Social Commerce vs Social Media Marketing

August 4, 2022

If you pay attention to viral trends you might be aware of the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.

With over 3.1 billion views, this hashtag appears on videos of people cataloguing purchases from skincare to tech. TikTok users report on what they’ve found through other users, which prompts a wider audience to buy the same products, and so on.

One of the things fueling this channel of sales? Social commerce.

Perhaps you were expecting the term “social media marketing” instead? To be sure, social media marketing plays a valuable part in e-commerce sales. However, social commerce is at the forefront of online sales and understanding how it works can prove to be of value to your business.

We’ll break down what social media marketing is, what social commerce is, and which one of them is more beneficial to your online business.

Social Media Marketing

If your business is using social media marketing on a platform like TikTok, a common user experience might be that a prospective customer sees an ad you post on the app. After clicking on the ad, they’re directed to a page on their internet browsing device (either a landing page or product page), which they can use to add an item to their cart, enter payment information, and complete their purchase.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Social media marketing uses the same strategies marketers have used for decades to evoke curiosity and encourage action.

Social Commerce

If your business is using social commerce on TikTok, the user experience would go a little differently. The prospective customer would see your ad, click “Shop Now,” and be directed to an e-commerce storefront within the app: the TikTok Shopping tab. Users can complete their purchases within the app in seconds.

What’s the Big Deal?

When comparing these two methods it’s easy to see how much friction is involved in social media marketing, compared to social commerce. Navigating multiple pages and payment screens gives your customers plenty of time to lose inertia – if they have a moment to reconsider during a loading screen, they may abandon their cart for good.

Social commerce removes a huge portion of obstacles between the call to action and the action itself. Integrating sales with a social media app’s sales channel allows a business to see customers move through the sales funnel in a fraction of the time it took before.

Sounds Great – Which is Better?

Each app generally has its own e-commerce system, so setting up new sales channels (particularly if you’re starting to use social commerce across multiple apps) can be a challenge to navigate. However, focusing on the app that appeals most to your target demographic is a good place to start!

If you know your customers are more likely to be on Instagram than on Facebook, you can prioritise social commerce on Instagram to get the best return on your investment.

In-app e-commerce storefronts also may not have all the capabilities you’re used to when it comes to online sales. Because these storefronts were developed to add to a social media app, they haven’t been built with only the commerce process in mind.

You can focus on offering products that you think will sell well through social commerce. If your product isn’t a great fit for in-app purchases, you can focus on marketing it through other means.

You’re also marketing to an audience that isn’t opening the app with an intent to buy. Most people use social media to connect with their social circles, keep up with interests, and seek out entertainment. They probably aren’t opening TikTok specifically because they want to make a purchase.

This is where traditional marketing on multiple platforms is useful: although the multiple steps mean that there are lots of chances to lose momentum and for customers to leave the sales funnel. The customers who click ads and make it through the purchase are doing so because they have a real intent to buy.


There’s no clear winner here because there’s no single way to successfully use e-commerce. Some businesses might experience the most success using only social selling, and some will work best if they rely primarily on their conventional e-commerce strategy.

However, social commerce is a powerful tool to add to your sales strategy if you haven’t already. If you’re marketing the right products through social commerce, you might experience a wave of new sales, in addition to the sales you’ve come to expect through other channels.

If you’re interested in in discussing which option is perhaps best for your business or how you can leverage both get in touch with us to Book a free e-commerce clinic.