Exclusive: How Universal Does Social Commerce, And Why Your Business Should Do It Too

Chris CrumBusiness

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Universal Pictures is using Facebook to create buzz and drive ticket sales for a number of its new films, including Big Miracle, Safe House, and The Lorax, and is utilizing social media management platform Friend2Friend for some social commerce efforts.

We had a conversation with Friend2Friend CEO Roger Katz to learn more about Universal's efforts, how his company is working with the movie giant and how brands in various industries can leverage Facebook to drive commerce in 2012.

"Friend2Friend has worked with Universal for the past 2 years, providing all the social media marketing 'engagement' apps that reside on Facebook pages for their major movie releases, both in the US and Internationally," he tells us. "Most recently, Universal Pictures is using Friend2Friend’s Social Media Platform to easily allow fans to turn a plan to go to the movies into a social experience on Facebook."

"With the Universal Pictures ticketing app, fans can watch and share the movie trailer, find show times, invite friends, and buy tickets, all without leaving the Facebook wall," he explains. "Universal kicked off this social commerce initiative with the movie 'Safe House' and plans to use the app on the upcoming film 'Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax' and other major movie releases in 2012 and beyond. The campaign enables movie-goers preferences to be socialized within Facebook, and then turned into monetizable action."

"Further, a recent campaign for The Lorax includes a 'stache' app that launched in the US, and subsequently in the UK, Australia, Spain, Russia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and Latin America," he says. "We went on to provide an extensive 'content' tab for all aspects of engagement for the movie on Facebook."

More on that here.

"Other campaigns include 'multi-function tabs' for the movie Despicable Me, video voting apps for Little Fockers, and many other movies," he adds.

So, just how is social commerce changing e-commerce?

Katz, of course has some thoughts about that.

"Social commerce, a new cut at e-commerce, is just getting traction in the market," he says. "Social commerce is leveraging the phenomenal uptake of social environments like Facebook, where consumers are increasingly spending their time...and doing so while interacting with their friends."

"If businesses can identify the social dynamics that factor into purchases of their product, and incorporate those into the actual purchase of their products in these social environments...well that's the 'social commerce' pay-off," he adds. "In the case of the Universal Showtimes and Ticketing app, users can watch a movie trailer, get background information on the movie, look up showtimes, invite friends and buy tickets, all within their Facebook Wall —the purchase becomes part of a fundamentally social experience — one that respects the context of the social network."

"Real social commerce isn't just putting a wrapper around a store on Facebook, or even adding a 'Share' button to a shopping site," says Katz. "It's about really making the shopping selection and consideration something done with people you trust in your social network — and then continuing that brand experience post sale to show how much you love, and are loyal to, that brand purchase."

Facebook is obviously the big daddy when it comes to where people are spending the majority of their social networking time.

How can brands in different industries leverage Facebook, specifically to drive commerce?

Katz says, "I think this comes back to what's the product, and how can social behaviors factor into the sale. Is it the recommendation of a friend? Is it wanting to experience the product or event with a friend? Or is it acknowledging that there may be no direct social aspect to commerce (A brand like, say, Preparation H comes to mind!)?"

"Again, social commerce is an emerging area and opportunity," he says. "No one has all the answers today, and only over time will a best practices model emerge. However, given the size of the audience in environments like Facebook, it's only a matter of time until the social cash registers start ringing. Remember, no-one was buying shoes online in the mid-90s, and today who isn't?"

As mobile use continues to grow, and Facebook starts taking it more seriously, it's going to be quite interesting to see how big a role social commerce plays not just online, but in the physical world, where we're out shopping in real stores.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.