social buying is when purchasing and social networks come together. companies like LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, and Groupon are tapping in to our deal seeking and social networks behaviors by combining them. i discussed this with Mary Ito from the CBC Radio program Fresh Air on Aug 14th - you can hear the audio here http://www.cbc.ca/video/news/audioplayer.html?clipid=2089722318 - it runs for 9:57.
of interest is the combination of influencers used in these types of services: a) the coupon - a well established off-line technique to encourage purchasing by offering a deal to those that collect it; b) the time limit - eBay, Priceline.com, and others have capitalized on the ticking clock countdown tactic so that the user feels the need to act quickly to get in on the action; this adds a gaming quality to the coupon; and c) the social network - step right up but bring a friend (and the more the merrier) to get the deal since a minimum number of people have to agree to take the coupon or the deal goes away.
this triad (coupon + time limit + social network) is a killer combination for many people and the kinds of deals reflect the social nature of the service - restaurants, bars, and events that lend themselves most naturally to group participation are top of the lists.
is this a fad? no chance - it's here to stay. social buying appeals to information and social practices that are already well entrenched in modern living. Reijo Savolainen describes information practices as those involving information seeking, use and sharing. Social buying has all the hallmarks of an information practice - deals are sought, used, and shared. i would add that social media services like Groupon use new media technologies as platforms through which information practices are accelerated and can lead to practices on a global scale. as new technologies emerge some of these practices take on a new forms and have the potential to accelerate across networks.