American Express launches Twitter pay-by-tweet scheme

Amex plan turns Twitter into a retailer and makes each purchase an advertisement


COULD Twitter have finally found a concrete reason to exist? For years the social media site has been derided by its critics as a corner of the web devoted to the banal thoughts of the self-important, patrolled by trolls and spammers.

Now American Express is trying to turn Twitter into an online retailer, by allowing cardholders to buy goods using a hashtag contained in a tweet.

The scheme expands the Amex Card Synch programme, launched last year, which lets members connect their cards to social media accounts. Previously cardholders were awarded discounts and offers in return for sending tweets with certain hashtags. Now hashtags can trigger a physical purchase.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Once the cardholder sends a tweet with the correct hashtag they receive a confirmation from Amex and if they respond within 15 minutes the product is shipped and a payment taken from the user's American Express card.

The pay-by-tweet feature was launched in the US yesterday with members able to buy a $25 American Express gift card for just $15 by sending a tweet containing the hashtag #BuyAmexGiftCard25.

Other products will go on sale later this week. The first items on offer will be an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, a Sony camera, Xbox 360 games consoles and Donna Karan bracelets. The various product hashtags will be listed on the Amex Twitter page.

"The arrangement hints at a potential new source of revenue for Twitter, which has largely been reliant on advertising for revenue," says the Wall Street Journal, which suggests that Twitter could take a cut of sales. "The American Express partnership also is a way for Twitter to prove the link between marketing activity on Twitter and a ringing cash register," the paper adds.

The sales process will also act as a form of marketing, said CNN. "Since protected accounts aren't allowed, there's no way to take advantage of a discount without it being public information. That means each purchase is not only money for the various companies involved, but also an automatic promotion for the product and its brands.

"By wrapping the entire purchasing process in a hashtag, the service makes buying fast and easy. If it takes off, we could see hashtags for products in commercials and print ads."

Dan Mortimer, the CEO of tech company Red Ant, told The Drum that the decision was based on the "assumption that consumers want to make all of their purchases public and traceable".

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.