Twitter Enters E-Commerce Space With Sales Offer System, “Earlybird”

Twitter earlybird


Twitter, which once had everybody and their dog wondering how it was going to make money, seems to be doing okay at last. Better than okay, probably: It’s just announced a new scheme for e-commerce dubbed “earlybird.”

The idea as Twitter’s blog explains it: “@earlybird Exclusive Offers are special time-bound deals, sneak-peeks, and events that are promoted by the official Twitter @earlybird account.” Which means that Twitter’s opening a very simple e-store that has a single advertising channel: Twitter itself. Think of it as one of those big-name pop-up stores you see sometimes, relying on word of mouth to bring in the trade, and trying to make money out of limited term offers on goods or services. It’s pretty similar to how discount product sales sites Gilt Groupe, Groupon, and Woot work. Given that Amazon has just bought up Woot for $110 million, it’s a successful business.

It’s very much an advertising vehicle for Twitter, which isn’t involved in the sales side of things. The blog does note that “we partner with select advertisers and retweet offers that they have crafted only for the Twitter community,” which implies that it’s taking part in discussions with sales partners. The suggestion is that once you buy something through earlybird, you’re really in the hands of the company who’s pushing the item.

It’s also opt-in, just like following anybody’s tweets from Twitter, so it’s not a traditional ad model at all. You can even tweet back to the @earlybird address with “suggestions of a product/event” you’d like to see featured in the system.

This is an approach that’s more like Apple’s iAd, or
Foursquare’s ad partners than traditional advertising or Google’s Net
adverts; these systems encourage your partnership, rather than just
blasting your eyeballs with meaningless slightly targeted ads. Is this
promising a more intelligent advertising future, from a consumer’s point
of view? Sounds like something that may well be worth paying attention to.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)