John Lawson: Social Commerce Isn’t About Likes, It’s About Sales

While more people are important to leverage the power of social to engage customers and prospects, you can’t forget about the main reason you’re on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks – to build profitable relationships with them. John Lawson, eCommerce expert and author of the new book “Kick Ass Social Commerce,” discusses why you may have to re-think how you’re using social today in order to be more effective in your efforts to turn clicks into cash, and likes into sales.

Below is an edited transcript of the conversation. To hear the full interview click on the player below the transcript.

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social commerce salesSmall Business Trends: “Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs,” it says at the top, “It’s Not About Likes–It’s About Sales.” So, before we jump into the book, can you give me a little bit of your personal background?

John Lawson: I started my business on eBay, and that was about 2001. I got serious about it and left my job in 2004, and really never looked back. We’ve sold tens of millions of dollars on the platforms of eBay, Amazon, our own website, and eCommerce is something that I’ve always been passionate about.

Small Business Trends: But now we’re talking about social commerce. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about the difference between what eCommerce was back then, and what social commerce is today?

John Lawson: You know, I think you’ve made a good bridge here. Because honestly, social commerce, as we know it today, using not a platform – but the term “social”, right? Amazon itself was always about social commerce, because Amazon started literally because one person bought something and wrote a review about that something, and that’s social, you know? That was commerce.

For me, eBay was that same way. A lot of the principles that I learned for social commerce today, I learned from the eBay of old, before there was a platform. So, today, social is really like a platform that you can actually spread that messaging over. Back when it really got started for eCommerce, for me, eBay was that social platform and people were in chat rooms on eBay.

Commerce has always been social. What we have today though, is a platform that we can do this kind of marketing engagement with our clients and potential clients on. That’s the only difference.

Small Business Trends: In the book you talk about “Me-Commerce.” Can you explain that term and what it means?

John Lawson: Social media has made us a very vain public. So, we’ve always been about me, me, me. I take a selfie, that’s me. I’m going to some place on a trip, that’s about me. I’m eating this food, I take a picture of it, here’s what I’m eating! It’s become very vain for the user.

Well, if we are trying to get to those people to actually do commerce with us, to actually do business with us, then when I refer to ‘Me-Commerce,’ it’s really about them, and not about you and I. So, we’re almost playing into what is feeding them on social media. You have to be aware of what ‘Me-Commerce’ is, and you have to use that for the benefit of marketing.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the best social platforms from a social commerce standpoint?

John Lawson: You know what? I want to say that there is none. I want to add to that question, because if you’re listening to this today, and you say, ‘Wow, there’s 1.3 billion people on Facebook, on average, and 700 million of them log-in every day,’ then obviously, I might say Facebook is the best, right?

But that might not necessarily be the case. When I was selling bandanas, the best place for me to actually go and find people that were interested in bandanas, would be a chat board about motorcycles, or a chat board about skateboarding.

So, it depends on where your customer is. For some of us, it might be on Pinterest. For others that are B2B or B2C, it still might be on LinkedIn. So, the first thing I tell people to do is: Start listening to the conversations on these platforms, and find out where the conversation is happening. Then, you jump into that conversation and listen. You want to listen to what they are saying way before you start talking.

Small Business Trends: A lot of folks are pretty savvy when it comes to social channels. But how difficult is the transition to get to the commerce part for folks? Because a lot of times, you’re kind of trapped on the social side, and don’t necessarily know the best way to get the sale.

John Lawson: So, all of us started, possibly, with the wrong mentality. We started with the wrong business plan. I know we’ve been taught from the old school marketing that people buy from people they know, like, and trust. And that is true. But the problem is that all we took from that statement was ‘like.’ Now, we haven’t let anybody know us, and nobody trusts us. So, the first thing you’re going to have to figure out is. ‘Okay, I’ve got these people liking me, how do I get them to know my company and trust my company?’

Look, Amazon is not the lowest price in the game. Pretty much any time you go and look for something on Amazon, you can probably find it somewhere lower. But the deal is, people trust Amazon. So, stop making it a race to get the most “likes,” or being the lowest price. You need to be the most trusted. Once people trust you, they will spend money with you.

Small Business Trends: Can you talk a little about the important metrics, the indicators that are really important for people to drill into, as they get involved with social commerce?

John Lawson: Number one is pretty simple, right? If you want to be in the mode of “Kick Ass Social Commerce”, then guess what? You want to hear the cash register go “cha-ching!” I think that is the bottom line. You should be able to find transactional value going up – top line and bottom line – by the things you are doing.

Because who cares if they like you? I don’t really care if they like me. If they’re not spending money with me, then I’m wasting my time. So, that’s one of the things. But other things like time on a page is important and making sure you’re also having call-to-actions on a lot of your social. Not all of your social, but a lot of it, at least one-fifth.

Start thinking about ways to have calls-to-actions. Getting people engaged with you and your brand is really one of the biggest and most important things.

Small Business Trends: This book is really full of lots of information. It’s 200+ pages. What do you want people to walk away with after reading the book?

John Lawson: The book is actually broken down into two distinct parts. One part is called “the meat,” and that is basically the structure of how to persuade people to purchase with you. No matter what platform you’re on, these are the principles you really need, no matter where you go, what you do, or how you do it. If you take these principles, they will work.

The second half of the book is called “the gravy,” and that’s where I go into the actual platforms – WordPress – because a lot of people overlook the fact that the blog was really the biggest social channel out there, and it’s still very valuable. Then I go into the Facebook, Pinterest and all of that.

But I don’t want people to just jump in and say, ‘Oh, I want to do Pinterest’ and go to the back of the book. You really want to get “the meat” first, because that is really going to make a difference. I think that’s the difference from other books that I’ve read on social.

Small Business Trends: Where can they get all of this great information in the book?

John Lawson: They can get the book at any place books are sold. So, any book store and of course online at Amazon, you can get “Kick Ass Social Commerce.” Just search that, “Kick Ass Social Commerce,” it’ll come up.

The other thing, though, if people want a signed copy of the book, you can go to and I will personalize it, sign it, and ten percent of the proceeds will go to Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital. So, you can get a signed copy and you can help out a great charity.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.