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Comment: buy by tweet – a useful channel or a consumer turn-off?

Twitter will soon testing a ‘buy’ button that will sit inside a tweet so users can click to buy an item directly from the message. The decision marks a push from the micro-blogging site to generate more revenue from its users and win over advertisers. But is it likely to become a useful channel for retailers or one fraught with risks? By Gavin Matthews of Bond Dickinson.


Comment: buy by tweet – a useful channel or a consumer turn-off?

Many of our retail clients have been looking at new ways of selling to their customers and social media channels offer an engaging sales channel. 

The addition of a ‘buy’ button feature that retailers can embed into tweets will enable retailers and manufacturers to use social media more effectively to create virtual footfall, making it easier for people to buy instantly without the need for complex redirects and new searches within a website. 

It should also be another way of making shopping from mobile convenient. This should, theoretically, minimise the customer journey and help increase sales. However, like all new sales channels, legal responsibilities and liabilities will need to be carefully checked.

Legal liability will probably be taken care of in the same way as Facebook pages or other social media promotional activity currently. Both Facebook and Twitter are clear in their terms and conditions that they have no responsibility and age-restricted product manufacturers on Twitter currently use disclaimer wording obliging the follower to confirm that they are of the relevant legal purchasing age before following.

Fortunately, Twitter has stressed that other users would not be able to see what individuals had purchased via the button, thus avoiding one particular data protection issue. It has also stated that it does not intend to use payments data to enable marketers to tie anonymous twitter handles with the users’ real names, though this would potentially be popular with companies, if not users. But whether the concept will be accepted by Twitter users remains to be seen.

I suspect that many may see it as more creeping commerciality following the introduction of sponsored tweets. Social media can only absorb a small amount of sales push before its users become tired of it. There is a balance in using social media platforms for commercial promotion, particularly in the fickle online environment which has already seen major players such as Bebo and MySpace quickly become irrelevant.

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