Pando

Twitter's new "Buy" button might fix social commerce's human problem

By Nathaniel Mott , written on September 8, 2014

From The News Desk

Twitter announced today that it has released a Buy button to a small number of its users in the United States.

That means that the long-running rumors that it intends to introduce such a product can stop popping up every few months and then disappearing back into the aether. Oh, and that people can purchase things straight from the company's mobile applications.

The button works about as one would expect: someone tweets a link to a product, Twitter's app adds the buy button to the tweet, and tapping it brings the user to a page where they can -- you guessed it -- buy whatever the original person decided to share. Twitter is working with Fancy, Gumroad, Musictoday, and Stripe to test the feature, and it says others will soon join the flock.

This feature is certainly more compelling than other Twitter commerce solutions that have been tried in the past, including Amazon's attempt to get consumers to add items to their shopping carts with a hashtag, a test that was interesting because it showed Twitter's ability to facilitate machine-to-machine communication, not because anyone should've used it, as I wrote in May:

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.

But the tool does demonstrate Twitter’s vast potential. The service isn’t just about enabling user communication — it also allows its users to communicate with machines. Or it can even cut the carbon-based middleman out entirely and allow two machines to communicate with each other. Twitter delivers information, and it doesn’t matter who’s sending or receiving that data. Allowing consumers to tap a single button and enter their payment information seems much more likely to catch on with consumers than any hashtag-based solution. Amazon nailed the machine-to-machine interactions afforded by the service; Twitter is now showing that it can handle that while also acknowledging the needs of the people who are pushing the buttons.