Hear me discuss the new AmEx Sync on American Public Radio’s Marketplace.

American Express cardholders who sync their card to their Twitter handle can tweet with a special hashtag what they want to buy, tweet again to confirm, and a few days later a package arrives at their door. The consumer obviously wins, but among everyone else how will AmEx Sync pan out?

For American Express to bring to Twitter the first system of payment, albeit not universal, the third largest credit network benefits enormously:

  1. Press coverage by major news organizations.
  2. Recurring exposure on Twitter to the AmEx brand and the brand of the product on offer. The template of these offer hashtags is the word “Amex” followed by the name of the brand. All these purchase tweets and confirmation tweets are seen in users’ followers’ feeds and if enough people tweet to buy a single offer, the hashtags may even show up as a trending hashtag which would bring even more exposure.
  3. By offering an incentive for American Express cardholders to sync their Twitter handle to their card by offering them a $25 credit for $15, they build up a base of people who are now able to make impulse purchases.
  4. AmEx’ proof of concept that pay-to-tweet works will surely bring competition from other payment processors. It’s a surprise nobody has done this sooner.

For marketers, the benefits of working with AmEx to offer a product for sale on Twitter are compelling:

  1. Exclusivity as not many companies have done this.
  2. Ability to sidestep paying Twitter for advertising while still getting huge exposure in people’s feeds and possibly as a trending hashtag.
  3. Less creativity involved to create something that has the potential to go viral.
  4. Tighter loop when it comes to sales. Previously making a sale from Twitter involved having people click a link within a tweet. They’d get taken to an ecommerce store where they’d have to add an item to their shopping basket and go through checkout, fumbling to find their credit card and spending precious time entering it in which might lose the sale if a visitor decides not to buy. The time between “I want that” and “I bought that” is much shorter with AmEx’ pay-to-tweet.

Twitter loses the most:

  1. On the bright side, AmEx bolting a pay-to-tweet system on top of it makes the network more valuable and reinforces network effects. Twitter has no real microblog competition except in China where Twitter is blocked anyway.
  2. Twitter shares in the press exposure.
  3. However, Twitter doesn’t get a cut of the revenue generated by AmEx Sync. Will Twitter impose a tax or build its own pay-to-tweet platform for others to play on?
  4. Instead of marketers paying Twitter advertising fees to have their wares seen, they can go to American Express which is a substitute  and in fact more trendy.