There are 800,000,000 people on Facebook. 300,000,000 people on Twitter. 490,000,000 people on YouTube. The big numbers of social media present big business opportunities, yet so few have figured out the commerce part of the equation. To look forward we should examine the past. Social commerce needs to be a collective experience.
Gatherings of people who discuss goods and buy/barter them from one another is the oldest form of commerce. It has three elements: the gathering, the goods, and the transaction. A gathering is necessary for goods, and goods are necessary for a transaction.
The reason social commerce has thus far fallen short is a misunderstanding of this relationship. What we have now are share widgets, promoted accounts, and "social" banner ads. They are great at peddling content, but are devoid of context and do not make the content more meaningful to me. They do not create a gathering nor do they provide compelling transaction opportunities.
The critical shift we must understand is that the internet is no longer just a utility, it has become a recreational outlet. The time you would have normally spent with your friends at lunch or after work is being spent online now more than ever. Now the marketer is not just selling to you: they are selling to you, your connections, and their audiences. There is no longer a single circuit between buyer and seller. Social commerce involves many layers of people over many transactions all happening at the same time.
This is the power of social commerce. Peer influence can thrive as both an impetus to buy ("hey check out Product X") and as a contextualization tool ("this is why/how I use Product X"). Enthusiasm and indifference is also magnified quickly in this environment. Social commerce online should reflect the same principles of a successful offline commerce experience.
References for social network user numbers here, here, and here