Social media was invented to facilitate digital connections between people, businesses and groups. Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies easily understood the value of keeping in front of customers through social networking. Business-to-business (B2B) adoption took longer, but many B2B ventures are now as active on social media as their B2C counterparts.
Social media's influence in the payments industry has been different from other B2B arenas. Its customers, specifically retail and restaurant merchants, were early adopters of social media. Thus, many payment companies found themselves moving into partner- and product-based relationships with social media providers before they started to communicate through their own digital networks.
For example, POS providers recognized early how valuable it would be for customers to integrate social media intelligence into their products. Swipely's Chief Executive Officer, Angus Davis, told Inc. magazine in a 2014 interview why his company incorporated social stats into its solution. "The idea is that the payment network moves money but doesn't glean data well," he said. "Our technology enables people not only to accept payment but access powerful analytics about customers."
Likewise, development of social commerce has been top of mind for electronic payment masterminds for a number of years. Thanks to electronic gifting pioneers like First Data Corp., and its eGift Social product introduced in 2010, the concept of conducting person-to-person (P2P) payments through social media became a reality. Establishing a social commerce environment has created even stronger business ties between the two industries, exemplified in recently established partnerships such as the Snapchat/Square P2P pairing.
Turning social media networks into shopping portals is taking longer, but the two industries are at it again. Products like PayPal's Venmo and Facebook's new social buying feature are examples of the next big thing in social commerce. Indeed, data recently released from Juniper Research Ltd. predicts fund transfers made through social media will reach $2 billion this year and $4 billion by 2018.
Whereas the blend between payment and social media technologies has made history, there's no clear indication social networking has contributed to individual bottom lines. Sales organizations have held contests, hosted live social forums and advertised products on social platforms, but most companies in the industry are content to follow the standard posting regimen.
Karla Jo Helms, CEO of JoTo PR, encourages companies to use social channels more. "Social media is a way to take that one hit wonder and send it out multiple times to get people to think about it," she said.
MasterCard Worldwide had another great idea. The company has used social media intelligence to develop its annual Mobile Payments Study. The 2015 report studied data tracked throughout 2015 from 19.1 million social media posts across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Forums, Weibo (CN), Google+ and YouTube. According to the website Social Media Today, this study reflected, for the first time, more conversations about the merits of mobile payments than former security concerns. It also stated consumers have shifted from a "Why mobile?" stance to a "What's next?" position. Payment professionals might thus ask, "What's next for social media and payments?"
Some experts have said the answer points to the age-old concept of networking. And the results of Accenture's recent annual digital business survey support this claim.
In the company's Technology Vision 2015 report, Accenture stated, "Leading enterprises are quickly mastering the shift from 'me' to 'we.' They are stretching their boundaries by tapping into a broad array of other digital businesses, digital customers, and even digital devices at the edge of their networks. Leaders eager to drive change are using this broader digital ecosystem to place bets on a grand scale. These forward-thinking companies are looking to shape entire markets and change the way we work and live.
Perhaps the path payments and social media providers have taken to revolutionize digital networking has been on point. Then again, it may be time for industry leaders to talk more about it on social networks, because as Helms said, "When a future-thinking piece of an industry is exposed through social media over and over again, people who didn't have a chance to read it the first time will see it, or others may see a certain angle they didn't see before."
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