I began writing this article on November 8, after a series of interactions with Amazon.com. Two days later, a furor erupted over Amazon's sale of a self-published book titled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lovers Code of Conduct. The book has been described as a guide for how to approach young children. TechCrunch was the first on the scene with an article, followed shortly thereafter with a second article, calling national attention to the issue and denouncing the retailer's decision to defend the presence of the book under an "anti-censorship" argument. The articles triggered public outrage, resulting in a backlash via digital, social, and major media, including calls for a boycott. Unfortunately, the attention also worked to drive the self-published book to the Top Sellers list, although Amazon later removed the book and adjusted the rankings of other adult content on its site.

This article is focused on Amazon's use of social media, rather than "Pedo-Gate." However, because the incident occurred during the preparation of this article, it affected the trending and research conducted. Nevertheless, the key criticisms about Amazon's approach to social media are made even more salient in light of the recent drama.

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For more than a decade now, Amazon.com has been the darling of the ecommerce world. The site has been reliable, predictable, and consistent. It has been a pioneer in the use of ratings and reviews, chapter sampling, gift reminders, wish lists, and a host of other social and practical features set the bar for online shopping. Amazon has offered great user and customer experience, from the Web interface to its call center face-to-face discussions.

It would be a disservice not to point out that Amazon was a game-changing leader in social commerce well before the social media frenzy and hype of the past several years.

But the Playing Field Has Changed

Today, the site-driven "rating," "tell-a-friend, "add to list," or "write a review" are commodity functions found on any good shopping site. On the Internet, the standalone Web presence is giving way to the networked economy, as interactions and transactions scatter across multiple hubs. Websites are now interconnecting via open source or open API to other sites, tools, apps, networks, and communities. People don't just interact with people, products, and brands, they like them, follow them, and friend them—forming tangible relationships—without leaving the digital space they're in.

When it comes to shopping, products are accessed, sorted, compared, reviewed, rated, and purchased across sites, browsers, platforms, and devices with relative ease. An increasing number of websites leverage embedded site features and services such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and others. These help people interact, explore, discover, investigate, compare, check in, recommend, purchase, and give easily—regardless of the site, access point or platform used.

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image of Leigh Duncan-Durst
Leigh Duncan Durst (leigh at livepath dot net) is a 20-year veteran of marketing, e-commerce, and business and the founder of Live Path (www.livepath.net).