Tag Archives: twitter


Bye Buy: Shoppable Tweets are no more.

It’s been a while coming, but Shoppable Tweets are finally being phased out after Twitter’s commerce team have disbanded and the social platform refocuses its efforts elsewhere. Does this mark the beginning of the end of shoppable social?

Twitter is facing all sorts of challenges around securing a purpose and business model which ensures its future. As an organisation, they’re still unsure of exactly what they offer the market and where revenue should come from. At this point, functionality which is not core to their product is simply a distraction.

With that for context, it would be rash to claim this sounds the death knell for the concept of ‘Buy Now’ buttons outside of e-commerce environments, and as Twitter may be stepping away from commerce in social, other platforms invest more in to it.

Pinterest have been supporting ‘buyable pins’ for about 18 months. As a platform which is both a highly visual environment that can ‘face up’ products extremely well, and providing significant inspiration and research tool for many users – adding the ability to immediately own something that you discover whilst in this headspace feels like a very native part of the Pinterest experience. In contrast, the leap from reading to buying was often much larger with Twitter.

Instagram too have recently launched shoppable tags, with a limited number of brands such Kate Spade coming on board as launch partners. Another highly visual platform, Instagram often features products in brand channels, promoted posts and consumer posts – so again this feels like a very natural place to close the gap between inspiration, desire and purchase. Instagram’s further attraction is its high profile authors – the celebrities and influencers posting content on a regular basis. If Taylor Swift posts a selfie, featuring a tagged shoppable item to her 64 million followers, you can pretty much ensure a healthy return on a piece of non-paid media.

Others are dabbling too.

YouTube has shoppable video and Facebook has a range of shoppable formats. Brands have toyed with various types of shoppable content – Burberry’s shoppable live-streamed catwalk during the 2016 London Fashion Week is a notable example of allowing customers to buy immediately, not having to wait until product hit the shelves.

And therein lies the insight. The increasing on-demand expectation of consumers, that they be able to buy something whenever and however they see it, means brands are constantly looking for ways of making their brand as accessible as possible.

Where it fails, however, is if the moment or context is wrong.

A predominantly textual experience does not make for a good shopping experience for many brands – poor Twitter.

A visual feast, with great photography and rich video – in other words, the closest thing to holding the product in your hand (VR not withstanding) is a significant part of “new retail” – and using frictionless payment technology, smart integration of stock availability and rapid fulfilment means Inspiration and Purchase can exist within the same two swipes.

So, this is the end of the first generation of shoppable media – the blunt approach of making everything shoppable has passed. Here comes the next generation, and now it’s time to learn from early experimentation and apply it intelligently.

Slapping a Buy Now button onto every piece of media and communications is not clever. No-one wants to be sold to constantly. But enabling purchase in the most meaningful and relevant moments, and making that experience as effortless as possible? Well, that’s new retail.

Originally posted at: Retail Week

Tesco lost a customer, and joked about it.

I moved from Tesco Mobile to GiffGaff today, because the account which I’d been on for a few years had kept increasing in price, and the data cap meant I ended up paying data top-ups to keep online.

I had been thinking about switching to GiffGaff for a while, mostly because I like their concept, they’re still the O2 network, and their £12/month limitless data seemed perfect for me. I had a look around the Tesco Mobile site to find comparable tariffs but couldn’t.

When I called Tesco Mobile for my PAC code, the nice lady suggested a tarriff which is actually better than GiffGaff’s £12 (includes 1500 minutes compared to 250 for just 50p more), but at that point, I’d already activated and topped up my SIM on GiffGaff, and mentally had switched.

I tweeted that I’d switched over from Tesco Mobile to GiffGaff (not at them, not even using their @usernames but just mentioned the brand), and a few minutes later, their social media team tweeted me directly, and publicly with this:

Great they’re on top of their social mentions on a Sunday afternoon, but joking about the fact they’ve just lost a customer? That seems like they’re making light of the situation, that losing customers is something they can joke about, that customers can leave and Tesco Mobile just laugh that off.

Twitter is a battleground of passive-aggressive and sarcastic responses, both from consumers and brands – but where is the line to be drawn?

Interestingly enough, I’d also deleted the tweet just seconds after I’d posted it (mostly because of a grammatical error in the text). Their response then was to a tweet which no longer exists and I’d chosen to remove from the ecosystem. Their system clearly holds on to data which I’ve chosen to remove.

Branch, four months on.

Branch, the new discussion platform from the company behind Twitter, has come out of private beta, allowing anyone to create their own conversations.

The platform has been open to selected individuals for a while, and I blogged about it back in late August with a distinctly ‘not quite sure about this thing yet’ take on the site which allows groups of individuals to talk around topics, but four months on, the service has developed dramatically.

Demonstrating a dedication to listening to its early adopters and involving them in the discussion of new functionality, paired with rapidly rolling out new features, the branch.com platform has already become a really valuable mine of discussion and tool for facilitating conversation where twitter is simply too brief.

Three key features really stand out for me.

Invite only branches – I was initially sceptical about the idea of allowing only those who you hand-pick to be part of a branch, but after continued use, I’ve realised its strength is in holding a salon, rather than a free-for-all shouting match. The ability to ask to be added allows outside voices if the moderator approves the input, based upon their ‘pitch’ to join in.

Highlighting – taking ‘likes’ or ‘favourites’ on to the next level, rather than liking an entire post, you can highlight specific comments or statements within a post, to really zero in on aspects of the conversation you appreciated. This gets around the ‘Curate’s Egg’ of many blog posts or random musings.

Branches – the eponymous feature, being able to fork off a conversation into a separate branch allows you to take discussions off at a tangent without diluting the main flow. This directly supports the disparate thinking that often leads to really interesting debate and thought, without leading others away from the theme at hand.

