Whether it was the original intent or not, Twitter’s brief debut of a ‘Buy now’ button has created quite a buzz among the social media press. Was it a leak? Was it a test? Has Twitter finally figured out social media monetization?

It looks like we’ll have to wait for the answers to these questions, as Twitter has not come out with an official announcement just yet. The company sparked some debate at the end of June when a new ‘Buy now’ button appeared on several tweets showing images and links to products. The button disappeared as quickly as it came, but it left an impression on curious marketers.

As reported on Mashable, the button appeared on a series of product links tweeted by a user, and only showed on the mobile version of Twitter:

Tweet with Buy Now buttonSome have hypothesized that this was an error or a leak of a feature that is coming down the pipeline but was not actually ready for release – hence the speedy removal. However, for a company of Twitter’s size, this kind of mistake is unlikely. What probably happened was that Twitter was performing what’s called a smoke test. For the unfamiliar, a smoke or vapor test a product development technique that allows a company to gauge their audience’s interest in something before they sink too much time and money into its development. It often involves offering an option that doesn’t actually exist and seeing how many people click the option.

Mashable reported on June 30th that clicking the ‘Buy now’ did not actually do anything – although clicks were possibly being recorded on Twitter’s end. A writer from Re/Code, however, said that a source of theirs reported having been taken to a checkout page upon clicking the ‘Buy now’ button. Unfortunately, the elusive button has not been spotted recently, so we can’t confirm either experience firsthand.

Regardless of the details of the recent apparition, it seems clear that an ecommerce experience is imminent for the social networking site. While some marketers are excited at the prospect, digital strategist Tim Dunn recommends not putting all your ROI eggs in the Twitter commerce basket:

“Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring consumers than Facebook and Twitter combined, and the average order value prompted by email is by 17% higher than those prompted by social media.” (AdAge)

So how should your business react to Twitter ecommerce options when they do arrive for good? While new acquisition options are exciting and should always be explored, it’s best to proceed with caution. Run a few tests and see how the channel works for you, but not at the expense of tried-and-true methods of getting your product into the hands of your customers.

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Content Marketing Manager at Webs, where she also manages marketing for Pagemodo – a suite of social media tools. Loves social media, branding, whales. Get more from Sarah on Pagemodo’s Blog and Google+.

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