Facebook and Twitter have continued their clumsy attempts to parrot each other with dual announcements to add commerce-specific features to their services. Facebook has added a button to some advertisements to allow its users to purchase an item directly from its service; Twitter has acquired CardSpring to “bring in-the-moment commerce experiences” to its users. The future of social networking, it seems, requires a shopping cart.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle between the companies and their ambitions of becoming more involved with their users’ purchasing habits is the fact that people don’t trust them to protect their privacy. Facebook already gathers and shares mind-boggling amounts of personal data with its advertisers, which makes trusting the company with purchase history and credit card information difficult, and Twitter’s decision to make everything public by default is troubling.
Facebook addresses this concern in the blog post introducing this new commerce button, as even its insular culture of contempt isn’t oblivious enough not to realize that some users would hesitate to give their payment information to a company that peddles in personal information:
We’ve built this feature with privacy in mind, and have taken steps to help make the payment experience safe and secure. None of the credit or debit card information people share with Facebook when completing a transaction will be shared with other advertisers, and people can select whether or not they’d like to save payment information for future purchases.
Twitter doesn’t demonstrate that same sense of self-awareness in its announcement — though maybe that’s because it doesn’t reveal much about its plans for CardSpring — but it does fluff its feathers by reminding everyone that it’s already grafted commerce features onto its service:
Twitter has always been a vibrant environment for users to discover product recommendations and promotions from artists, experts, brands and friends. In fact, we’ve already given users the ability to get deals and discounts, surprise someone with a coffee, or even add items to their online shopping cart — all directly from a Tweet.
The problem with reminding everyone about those previous attempts to introduce commerce to the main Twitter service is that it also reminds them of just how unlikely those efforts, like Amazon allowing people to add items to their shopping carts with a tweet, are to succeed. As I wrote when the feature, dubbed #AmazonCart, was revealed to the public a few months ago:
The tool is simple: if someone sees a tweet with an Amazon product link embedded within its 140 characters, all they need to do is reply with #AmazonCart to add the item to their account. The service requires that consumers connect their Amazon and Twitter accounts, but beyond that the tool makes shopping as easy as making a joke or condemning “The Colbert Report.”
It’s unclear how replying to a tweet is more convenient than tapping the link and adding the item to a shopping cart with another tap — or how many people will be comfortable with having their shopping history available with a simple hashtag search. Amazon’s reliance on Twitter seems to be little more than a test to see if “social shopping” will ever become a reality.
Twitter might plan to use CardSpring to fix those problems, but Facebook’s squawking about its efforts to address any privacy concerns its users might have about using the new feature is more effective than a vague announcement. Maybe the company has finally found another thing that Twitter won’t be able to copy, no matter how many times it’s offered a cracker.
[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]