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Choosing PayPal for Social Media

Key Facts

  • Social media might not seem like an ideal fit with PayPal at first. After all, the main notion of social media platforms is all about sharing everything, while PayPal is about keeping information about financial dealings tightly held.
  • So how does this work? In short, PayPal is introducing tools that will act as a private layer for socially based financial transactions. Thus, the conversation around the transaction can be open, but the transaction itself will be maintained with all of the security and privacy one expects from PayPal.

As social media participation grows, the characteristics of all our different cultures are starting to come through with regard to art, music, language, and commerce. When we share ideas, we also want to share things that are related to those ideas.

For example, when someone describes a picture that she likes, you might like to have a copy of that picture, too. So, she posts it on a photo-sharing site and gives you permission to download it for your own use — perhaps to post on your desktop background or print for your office.

But if the shared object in question is something that is not free, say, perhaps a piece of art that should be bought to support the artist, then you and your friend will need a way to exchange the item that involves some sort of transaction.

Isn’t This a Wallet?

It may not make sense, at first, why PayPal is exploring ways of getting into social media. After all, when all is said and done, PayPal is fundamentally just a wallet. A super-cool, hyper-secure, fancy wallet, to be sure, but a wallet nonetheless: it holds money for when you need to pull that money out and pay someone for something. What’s social media about that? Actually, it turns out to be quite a bit about social media.

Commerce Is Not the Goal

The first major opportunity for understanding PayPal’s presence in the social media ecosystem is to see that social media is about communication, not commerce.

On the highest level, this is very true. When talking to your friends face-to- face, very often the idea of buying and selling items does not come up. In fact, if any item is to be given, your friends are typically very reluctant to charge anything for it. They are friends, after all, and giving them something they need that you have is just being, well, a friend.

But sometimes your friends need more than what you can give them freely. You can spend time fixing a computer for a friend, but you can’t typically buy him a new computer. What you can do, however, is recommend a place you know where he can get a decent machine for a good value.

This, then, is where commerce starts to creep into the conversation. There are successful sites solely dedicated to the notion of sharing information and reviews about stores and businesses. These sites bridge the gap between commercial and social. But “commerce” can take a more beneficial form, too.

There are those terrible times when your friends need a lot of help, more than what you can ordinarily do. So you perform extraordinary tasks to assist them: you pass the hat around and raise money; you give them food, shelter, clothing; you do whatever it takes to help them get back on their feet. Organizing this kind of emergency relief involves talent, time, and money (another place where ecommerce enters the conversation).

So, while you can see that commerce is not the primary goal of most of the conversations with those with whom you have close relationships, it can enter the conversation in natural ways every day.

Broadening your horizons

In a face-to-face conversation, it can be awkward to include commercial elements in the conversation. But social media has added something to the equation that changes the very notion of “community” as we know it.

This week alone, you may have online conversations with friends in England, Australia, Canada . . . or any nation on the planet. These are friends you have met in person maybe once or twice, and for some people, you may have never met them. But, nonetheless, they are your friends, and you treat them accordingly. You exchange ideas within the context of your professional careers, and also without. You learn new things about the communities in which they live, and hopefully they learn more about yours.

This is what social media and the Internet before it have done to the idea of relationships: together, they have broadened the scope to the degree that each and every one of us can reach out and establish a connection with the 1.5 billion people on the planet who are connected to the Internet.

There are limitations, naturally, and language is a big one. All of your friends may be English-speaking, with a smattering of German or French speakers that perhaps you can follow. Communication still relies on having a common language, while translation sites can help get basic ideas across.

The expansion of the number of people with which you can communicate is bound to have a significant impact on the types of conversations you have because of the sheer diversity of skills and talent of the larger group of people in the social group.

For instance, if you’re at a small party and accidentally cut your finger, then asking “Is there a doctor in the house?” might be kind of silly (unless all of your friends were doctors). But if you ask the same question in a crowd of people, the odds that there is a doctor or nurse or EMT in the crowd goes up significantly.

That’s what the broadening of the horizons means: if you need something really specific, the odds go up that someone in the larger group will be able to supply you with what you need—or point you directly to someone who can.

This is why businesses are so keen to be part of social media: they know that if they can start being a part of the normal conversations that fill our daily lives, then the chances are greater that someone will need something that they can offer. Once that happens, the conversation can shift, hopefully naturally, into a trade or purchase for goods and services.

This is not trying to paint a picture of a social media landscape where someone will interject commercials every five seconds. But with a wider world participating in social media activities, it will not be unheard of for transactions to enter the picture.

Where PayPal Fits in Social Media

It’s obvious why PayPal wants to be a part of the social media equation. If transactions are indeed going to be an inevitable outcome of social media conversations, then having a secure and proven method of conducting those transactions becomes all that much more important.


The first benefit to using PayPal in a social media context is that it provides a layer of security for anyone with whom you’re working.

If you are selling a friend something, you want to make sure that her transaction is safer, because you don’t want anything to go wrong and jeopardize your relationship. For face-to-face transactions, that’s not terribly difficult, since there’s typically a lot of trust in such arrangements. When your friend hands you a check, you don’t usually try to verify it. You just give her the item and deposit the check. If something were to go wrong, because that’s how life works sometimes, then you are confident your friend will fix it.

When you’re selling to someone who is far away, or you don’t know that person all that well, extra precautions are necessary—because you don’t know her, and she doesn’t know you either.

In these cases, it’s best to use an agreed-upon method of payment that both sides can trust. This is where PayPal is most effective. Its security methodology is designed to make sure that everyone involved in a transaction is as protected as possible.


Another reason why PayPal is appropriate for use in social media transactions is that it’s convenient to use. It doesn’t take a lot of time to set up a PayPal customer account, and it doesn’t take much longer to set up a merchant account. You can add ecommerce functionality to your site with relative ease and be up and running in hours.

Once configured, the smooth PayPal transaction process makes it easy for anyone to jump from a conversation directly to a transaction. For more information on merchant products and services, visit

1 Brian Proffitt; The PayPal Official Insider Guide to Social Media; P. 28-35