After months of speculation and rumors, Twitter has introduced a “Buy” button option for users. Although the technology is only in beta, it begs the question: “Is the shift from content to commerce the right choice for a social media site?” Put another way, is Twitter shooting itself in the tweet?
In a hyper-connected world, everyone is expected to be part of some social network. It’s understood that you’ll spend a portion of your day updating a status or choosing the perfect filter to use on your #foodie shot (as long as you aren’t using Kelvin, you’re fine). We’ve now fully embraced social media as an extension of our everyday activities, and as an enhancement to our lives.
What we may not readily welcome, though, are brands with overt commercial intent invading our social space. To overcome this, brands must use unique content and strategic storytelling to earn the right to interact with us. Brand success on social media is built on activation: How well they inspire their following to create conversations, complete an action or drive further brand interactions while away from the site.
There’s a reason social media comprises most of our Internet activity. It’s because people are always looking to form a connection. We seek ways to engage more, to share more—not necessarily to shop more.
Twitter was created for the immediate sharing of easily digestible content in 140 characters or fewer. When we scroll through our feed, we’re looking for the content most relevant to us, whether it’s a cat meme or the stats on a player in our fantasy sports league. What we are not looking for are sales, limited time offers or BOGO’s. Yet promotions flood our news stream, damming up the flow of content that we truly care about. The success of the “Buy” button relies on the impulse buy—exclusive or time-sensitive items such as same-day concert tickets, or a last-minute sale on sunblock right before a long weekend—and the hope that products with high retweet or favorite counts will encourage you to purchase.
While the idea of social shopping is great both for brands and for shopaholics who are stuck at desks all day, it’s already been done. And it’s been done better. Sites like Fancy and Fab curate products you might like, along with reviews and pictures from other users. These sites aren’t just pushing e-commerce, they’re pushing the experience. They allow users to engage with others, share opinions and see the products in real life.
The Twitter “Buy” button is a poor attempt at masking instant gratification with social shopping. Instead of serving products tailored to you, your newsfeed will become a sales rack of poorly fitting content and you’ll find yourself wondering where you can return it all. The new feature won’t bring the “fun” of shopping to Twitter. It likely will give them a serious case of buyer’s remorse, and that is definitely a Don’t.