It didn’t take long for commerce to move online when the WWW was invented in the early ’90s, and it hasn’t taken long for the same migration to happen as new social networks become important parts of our everyday lives. Don’t be surprised if, in the not too distant future, you find yourself using social networking sites to shop, or at least to start the buying process.
Twitter as a shopping search engine? You bet. And not only that, but there are also several sites that aim to dig through the clutter and uncover the best deals and coupons that people are talking about and recommending.
Here’s a look at three companies that are turning Twitter into a new kind of shopping search engine.
CheapTweet‘s slogan sums up the service nicely: “Scouring Twitter for deals so you don’t have to.” It scans Twitter for references to sales, deals, and specials and adds them to its web site. CheapTweet has a help page with tips for stores that want their tweets included — things like be specific with details of the deal, include a useful link, and don’t spam (by repeating the deal several times). There’s also a #cheaptweet hashtag that stores can use to notify CheapTweet, but it’s not necessary.
There’s a human voting element involved, too, which might help cut down on spam. The CheapTweet web site includes Digg-like voting; users can vote the tweet-deals up or down, and the number of retweets of the deal in Twitter’s system also gives the deal added exposure.
One sign that CheapTweet is catching on: Overstock.com and a few other companies have set up official “CheapTweet stores” (here’s Overstock’s store) where all of their tweet-deals are aggregated on a single page.
Coupon Tweet operates under a generally similar principle: It aggregates coupon and deal-related tweets and categorizes them on its web site. On top of that, Coupon Tweet says it has “a team of deal finders” that help add tweet-deals to its web site.
Coupon Tweet also has user voting to help surface the best deals and downplay the rest. There are also “stores” that list all the tweet-deals from individual retailers, but it’s unclear if any of the merchants are actually participating in these.
There are countless Twitter users that post deals in their tweet stream, but TinyMassive offers a unique service: Send a tweet to @tinymassive with the name of the product you’re searching for, and they’ll reply with a price and link to purchase it via their web site. (TinyMassive presumably gets a small commission if you buy.) It’s a clever idea — sort of a shopping concierge just a tweet away.
The main TinyMassive.com web site is billed as a social comparison shopping engine, and functions more like a traditional shopping search engine than CheapTweet and Coupon Tweet.
Traditional shopping search engines probably aren’t nervous about losing market share to social media just yet. The main shopping engines have established relationships with thousands of merchants big and small, and they have information on millions of products — whether they’re on sale or not. The services listed here are far less comprehensive by their focus on sales and deals. But those limitations notwithstanding, it’s inevitable that, as the general population continues to embrace Twitter and other social media, product search opportunities and services will follow.