Why do you use Twitter?
Engagement, conversations, relationship building, customer service, brand awareness, research?
What about e-commerce? Would you buy products via Twitter?
Just when people are getting used to having advertisements appear in their timelines, Twitter is aggressively pushing forward with T-commerce.
This strategic initiative was thrust into the spotlight last week when Twitter hired Nathan Hubbard, the ex-president of Ticketmaster, to head up its commerce unit.
“We’re going to go to people who have stuff to sell and help them use Twitter to sell it more effectively,” Hubbard told Mashable.
In many respects, Twitter’s embrace of e-commerce reflects how social media is quickly moving away from being a “soft sell” medium.
Until recently, there was an element of risk if brands used social media to blatantly drive sales.
Instead, the focus was on brand awareness, providing advice and engagement as a way to develop goodwill and, ultimately, sales.
Now, the rules of engagement appear to be changing…quickly.
The biggest driver is financial. As much as Twitter and Facebook, for example, are “free” services, there is a growing need for them to monetize their large user bases.
For Facebook, it needs to be meet the never-ending demands of investors and Wall St. – the harsh reality of being a publicly-traded company.
For Twitter, revenue growth is becoming paramount as it moves closer to an initial public offering.
While advertising is certainly one way for Twitter to generate revenue, it’s clearly not enough to reach its goal of $1-billion in sales next year.
This is why Twitter is so enthusiastic about e-commerce as a revenue engine by providing tools to retailers looking to sell products within tweets.
The $64,000 question is whether consumers will embrace Twitter as an e-commerce vehicle.
As much as people love Twitter as a way to share content and engage in conversations, it will be interested to see if their enthusiastic migrates to making purchases.
Maybe Twitter’s e-commerce plans will thrive because people spend so much time using the service and, as a result, will see products purchases as just another value-added way to leverage the platform.
For brands, the challenge will be maintaining the fine balance between engagement and brand awareness with their interest in selling stuff.
Brands that sell hard risk being criticized for being too aggressive, while brands that maintain a soft sell approach could miss out on tapping into a new, lucrative channel.
So here’s the question: Would you make purchases via Twitter? If so, what kind of products would you buy?
For more thoughts about Twitter’s push into e-commerce, check out this Bloomberg interview with Greylock Partners’ Josh Elman, who sees Twitter as a great place to make impulse purchases such as tickets.