I believe that the social component should be fully embedded into the shopping experience. It should not be disruptive, it should be part of what the customer does every day. The social component should build return frequency and engagement. Not immediate engagement in term of content creation but engagement to the brand. Once the customer is engaged then he will be the brand advocate and will be likely to contribute more than the average customer.
Therefore, in my mind the social experience should not be created in separate sites, it should be embedded. It should not require customer to do, but customer to receive. We unfortunately often start with the wrong assumptions or not willing to address the true business need. Creating a product means bringing a value. What is the value for the customer and is what I am asking him to do in exchange interesting to him? The best social and easy feature that is working is ‘’Share’’. Customers are willing to share to get some benefits but I do not believe they are willing to upload videos, photos, create articles and other bunch of things in a large proportion but if each customer does create something it is already a lot.
Customers are willing to ‘’Like’’ within the experience, customers are willing to give feedback within the experience, customers are willing to ‘’share’’ to get rewards.
I think retailers, not knowing how to crack the code of social, are just timid. They should not be afraid of putting social right in there, where their customers are. The same we offer them reviews, videos, comparison tools, why don’t we offer them social? Because of the fear that some customers might not use it, we prefer to put it in another side and are reluctant from embedding it directly. Do we search on a separate site? Do we checkout on a different site? So why would we engage on a different site?