perhaps it is because I was born in the “nation of shopkeepers” that online commerce fascinates and interests me so much. whatever the reason, I am truly excited about the current wave that is just starting to hit our virtual streets; social commerce.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about “social networking” by now, and are probably reading this via Twitter or Facebook. it has been a major shift in the way people use the ‘net, and like all new cultures and “paradigms” it is still struggling to fully define itself. ignoring Google+ for a moment, many believe that the great social network wars have been won by Facebook, and this victory (albeit temporary, such is the nature of technology wars and victories) has seen the likes of MySpace and LinkedIn securing a niche within the social networking universe. LinkedIn is undoubtedly the world’s number 1 in business networking, job hunting and CV publishing, while MySpace has successfully redefined itself as a social entertainment service, with a strong emphasis on music.

identity crisis?

Facebook is currently home to an active work-at-home-mum community, a community that has come up with many innovations that can expand the reach of any such business. Inventions such as “shout outs”, “marches”, “silent tagging” and so on. In the face of this though, Facebook seems to be struggling to figure out if this is something they want to encourage or not. Recently many WAHM business owners have fallen foul of Facebook’s counter-spam systems. Facebook also has a number of rules that control what such businesses can and cannot do (for example, you can only run a promotion or competition on Facebook via the use of a 3rd party app).

unsatisfactory solutions

I believe such things are symptoms of Facebook being primarily a social site (with socially targeted advertising) and not really knowing if it wants to be an ecommerce platform (or how to do that if it does). there are of course many shopping cart apps that business owners can subscribe to, that allow product information to be displayed on a FB page via an IFrame. For some reason (and this is based solely on what I have seen and heard) people seem to have difficulty getting many of these working as fully-fledged ecommerce solutions. they are also potentially expensive.

social commerce in its infancy

it is without doubt that the time for social commerce is upon us, so far this seems to have taken various forms:

  • traditional cart systems and services sporting “Like” buttons on product pages
  • rating and referral systems on cart sites
  • basic ecommerce functionality via Facebook apps
  • the rise of the “coupon site” phenomenon (Scoopon, Groupon et al)

the missing piece of the jigsaw

based on my experience of working with WAHM businesses, it has become clear that there are still gaps in the technology available (from the perspective of a sole trader, low budget, home-based micro business). the social connectivity enabled by Facebook is fantastic, however the commercial side of things still feels like a bolted on extra, like fitting a rear spoiler to a family sedan. actually it’s probably more like inviting people to set up a market stall at a family birthday party.

so this is essentially why I started work on a project by the name of  WAHMBoozle. the aim was to build a solid social networking foundation, with ecommerce integrated right into the experience by design and from the ground up. much like MySpace now integrates with Facebook, and sets out to serve the needs of a “niche”, WAHMBoozle did not try to be “another Facebook” – it simply provided tools and networking opportunities to WAHM businesses alongside the social networking mainstream.

ultimately WAHMBoozle became thewahmzone.com, taking a slightly different approach, yet still delivering on the overall goals of the WAHMBoozle project.

if you run a part-time hobby business, why not take a few moments to check it out!

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