Social media as a new currency platform

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The movement to enable commerce over social media has moved with fits and starts over the last few years. Are we now on the verge of a breakthrough?

The movement may have hit a big milestone, as American Express has thrown its considerable heft behind the idea of Twitter-enabled payments. Cardholders will be able to sync their plastic cards to Twitter in a way that will allow them to acquire Amex gift cards and products from a range of retailers, including Amazon, Sony and Microsoft. All they have to use is a special hashtag in a Tweet. It couldn't be simpler.

SFGate notes that, "American Express is betting that there's a whole market of consumers who treat shopping as a sort of performance, who like spreading the word about good deals and great finds. The kind of people who love explaining how much of a discount they got on their new shoes, or who make 'unboxing' videos on YouTube where they spend five minutes unpacking a new tech gadget while narrating the process. AmEx is also confident that the rest of us find those people's advice and tips valuable rather than a nuisance."

So is this the breakthrough moment? It's always significant when big established companies take the plunge into a new commercial media. It should be noted that smaller companies have been active in this market for some time. Chirpify, a start-up in Portland, has released a new Twitter commerce platform that leverages PayPal and allows people to use Twitter as a direct sales channel. Chirpify has signed up one partner already, PowerBar.

Another small company, Dwolla, last month launched a way for people to link their Twitter accounts to a Dwolla account in a way that allows them to make P2P payments. "It is now possible to send money, simply by tweeting. This makes it easy to send money to friends, nonprofits or even merchants without having to login to the Dwolla mobile app," the company blogged.

I think more companies will experiment with Twitter as a commercial platform, including some banks. It remains to be seen if this is the start of something lasting, or merely a fad, kind of like Twitter as a stock market sentiment indicator with real predictive power. We'll just have to see.

For more:
- here's the SFGate article
- here's a Gigaom article in Chirpify

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