since. It has been bought and sold by various entities but hasn’t been considered a major social media network for years.
Vine is an illustrative example of the rise and fall of a popular social media app. It was a short-form video service, letting users share six-second video clips long before TikTok exploded in popularity.
Vine launched in 2013 and was shut down by early 2017. It was one of the first social platforms that generated popular personalities, which paved the way for the “influencers” we know today. These stars gained money and fame on the platform, which all disappeared when the app was discontinued.
The sudden shuttering of the app was a shock to these creators. Some of them moved to YouTube and continued to find success, but others lost their careers overnight.
Algorithms provide a challenge.
Even on the more stable platforms like YouTube, algorithms change all the time, causing frequent headaches for creators. Trying to keep up with the latest algorithm updates can be a full-time job.
Content creators are constantly battling these updates. The algorithm changes force creators to modify video titles, descriptions, thumbnail images, video length, video content, and more. It affects creators’ income, so it’s not something they can afford to ignore.
Meta is undependable.
Facebook and Instagram are popular places to sell products, but these platforms are notorious for showing posts erratically, even trying to get people to pay to “boost” their content instead of simply adding it to their followers’ feeds.
The Oatmeal, a popular comic artist, famously created a comic about this situation, in which he laments creating posts that are never seen by his followers. Ironically, Facebook prompted him to pay to boost that post. He all but gave up on promoting his work on social media and asked his followers to visit his website directly instead.
Twitter is unstable.
Between 2022 and now, Twitter has experienced a lot of upheaval because of its change of ownership. Additionally, Twitter is heavily intertwined with politics in the US and around the world. Users’ and advertisers’ perceptions of leadership, including business decisions, political affiliations, and even morality, have caused many to abandon the site in protest.
Other platforms have emerged as competitors affecting Twitter’s numbers and engagement. Meanwhile, the news is full of scandals at Twitter headquarters regarding layoffs, policy changes, and the possibility of bankruptcy.
TikTok could be banned any day now.
TikTok, currently one of the most popular social media apps, is constantly under scrutiny due to its Chinese ownership. The US House of Representatives has banned it from any electronic devices used by House staff, and the US government is expected to ban it from all federal devices.
US policymakers consider TikTok to be a national security risk and are concerned that the Chinese government will misuse the personal data of US users and spread disinformation. Across the board, various nations are expediting efforts to ban TikTok.
The social media landscape is ever-changing.
Setting aside these issues of political intrigue, algorithm difficulties, and disappearing platforms, there is still the consideration of demographics. The demographics of social media users tend to be grouped by generation, but it changes over time.
For example, Facebook started out as a site for college students but is now known for being used by the Boomer generation. TikTok started out as a site used by kids but has gained popularity with a variety of content creators.
If you put all your products on a certain social media platform because you’ve determined that your customers are there, that assumption might become wrong in the future. Your own website is generation-agnostic—anyone can visit it at any time.
What to Do Instead
Take control of your online presence by owning your eCommerce store. You should always own your website’s domain name and have reliable web hosting.
Whether you use WordPress with WooCommerce or a dedicated eCommerce service like Shopify or BigCommerce, you should build and manage your own store without giving all away your power to social media apps.
When you own your eCommerce store, you can drive traffic to it by sharing content on social media or buying ads on the same platforms. You can use SEO, Google Ads, content marketing, and traditional marketing tactics like direct mail to increase your website’s traffic. You can still engage with the same audience on social media without being completely reliant on it.
Have your cake and eat it too.
Look for an option to sell on social media apps by pushing products to the app from your website. Your website will remain the source of the data and feed product information to the social media app.
That allows you to sell from your own website and on the apps while retaining your independence. This is a useful diversification option that creates multiple streams of income for the same set of products.
All in all, it’s never a good idea to completely put your eCommerce business in someone else’s hands. Social media evolves quickly, which creates instability.
Platforms rise and fall in popularity, demographics change rapidly, constant algorithm updates cause fluctuations in results, and apps are sold to new owners who change existing policies. Take ownership of your business by developing and maintaining your own eCommerce site where you are in control of your products and sales.
Ready to launch an eCommerce website? Contact WebDevStudios.
At WebDevStudios, we know how to build an eCommerce website designed for success. Plus, our team knows exactly how to integrate your company’s social media platforms into your website for a seamless experience your customers will love. Contact us. Let’s talk about your new eCommerce site.