Creating the Amazon Community has often been lauded as one of the first forward-thinking retailing sites to invite consumers to participate in the marketing of the products. Soliciting and publishing the unaltered opinions & experiences of anyone who cares to share for all shoppers to see. Mash that info with rich purchasing metadata (yours and everyone else’s) and you inarguably have an open and trustworthy marketing platform that is completely consumer driven. In 1995 terms: Brilliant. Slick. Avant-garde.

In 2008: Meh.

Today this type of consumer-driven marketing is de rigueur. Any site that’s done its marketing homework utilizes some flavor of published consumer feedback as an engagement tool. So what’s next? Glad you asked. seems to be back in acquisition mode. After a quiescent period where their few investments seemed geared towards rounding out their service infrastructure, they are now quietly funding some noteworthy startups. – Social Music. This site gained notoriety recently when it turned out that Eliot Spitzer’s pricey cuddle-bunny was an aspiring songstress and was distributing her tunes using this venue. This elegantly simple site allows anyone to sell their MP3 tunes to the masses. The cost of the music is scaled based on its popularity. Songs start out free, and rise a little in price each time the song is downloaded to a max of $.99. The site has some community features and offers social incentives to ‘recommend’ music to your friends. If a recommendation results in a purchase, you receive credit which can be used to expand your own collection. The site is currently weighted heavily towards Indie artists, but the MP3’s are DRM-free and priced right. – Social Literature. I love this site. Avid readers create a personal profile that includes a virtual ‘Shelf’ of all their books: what they’ve read, what they’re currently reading and what they’re looking to find. The books on your shelf are used to connect you to other readers in the community who have similar tastes in literature. You can create or join reading groups around titles and authors or a variety of other topics. You can solicit recommendations, find copies of desired books, write your own sparkling reviews and of course, make friends. – Social Fantasy Leagues. Their fist dip in the water is Basically a Fantasy Sports-style site for movies. Users of this site draft Movie Titles and earn points based on how the release performs at the Box Office and how they score on the Amazon-owned review. Still early to predict whether this acquisition will be used to bolster’s movie sales biz (don’t forget about Amazon Unbox) or to give IMDb a little needed boost. AtomicMoguls has intimated that they have expansionist plans to wrap Fantasy Leagues around other related media venues. I.e., television & music.

These acquisitions point to the creation of a new social layer for that lays the foundation for a vibrant consumer community. The incorporation of AmieStreet’s social music structure is a great fit for Amazon. It opens the product to consumer demand, and leverages free-market economics to determine pricing. And clearly the Shelfari concept of social lit is a sweet dovetail to the book sales facet of Amazon, a company that pioneered the use of people’s opinions to drive sales.

Expect to see an abundance of new Amazon widgets and apps destined for other premier social networking sites that will unite consumers around their passions. When this new layer comes to fruition, it will elevate from a just a retail site to a thriving community of shoppers.