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After years of watching users express their deep desire to purchase and obtain products highlighted on their sites, the social media powerhouses Pinterest and Instagram are adopting new initiatives to facilitate those transactions. Whether the moves will lead to actual profits for the sites remains unclear though.
University students checking for test results in bulletin board while woman checking text message on mobile phoneSpecifically, indications suggest that both Instagram and Pinterest will soon host “buy buttons” that will enable users to click on a featured post or picture to initiate a sales process. On Instagram, the button is similar in function to the Facebook buy button. That is, advertisers on the sites may include buy buttons in their ads. When users click, the button links them to an external website where they can complete their purchase.

The process is a little different on Pinterest. The presence of “buyable” pins signals to users that they may click on the link to receive detailed information about available colors, sizes, and other information. If they choose to purchase, the order goes directly to the merchant, without ever taking the user off the Pinterest site. Such functionality seems likely to be successful; in a recent survey, 93 percent of Pintrest users—or pinners—noted that they would like to use the site to make their purchases.

However, these links are unpaid thus far, so Pinterest will not earn any revenues on the transaction. Both Instagram and Facebook instead can leverage advertising dollars to support their buying capabilities.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram doing to facilitate online purchases, and why?
  2. As it currently stands, why does this new strategy benefit the social media sites?


Source: Matthew Stern, “Social Sites Move to Boost Retail Sales,” Retail Wire, June 5, 2015