Its true! Its called 'Amex Sync' and its a joint project between American Express and Twitter (as announced here). It requires that you Synchronise your American Express card with your Twitter account, much like you would a quick pay gas chip. It then permits you to pay for certain items by tweeting the hashtag (eg. #BuyXBox360ControllerGameStore) of a specific offer. Once tweeted, it processes the charge through the Sync'd American Express card. If you're unfamiliar with what a hashtag is or how to use it, here's a great explanation.
Two of the initial tweet buying opportunities included an Xbox 360 controller for $29.99 plus tax and an Amazon Kindle Fire HD for $149.99. If you are in the US and want in then you must go to sync.americanexpress.com/twitter, and perform the necessary steps.
Still Some Questions to be Answered:
While the concept is interesting, and signals possibilities for the future, I still find myself wondering:
1. will people really use it and why? It could save time when buying something online, so perhaps so. I myself would feel comfortable using it.
2. will people want others knowing what they're purchasing? Think about it ... I can do an Advanced Twitter search for a certain profile and hashtags, and it would show me all the purchases they made via this process. This would also be useful in terms of tracking the sales made by competitors.
3. how will the service handle products and services with variable pricing (such as delivery costs), as its likely that the hashtag is associated with a predetermined price. Numerous hashtags would add additional complexity and risk to vendors. Second thought, perhaps verification/authorization tweets (including prices and delivery times) could be utilized.
As I mentioned earlier, this development is very interesting in terms of the additional possibilities I can now see. I would therefore expect Visa and MasterCard to watch carefully, and follow suit soon thereafter if it appears to be gaining traction. I don't forsee there really being any additional risks above processing a credit card online, so it should grow in popularity.
In the near future, imagine other sites that permit hashtagging (eg. Google+, Pinterest, Instagram etc.) will also begin offering the service at some time in the future. Also, imagine seeing and hearing about these hashtags in television commercials, radio commercials, Facebook ads, and much more. The use of such hashtags should provide a brilliant and SIGNIFICANT new revenue stream for Twitter and other social media sites. In fact, it might be a great time to invest as a result!
In the end, this is a brilliant new service from everyone's perspective, and meets with SEP's Win-Win-Win philosophy. The social media site's win, as its a much needed new revenue stream for them. Consumers win, because it makes for faster and easier ordering, and vendors (are likely to) win, as making the process easier for consumers may result in more sales, and is very unlikely to increase fraud.