eBay and Twitter to partner @anywhere

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Twitter CEO Evan Williams announced yesterday that eBay will be amongst the first companies to partner with @anywhere, the micro-blogging site’s new platform. @anywhere will allow Twitter users to connect to their accounts via third party websites, including eBay, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo and Youtube. A few lines of code will let these sites link their users up with Twitter, so that for anyone browsing the site, other Twitter users will be automatically linked with their profiles. You’ll be able to follow your favourite New York Times and Huffington Post writers directly from their pieces, or tweet about great eBay finds without having to pause in your shopping.

So far, so meh. I question whether those of us who Twitter really need to be given easier ways to do it. There are currently dozens of ways to interact with Twitter: look at the bottom of any TameBay post, the top of any TameBay post, the front page sidebar, the app that’s running in my PC toolbar or the one that’s on my phone right now. Journalists link their accounts from bylines, and papers in turn run feeds of what their readers are tweeting about them. We’re not short of ways to interact with Twitter. Where @anywhere could make a difference isn’t down to how we use it, it’s in how the sites implement it in the first place.

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I’m going to take “found this cool thing” and “bought this cool thing” functionality as a given. They are SO basic to the internet these days, those buttons to “tweet this”, that I sometimes wonder if eBay is the only site left without them. Certainly Amazon already has a lovely integration with their affiliate scheme, letting me tweet links in a single click and earn money from doing it. If only EPN had something like that.

Let’s assume that eBay can take this beyond the predictable. Imagine – if you will – that when buying something on eBay, you could read a Twitter feed from people who’d already bought that item. Not the calculated emotional blackmail that feedback so often turns into, but the unadulterated spewing of thought, positive and negative, that happens on Twitter. The joy of shopping. Wouldn’t that be a great thing?

I don’t know, and neither do you. Real integration with Twitter has the potential to take eBay and shopping and publicity and customer service somewhere it’s never been before. Some of that could be great: sellers who are currently complaining about eBay’s unreliable messaging system might welcome another way to ping a quick message to buyers (though they might prefer something more reliable than Twitter). But Twitter is even more real time than email, even more always on than “sleep? never heard of it” eBay sellers are used to. Do we want to raise buyer expectations of instant responses further? Do we want to do that in public?

Because as much as we make this about what we want as sellers – publicity, branding, conversation, connection – what it will be first of all is a point of contact for a customer who has a problem. It may be a problem of our making, or a problem that they’re angry or drunk or crazy. People who have problems want to be dealt with. Now. And if they’re on Twitter and you’re not dealing with them now, the situation has the potential to blow up in your face, in your pocket, in your bank account. Just ask Southwest Airlines, Vodaphone, Rentokil, Paperchase, companies with customer service departments and lawyers, a long way from one-person-band eBay traders, who still got burned on Twitter. Isn’t it better not to promise this instant communication, than to offer it and then not be able to deliver?

We’re a while off needing to worry about this. eBay Ink has a post about @anywhere with RBH singing its praises, but eBay – frankly – are hopeless at social media. They have bouts of enthusiasm and then someone realises that employees are talking to buyers and sellers without running everything past legal first and it all gets reined in again. Richard writes:

From what I can tell, the news out of Twitter today is very promising for buyers and sellers on the eBay Marketplace. It represents a growing trend we’ve been seeing over the past year that eBay is willing to knock down what had been until recently, indestructible barriers of entry … I still don’t have the details as to how this will be integrated into the marketplace or the extent to which Twitter applications are coming to eBay.com. Huge questions I realize. For now, I can only hope my excitement is justified.

Me too, Richard. Me too.

3 Responses

  1. I feel that eBay partnering with Twitter @Anywhere is a good move from eBay but those who distrust Twitter and are on eBay will give a tough time to eBay.

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