Shop Now! Shop Twitter!

Twitter users were treated to an update to both their Terms Of Service and the Twitter privacy policy yesterday. If you aren’t on Twitter, or you are one of those incomprehensible souls that skips through TOS agreements without reading and/or just deletes them wholesale, here is the key takeaway: Twitter is moving into the world of online shopping. In a nutshell, they want to start enhancing their “promoted tweets” with links to allow one-click purchases of the items or services being advertised.

Personally, I think this is a decent initiative. Obviously Twitter needs to have a solid revenue stream to survive … keeping a major-league social network up and running takes a lot of resources and a lot of talented staff, neither of which are free. Yes, some people will bitch about this they way they bitch about advertising in any format, but those same people would bitch even louder if Twitter went tits up.

A few of the positives here:

The promoted tweets are fairly unobtrusive. They sit quietly in your timeline, period. They aren’t outsized pop-ups, overlays, hideous floating boxes with a minuscule close button, or any of the other annoyances that you increasingly see on mainstream media sites. And they are orders of magnitude better than the stupid Dickbar.

Twitter has a decent privacy policy. Unlike Facebook (which just outright sells your data) or Google (which sells your preferences) Twitter sells space in groups of timelines that match a set of client parameters without actually giving advertisers any information about individual users. Twitter also has a good record when it comes to standing up to unwarranted government demands for user data.

Twitter has excellent security. The endgame of “one click” shopping right from your timeline means that Twitter will take on the roles of both credit card storage and processing. Despite the protests of celebrities who are embarrassed by their idiot tweets (“My account was hacked!“) no Twitter account or server has ever been technologically compromised. Anyone who has ever had their account hijacked has given their password out, either knowingly to friends / acquaintances / personal assistants / whatever, or inadvertently via their own stupidity. If you are going to trust someone with your credit card info, you could do a lot worse than Twitter.

Pure convenience: Look, people shop online all the time. If Twitter and their advertisers want people to get on board with this, they are going to have to offer some compelling deals … it’s really they only way they have to overcome the inertia and reputation of the biggest online retailers (cough cough Amazon cough) with a new service. So if there is a deal on something I am interested in, why not give me a chance to shop without interrupting my workflow, having to pop over to another app, sign in to another service, and then come back to where I was? Convenience is king … if you can get people into the swing of this with some irresistible deals early in the game, it’s a pretty safe bet that they stick around in the future when the prices are equal and the only tipping point is ease of use.

It’s also worth noting here that Twitter takes the time to both update users on TOS / Privacy changes and to make sure the documents are in fairly comprehensible language. There are a lot of companies that put the onus on the users to find out when changes are made (Microsoft comes to mind), locate the changes for themselves (hey, look, it’s Microsoft!) and couch the whole mess in layers of nearly-inpenetrable legalspeak (wow, Microsoft again). Twitter generally tries to play fair – hopefully they see some sort of payoff from that policy going forward.

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