Shopping On Social Networks: Convenient, But Unsettling

Simon Zhen

By  Updated on Wed Feb 13, 2013

Simon Zhen is an analyst, staff writer and columnist for MyBankTracker.com. His columns draw focus to all aspects of personal finance and to bank rates, products, and services. More Columns »

Shopping On Social Networks: Convenient, But Unsettling

Coletive Mamabembe/flickr source

Welcome to what might possibly be the next stage in the evolution of social networks: shopping. I can now buy something by simply using a hashtag on Twitter — thanks to a new experience introduced by American Express. Think about all the ways I can go on a shopping spree on a whim — a TV commercial, a YouTube ad or a retweet. I never would’ve imagined that the concept of hashtags could have me fearing for the health of my finances.

With this social commerce portal by American Express, cardmembers just have to sync their cards to their Twitter accounts.

When they learn of a special offer, such as an Amazon Kindle Fire HD for $149.99 (regularly $199.99), they can tweet #BuyKindleFireHD to buy the tablet. American Express will issue an automatic Twitter reply with a confirmation hashtag, which you have to tweet yourself within 15 minutes of the response to place the order (shipped to billing address).

It is certainly an interesting idea to mingle financial accounts with social media.

I’ve had various interactions with customer service teams on Twitter — all have been delightful. I’ve also tried load discount offers on my American Express card by tweeting a hashtag — also a great way to get me to spend.

But, to actually complete a purchase solely through Twitter may raise some concerns.

First, there’s privacy. While we love to broadcast our daily musings, we may not want to share what we’re buying (though there are people who don’t have any qualms about tweeting photos of their debit card numbers). If social commerce picks up steam, everyone would be able to see at least part of your spending habits.

When it comes to security, I don’t feel there’s too much to worry about. Sure, Twitter accounts have been hacked before. But, a hashtag purchase requires a second tweet to confirm the purchase and the order is shipped to the billing address anyway. (What a peculiar hacker he would be to buy things that are delivered to you.)

However, the impulsive nature of social media is dangerous in the hands of someone who cannot control their spending. People will tweet something the second it happens. Some have engaged in heated debates due to hasty comments. I could be just as quick to make a purchase that I shouldn’t have made.

If the idea of social commerce catches on, it’ll be interesting to see how consumers spend.

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