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This chapter is from the book

Future Proofing

Although direct selling through social media has yet to be achieved in any real sense (and for the most part the attempts at it remain in the domain of spam and hard sell), new technologies are appearing that will increasingly make this possible. Shopping cart and payment systems are already being rolled out for Facebook, so that companies with business pages (formerly known as "Fan" pages) are now able to offer items for sale directly from Facebook, replicating their existing website-based catalog or creating specific offers available only to "fans" of their page.

Creating a unique, Facebook-only shopping experience will definitely be a way for many retailers to create increased affinity for their fans and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Given the already low cost of entry to this space and the equally low cost of implementing these systems, it will also make it possible for smaller organizations to take advantage of this type of storefront. This is yet another example of how some social media platforms are enabling smaller outlets to compete with their larger competitors.

Also, systems are being established that will eventually enable payments to be made via Twitter in the same way that they can be made via SMS (text messaging). The recent rise in charity fundraising via SMS (for example, the HAITI campaign) has brought this opportunity to the forefront for mobile marketers and developers of mobile systems who want to leverage platforms such as Twitter for direct revenue generation. The capability to send a tweet to a specific account and make a payment has a lot of attractions for many, and it may be that the charity fundraising path will be the first to realize real success in that field. It is likely, as with the SMS-based systems, that these will focus around micropayments ($10 or less) and be of a fixed-price nature, just as with donations made via SMS.

Because of their low cost of entry nature, these systems are likely to lend themselves to adoption by organizations of all sizes, which in turn will increase their adoption rate among users. It is not unimaginable that the microblog of the near future will include the capability to place orders with a post. For example, a pizza company might set up an orders account that can be messaged to place a delivery order, a pre-agreed price being a part of the data that is transmitted via the message. Another use of these systems might lead to a microblog version of eBay, allowing real-time auction bidding via a messaging system that would allow all parties to see the bids as they happen. Using the current Twitter terminology, building a stream around certain hashtags to allow for ease of monitoring would make this type of auction environment not only possible but very engaging. Combine it with a payment system and you have a very compelling environment for both sellers and buyers.

At the time of this writing, these systems are purely speculation. However, anyone putting together a social media strategy needs, at the very least, to be aware of the potential uses of social media platforms that might exist in the near future and the directions that some of the existing platforms might take so that they can build their organizations responses into the strategy. This type of "future proofing" is what separates the agile companies from those who appear to be social media observers who move with the speed of a glacier.

To all this strategy for the overall use of social media, we add social location marketing as a specific use within it. As if Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and so on weren't enough to cope with, social location marketing has arrived with the importance of any zeitgeist movement and demands attention like a screaming four-year old. So just where in this grand plan is a marketer to fit this in?

The bulk of this book is dedicated to leveraging each of the key social location sharing platforms. However, working without a plan for how to use each of these platforms as part of a larger social media strategy would be pointless.

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