They’re also integrating Spotify/Soundcloud, grouping of conversations (and people), actively working with early adopters which they call ‘Friends of Branch’ to develop the platform further and have placed a real emphasis on design and user experience.

For publishers, the immediate value and opportunity will be around offering discussion salon content quickly and easily, almost like a written panel debate, easily instigated and rolling, and will no doubt offer new forms of content and structured debate beyond its current format.

For brands, the opportunities are less clear yet – perhaps the facilitation of conversations, inviting key figures or remarkable minds to talk around topics close their heart, perhaps open consumer panels around product development, perhaps collaborative democracy tools to make decisions in the open.

From a data perspective, being able to see which users are commonly highlighted and respected against particular topics will offer some real insight and quantifiable metric of authority and respect, which goes way beyond tools like Klout to identify and understand influencers.

For something that launched publicly this week, there is already a fantastic wealth of value to be explored, and I’m going to keep a keen interest in how publishers and brands start to use Branch within their own activity.

Do Not Disturb


I had this idea about three years ago, but only just got around to building it.

My twitter avatar now reflects the current size of my inbox.

Using a combination of Google Scripts to read my gmail account, and a custom PHP script to send data to the Twitter API, the script reads my inbox status every two hours or so, and updates the image accordingly.

I want to extend this to something more visual in my office, something physical, well crafted, nice to look at, and providing ambient information.

But for now, you can tell how likely I am to tweet based upon my twitter avatar.

Update: Some people mentioned that its confusing not having a single avatar to recognise me by, which is a very fair and valid point. When I get some time, I’ll develop another icon set which primarily has my face, and then some numbers too, not dissimilar to twibbon I guess, or perhaps just standard type with changing colour backgrounds (although I’m red/green colour blind, so wouldn’t be much use for me!). For now, though, I like the simplicity of the type and colour.

Update 2: I’ve written a tutorial on how to replicate this functionality, which has been posted on .net magazine.

why tweet?

As twitter increases in users and awareness in the mainstream, more and more people are asking ‘yeah, but why?‘, more so than many other arguably less useful services. I’m not sure why so many people need a definitive answer to use what is such a simple service to join. The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss sums it up best I think:

There are so many possible uses for Twitter. It’s a very functional group messaging service – if your ten closest mates were signed up you could say ‘I’m in the pub’ and would only have to send one message instead of paying for ten. And you could also use it for more creative projects, something I’d like to explore when I clone myself and have some time to do ‘art’ outside of all-consuming work time.

The real point, though, is that we should all be a little more willing to explore these tools without feeling the need to classify it or nail it down to some definite function when it is still so young. So many inventions were born out of a completely different idea; vinyl records were a spin-off (no pun intended) from a project for talking dolls or some such… It’s far easier to dismiss something out of hand than to be open-minded, creative and playful.

The Screw You Coefficient

“Flickr users hate video. Digg users don’t want their site to become DiggSpace. Facebook users are sick and tired of application invites. Unfortunately for you, these companies couldn’t care less, and I’ll tell you why.”

There has been plenty of talk recently over whether social networks, or indeed any small loved app or site, which grow in both users and functionality, forget about their core idea which made them so great and loved in the first place. Twitter for instance is still relatively simple and holds true its original idea, whereas Digg are adding social networking tools, Flickr have added video support, amazon sell food, tesco sell insurance – okay maybe i’m over-extending. But the discussion is a valid one. Mashable, from which the quote above comes, propose the ‘screw you coefficient’ – one method of deciding whether a new piece of functionality or approach will make improved revenue for your one-time-blog-now-mega-super-app.com, contrasting loss of users against increased wonga.

Personally, whether its a commercial decision or not, I’m not sure adding 100s of new features is always a good thing. In fact, I lie, I’m sure it is not a good thing.

For instance, as i mentioned above, twitter does one thing, and does it extremely (mostly) well. They’ve created a well rounded API which allows others to extend their core functionality, but twitter.com itself is staying true to the central idea. They do need to be a little careful, recent interface changes are adding more and more links, @replies and following topics etc. etc. are neat additions, but much more and it could go the way of Microsoft Word – a 1000 new features, where most people only use a handful.

This is why 37signals tools are loved and arguably hated in equal measure. Their perceived ‘arrogance’ towards developing applications the way they see fit is actually keeping their tools simple and effective, rather than curtailing to pressure to add this, add that. Heck, I still use notepad.exe daily, i love gtalk’s simplicity over any other IM, my favourite colour is whitespace (its actually red but works for making my point), and fit for purpose is always better than bloat for possibility.

In creating the first few pages for disposablememoryproject.org, I had to remind myself of that. i’d started creating page after page after page, one for contact, one for the concept, one for every paragraph in essence, until I stopped myself. This could go on a single page – everything the user needs within one screen – bang! and the dirt is gone! So, I rehashed, and rebuilt into a single page. So much simpler.

Having to write the postcards/instructions was similar. I originally wrote a longer set of instructions, but realising the text limit restrictions on moo.com postcards, I had to sub sub sub, into just a few lines – and for the user – that is SO much better – bang! and the waffle is gone!

Applications are the same – simple fit for purpose tools to enable you to do what you need/want in a super simple, low barrier to entry, way. The problem comes when you find yourself switching between 20 apps to carry out each distinct task, thats when the argument for bloating your product appears – but honestly it shouldn’t need to. Open APIs and data portability aim to allow for interchange of data between all of these apps (that’s the plan anyway), leaving each app’s interface to do what IT does well.

Simple is good, simple is powerful, simple is relaxing.