5 Things Brands Need to Know About Amazon Spark

Opinion: On the heels of buying Whole Foods, Amazon is venturing into yet another new space: social media

On the heels of buying Whole Foods, Amazon is venturing into yet another new space: social media.

In July, the $430 billion company rolled out Amazon Spark, a social feed of user-posted images. Many have been quick to point out the similarities of Spark with other image-heavy social networks (e.g., Instagram), but there are several key differences that make Spark something that agencies, brands and other social platforms should pay close attention to.

Only Amazon Prime customers can post and comment on Spark … for now

While most social networks depend on mass adoption and targeted ads, Amazon Spark is exclusive to Amazon Prime customers (who pay a $99 annual fee for a host of benefits). While any customer can review the content, only Prime members can post and comment.

The move ensures that Spark content is product-focused and engaged with by active shoppers, as the 80 million Prime members spend on average $600 more per year than non-Prime members.

In addition to posting photos (tagged with products and interests), products and links, users can run comparison polls between two Amazon products so their network can provide feedback on their prospective purchase.

Smile is the new like

Like any good social network, Spark has some key engagement and curation features. Users can curate the content they receive by following specific interests and people. Topics such as technology, fitness and health and beauty are available for users to follow, in addition to particular people, which some might call “influencers,” but Amazon has labeled “enthusiasts.”

Also, instead of a like or a double-tapped love, Amazon introduced the newest one-tap social media engagement: the smile.

Consumers can purchase products they see on Spark without leaving the Amazon application

The shoppable feed is perhaps Spark’s most exciting feature. While Instagram has struggled with making its social experience shoppable, Spark makes its shopping experience social.

Each image that is posted can be tagged with specific products, which appear at the bottom of the post when the user clicks. Clicking on a tag will immediately take a consumer to the product page to add that item to a cart, or even to buy it with one click. This user-friendly flow will make impulse buys a breeze.

‘Further, depending on the quality of the content and user interactions, Spark could become a place for product research and discussion.

Brands can’t post, but their influencers can

While it’s not immediately clear if brands are invited to build profiles (you’d need a Prime membership, but a personal Prime account could be used as a scrappy brand page right now), it is clear that current and future customers could discover products through user-submitted images. Already, posts with #sponsored have begun to pop up, suggesting that some brands are already tapping their influencers to create branded content with them.

Brands should treat Spark as a new social media channel to monitor and identify pilot opportunities

If a brand sells on Amazon, you need to take Spark seriously. Only time will tell whether Spark will take off and warrant an investment of a brand’s time and energy, but currently there is potential, especially for first-movers. Consider these guiding questions when developing a Spark strategic approach:

What is your Spark content strategy? While you won’t be able to post as your brand, you can consider what type of content you’d want influencers to share. Since the platform is so close to the Amazon point of purchase, consider lower-funnel product-focused posts, while perhaps testing aspirational, lifestyle content.

Who should your influencers be? Consider engaging individuals who currently review your products on Amazon, as they’ll likely be a strong foundation. Also, only time will tell who will be the “enthusiasts” with the greatest reach, so monitor your category on the platform to stay up to date on who’s earning the most eyeballs.

How can I monitor my brand health on Spark? Enterprise social listening tools won’t have Amazon Spark as a tracked platform for some time (or potentially ever, if Amazon blocks scraping of their mobile site). Your brand will need to monitor the platform natively, following key topics and individuals related to your brand.

How will I measure success on Spark? At launch, on-platform engagements (smiles and comments) are the primary key performance indicator. Hopefully, Amazon will allow content creators to monitor clicks to their posts and potential purchasers. While Spark represents a huge social commerce opportunity for brands, without transparency or partnership from Amazon, attribution will remain a significant challenge.

Billy Boulia is the vice president and group director of social strategy at global marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi, and Zach Zimmerman is manager of data and analytics.