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It is estimated that there are thousands of Nigerian e-commerce services built on Twitter and Instagram. In Nigeria especially, they could be more common for some buyers. We’ve seen people often posting their products and asking for retweets with the usual “My customers are on your TL”. That is great for customers who are willing to buy those products and for sellers who are trying to market them. But selling on Instagram and Twitter is an idea that doesn’t scale well.

Virality on Instagram

Firstly, Instagram does not support the virality of content. Content on a page, pretty much stays on that page. It can’t be organically shared through the network without extra work by the content creator. This is why many Instagram marketers make use of giveaways and “Tag a friend” posts to encourage virality of their content. Relying on word of mouth as a distribution tactic can lead to a disaster when the product isn’t remarkable or novel enough for people to keep talking about it.

Messaging does not Scale

The second problem selling on these platforms is messaging. A user has to message the seller and say “I want this shoe in size 45. Do you have it?”. Then the seller might take a while to reply affirmatively or with other options. Which the user will then select from. I have done this many times with Instagram and Twitter vendors and honestly, it is a stressful and unnecessary process.
Thirdly, Instagram posts and tweets cannot be optimised for Google searches. This means if a user searches for a product via a search engine they will not likely be led to those groups of content. It’s almost impossible to find an Instagram account while looking for shoes on Google.

The number of Interactions that occur in the average Twitter or Instagram purchase conversation is about 10. We created this sample conversation assuming a seller has exactly what the buyer is looking for;

  • Seller posts tweets or image on Instagram
  • Buyer sends seller a message: I want X
  • Seller confirms availability with pricing: Yes it’s Y000
  • Buyer agrees on price: Okay when can it be delivered?
  • Seller says in 24 hours
  • Buyer sends seller address
  • Seller confirms address with delivery charges
  • Buyer transfers money electronically
  • Buyer alerts seller of money transfer
  • Seller confirms receipt
  • Seller proceeds to dispatch product or proceeds to make appointment for service

This is a perfect example with 11 Interactions. We all know there are times when the bank services are down or the sellers don’t have the products displayed on their social media pages. They then offer alternatives and ask us to choose from them. This is a long process that has easily been reduced by e-commerce websites. A product displayed will show price, availability and even cost of delivery making the process seamless.
Websites automate the conversation process
For anyone managing a business, these Instagram and Twitter conversations do not scale. They are not conversations that can be repeated for unique purposes and they do not allow the business owner focus on other parts of the business.

You are missing out on Google Searches

There are 3.5 billion searches on Google every day. They lead to websites that are optimised for those searches. This means not having a website cuts out a business from hundreds of potential customers daily. Referrals are great for businesses (many of the Twitter and Instagram accounts get new customers from friend referrals) but they cannot be relied on completely because consumers are fleeting.

Brand building
Without a doubt, brands can be built on social networks. There are many accounts that are known for selling certain items of quality and providing certain services. But the idea of proper branding cannot be displayed on a platform that is beyond the user’s control. This brings us to the next section.

ALSO READ  Ebun Oluwole on Creating Content for Search and Social Media

Controlling the platform

A website gives a seller complete control over what is displayed and what is not, what is available and what isn’t, as well as price changes with time. A social media platform like Twitter or Instagram lacks this sort of control. Users can only decide what is posted at a particular time. They cannot for example segment the content by tags or categories. Even worse, the user cannot decide how many people see what particular content. Twitter has recently tweaked its algorithm and has begun displaying tweets in a seemingly haphazard manner. This could be bad for many sellers. A tweet posted this morning might not be displayed on the timeline until afternoon. This is the same for an image posted on Instagram. It’s important for sellers to take note of these algorithm changes and to find a way to optimize them.

We’re not saying businesses shouldn’t sell directly on social media or completely throw away their social media efforts. Social media is a good way to interact with customers and get the attention of potential clients.  When it comes to the business aspect of things, a website is a far better way to sell products, scale a business and attend to customer inquiries. It’s an almost seamless technology product. Social media is like the stand you purchase at a festival and a website is your actual store. A business should have a social media presence that drives traffic to its website.

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