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The Emerging “Intention Economy” on Social Media

Posted by Kristen Hawley on July 19th, 2012

Last month, news of a new Facebook button, similar to the Like button, surfaced, and it’s a natural extension of Liking: the Want button. While it hasn’t surfaced in the wild just yet, a number of sources discovered the button and its abilities, which include allowing consumers to Want an item available for purchase. But you probably won’t be able to Want everything on your wish list right away, since the button needs to be added directly into a retailer’s code to work, keeping people’s Wants within the Facebook ecosystem.

For marketers, advertisers and retailers, the Want button is a fantastic way to hone in on your audience — who sees your product and likes it so much that they Want it. As such, it seems Facebook intends this to be a stronger signal than a Like. But because of the way the functionality needs to be built into a site, it’s limiting and could take a while to implement across the web. The now eponymous Like button has been around for over two years, so it’s an established entity. And according to some, waiting for the ability to move across the web — or at least out of the Facebook ecosystem — would be wasting time.

Instead, Christopher Carfi of Ant’s Eye View offers a different solution, created organically similar to the #hashtag, and it’s simple: adding a ? in front of a word to signal intent. For example, if you’re looking for a recommendation for a new car, a post on a social network would start with or contain ?car. For a dinner recommendation: ?restaurant. The signal is open and voluntary, but for a marketer gives a “statement of permission” to interact with that post, making recommendations or even a sales pitch.

We’re dealing with a new facet of social, the “intention economy,” where consumers are, essentially, stating their intent to purchase a product or service. This will be an interesting metric to watch, especially if we’re able to measure who Wants versus who buys. It’s likely as Facebook eventually releases its Want button that the phrase “intention economy” will come to the forefront, and it’ll certainly influence consumer behavior — most likely on and off Facebook. Perhaps the ? solution is the right step in the newest direction of social media.

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