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Are social-buying sites part of social media?

3 min read

Social Media

This post is written by Mirna Bard, a blogger, speaker and consultant. She serves as the social media chairwoman of the Orange County (Calif.) chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and she teaches social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Do you include social-buying sites, such as Groupon and Living Social, in your definition of social media?

  • Yes — these sites rely on users telling their friends about deals; they’re inherently social – 33.68%
  • No — these sites don’t promote conversation, so they aren’t social media – 31.58%
  • They’re not social media yet, but they have the potential to evolve in that direction – 24.74%
  • They’re not social media but I’m interested in them anyway – 10.00%

Most of us are now familiar with social-buying sites, such as Groupon and Living Social, as they’ve been growing so quickly across the country. Their appeal is easy to see, as the make it easy to share hot deals with friends on social Web, but are they considered to be a part of social media?

Last week’s poll shows very close to an even split between the readers who think group-buying sites are part of social media and the ones who think they are not. It truly is a toss-up, and I think both sides may have a great argument. At this point, I think it is the safest to concur with the quarter of the readers who said that these sites are not social, but have the potential to evolve in that direction.

Group-buying websites offer the ability for people to share the best deals across different social platforms, but they don’t offer places to socialize and build relationships the way a typical social networking site does. I would consider these services to be e-commerce websites that are rapidly developing into social commerce and networking platforms.

This transition may happen sooner than later, since we’ve just received breaking news that Facebook will be testing its own social-buying feature called “Buy with Friends.” The new feature would allow users to share purchases with friends via their Facebook update stream, as well as let one user “unlock” a deal and then share that same deal or discount with friends. This will be tested first on virtual goods and social games; however, we never know what Facebook has up their sleeve to turn group buying into a social experience.

Do you think social-buying sites are getting closer to becoming part of social media? Do you think the new Facebook announcement will force sites like Groupon to make changes to their platform?