Twitter is a real-time newspaper, a second screen for your TV, and now a virtual mall. The network is partnering with several major musicians, retailers, and nonprofits to let you buy stuff straight from your timeline.
Twitter is initially working with social shopping platform Fancy, online marketplace Gumroad, and music commerce site Musictoday, with payments powered by Stripe. The long-rumored buy button will start surfacing for some users starting today, but the test is limited to a small number of Americans for now. It looks like you have to follow test partners like singer Brad Paisley and fashion house Burberry to see special offers--they won't appear as promoted tweets.
"Users will get access to offers and merchandise they can't get anywhere else and can act on them right in the Twitter apps for Android and iOS; sellers will gain a new way to turn the direct relationship they build with their followers into sales," Twitter group product manager Tarun Jain said in a Monday blog post.
The buy button is a more official version of the pay-by-hashtag experiments Twitter has tested in the past with partners like Amazon and Starbucks. Those promotions were fun, but tweeting a hashtag to make a purchase isn't exactly an ideal way to buy.
Once you make your first Twitter purchase, the network will store your payment information for faster future shopping. But Twitter is just connecting you to the merchant you're buying from and changed its terms of service to reflect just how uninvolved it plans to be should anything go wrong. Shipping, damaged items, returns: These issues have to be taken up with the retailer, not Twitter.
It's unclear how big of a cut, if any, Twitter takes for being the go-between for its users and business partners. It's also unclear how people will respond to the buy button. Unlike visual social networks like Pinterest and Instagram, Twitter isn't a natural shopping platform and may stumble unless it truly plans to offer items you can't buy anywhere else. Facebook is trying something similar, letting advertisers include a buy button in promoted News Feed posts, but that test isn't widespread.