How social media is changing the way we shop

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Over the last few years, social media has become more than just somewhere to keep up with your friends and family. Now, it’s also a place you can buy and sell anything from latest fashions to homewares and vehicles. We take a look at why this has been so successful and how you can get the most from these platforms.  

Online communities drive social media spending

If you’re fairly active on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, you’re probably being presented with more and more opportunities to spend your money. Often appearing as ‘sponsored’ or ‘promoted’ posts, these are adverts that either automatically redirect you to a company’s website or have ‘buy’, ‘learn more’ or ‘shop now’ buttons to entice you in. 

They’ve been appearing on social platforms since 2015, giving us ever-more opportunities to purchase things in an instant, and they’re rapidly gaining in popularity. But why? And how is this any different to regular online shopping? 

It all comes down to being part of a community. It’s a more social way to shop online. We like to know what our peers are looking at and what they think, and when it comes to buying something, 81% of us are influenced by our friends' posts. We know customer reviews can give us the inside scoop on whether a product is worth buying; taking advice from our personal networks is even more reassuring.  

Why you’re seeing what you’re seeing

Although you might find some bizarre items for sale – someone once tried to sell half a bottle of Diet Coke for £1 – most goods are tailored to your life stage or situation. This is because social media platforms deliberately target you with products and services they think are relevant, based on your search history and settings. 

Sometimes, this can be a little alarming. For example, if you’re a female who’s just updated their relationship status to married, you’re likely to be presented with adverts about pregnancy and babies, whether or not you’re planning on having a family. 


Although these adverts might appear at just the right time, if you’re finding them intrusive or irrelevant you can unfollow the brand or hide the post and provide feedback on why you don’t want to see any more. This will update the algorithm and hopefully make future posts more relevant to your needs.

How to sell your goods on social media

Launched in 2016, Facebook Marketplace is a location-based service similar to Gumtree and eBay. It’s free to use and you can post items for sale or browse for goods in your local area. If you’re having a spring clean or decluttering your home, advertising items at a reasonable price might help prevent them ending up in landfill and perhaps even boost your savings in the process.  

However, despite being part of the Facebook ecosystem, there’s no built-in secure payment system. The idea is to exchange goods in person, so there’s also no legal or consumer protection. 

To avoid becoming a victim of fraud, never hand over goods without receiving payment, ideally cash. The promise of a bank transfer might never happen, and people have been known to set up fake PayPal emails, making it look like you’ve been paid when you haven’t. Also, don’t tell a buyer to meet you at your address in the evening because you’re at work all day – they may be an opportunist thief who now knows when your house will be empty. Check out their profile: if they aren’t from your local area or don’t seem authentic (maybe they don’t have a profile picture or any friends) this could be a scam account. And always have someone with you when you make the exchange, for safety. 

Making the most of the social shopping world

While social media shopping can be extremely convenient, it’s important to remember to spend wisely. Do your research, shop around, read the reviews, make sure you keep your spending within your budget, and always check you’re shopping on a secure site. And if you’re buying something from Facebook Marketplace, arrange to meet in a public place if possible, take a friend with you, and always check the goods in person before handing over your money.

Shopping on social media can be a great way to stay up to date with the latest trends, make informed purchases by reading others’ reviews, or even bag a bargain on one of the many online marketplaces. So, make the most of it, but just make sure you stay safe and spend wisely.

  • Anthony Hua

    Anthony Hua,

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