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article imageOp-Ed: Twitter will struggle to master ecommerce, but Facebook may adapt

By Calvin Wolf     Jul 22, 2014 in Technology
Social media has been fun...but how much money is in it? Popular sites like Facebook and Twitter are working to capitalize on our screen time, now moving beyond online advertising and into online shopping itself. Will these sites master e-commerce?
First the Internet was awesome, and then came the ads. It turns out that popular websites can be expensive to run, meaning they need to bring in revenue. But if websites are free to surf to, how can its owners make any cash to pay for their servers and keep their employees? Enter, of course, online advertising. Companies will pay websites to feature their ads. While this ad revenue has worked thus far for news sites and social media, will it continue to be enough?
Obviously, shareholders of social media corporations like Facebook and Twitter want these sites to pursue greater profits. And, if you can't stay afloat by charging a subscription, you must go beyond online advertising and into online shopping. According to Wired, Facebook has started testing a "buy" button, allowing Facebookers to shop without leaving the popular site.
The goal behind social media shopping is to maximize convenience to the point where consumers are able to point and click, making quick, easy purchases without having to go through multiple screens and numerous entries of contact information and credit card data. The more work consumers must do to complete the transaction, the more likely they are to abandon the endeavor. Facebook and Twitter, therefore, must be able to integrate online shopping into their existing platforms with subtlety. Jarring screen changes may jolt users and make them question the purchase.
Can Facebook and Twitter easily get users to cough up their credit card and shipping info to conveniently auto-fill each potential purchase? Once that big step is accomplished, can both sites get users to click on ads, logos, or mascots or follow or "friend" vendors?
In this battle, Facebook has a big advantage: It is the place where users go to be mainstream. Facebook is where people post the prettiest pictures of themselves, craft the wittiest status updates, and see what friends are doing. You hang out on Facebook, seeking comfort. Twitter, however, is a speed player, not as focused on lounging. With only 140 characters per tweet, Twitter will have a tougher time getting users to linger in any one spot.
Facebook is a more natural venue for online shopping. It is much more likely to become an "e-commerce mall" than is Twitter. Users will go on Facebook to socialize in groups and shop and will go on Twitter to give quick, generic shout-outs. Plus, Twitter is more popular with younger users...who have less money.
With parents flocking to Facebook, Facebook could set up shopping services where parents could create accounts for their children's profiles. The kids would be drawn back to Facebook to spend their parental-approved money with parental-approved vendors. Could anyone see Twitter doing this? Probably not.
Facebook will be quicker to embrace e-commerce, while Twitter has to do more creative thinking to make it work.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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