February 12, 2013, 11:18 AM

Twitter gets into e-commerce

The social network and American Express enable buying via tweets.

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Twitter says it is working with American Express to enable its users to buy products directly on the microblogging service.

The service allows American Express cardholders who link their cards to their Twitter accounts to purchase select discounted products by posting a specific hashtag provided by the offering merchant. For instance, American Express posted an offer yesterday for a $25 American Express gift card for $15 that consumers can purchase by posting a tweet that includes #BuyAmexGiftCard25. Any word that starts with a pound sign (#) is a hashtag, which becomes a clickable link to all other mentions of that word. For example, a tweet that says, “Welcome to #twitter!” makes Twitter a clickable link that brings up other tweets about that term.

Twitter and American Express say that tomorrow at noon Eastern Standard Time they will roll out all the offers from brands such as Amazon.com Inc. and Sony Electronics Inc. Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, will sell its Kindle Fire HD tablet, which retails for $199, for $149.99 plus tax. Sony, No. 16 in the Top 500 Guide, will sell its Sony Action Cam and Waterproof Headband Mount, which are sold for $279.98 on Sony’s web site, for $179.99 plus tax. The full catalog of products on sale will be listed in the "favorites" section on the American Express Twitter page.

Here’s how consumers can make a purchase on Twitter. They have to link their American Express cards to their Twitter accounts at sync.americanexpress.com/twitter. They then have to tweet the special product hashtag, such as #BuyAmexGiftCard25. American Express’s @AmexSync account then sends a Twitter mention to the consumer containing a confirmation hashtag. The shopper then has to tweet the confirmation hashtag within 15 minutes of the @AmexSync message to confirm the purchase.

This is not the first e-commerce-related collaboration between American Express and Twitter. The companies last March launched AmEx Sync that enabled American Express cardholders who synced their cards to their Twitter accounts to access discounts—without needing coupons—by tweeting a special offer hashtag. However, unlike the service that launched yesterday, those discounts were applied when the shopper made an applicable purchase off of Twitter using her American Express card.

"Based on the initial success of Amex Sync for offers, we know there is significant power in combining our assets with Twitter's platform to bring value to card members and merchants," says Leslie Berland, American Express senior vice president, digital partnerships and development. "Now, we're leveraging our unique technology and closed-loop network to introduce a seamless solution that redefines what's possible in the world of social commerce."

Twitter is an important element in many retailers’ social marketing strategies. 98% of the retailers in the Top 500 Guide have a Twitter presence and they have an average of 83,300 followers on the microblogging service, according to the Social Media 300, a comprehensive analysis of e-retailers’ social commerce strategies, based its rankings of retailers’ social skills on the percentage of web site traffic that merchants receive from social networks.

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