Twitter's EarlyBird Is Just A Start. Next: Building Deals On Real-Time Conversations

When Twitter first strolled into the world of commerce with EarlyBird. I yawned. Two-for-one tickets to the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice?” Pass. A 32″ Vizio HDTV from Target for $349.99? Oh boy! Except now it’s on sale for $359.99, a staggering difference of $10. Exasperated sigh. That’s not even enough to buy a ticket to see Nicolas Cage’s latest flop at my local theater.

Although the deals have improved (most notably, JetBlue’s 20% discount which led to 1,000 ticket sales within the first 10 hours) I’ve been generally underwhelmed. However, I get the feeling that’s about to change, as Twitter tinkers with its deal formula.

It’s unclear exactly how Twitter’s commerce strategy will evolve but if product manager Shiva Rajaraman is right, EarlyBird will define a new category in social deals: offers based on real-time conversation. Rajaraman envisions a system that will track company and sector trends for advertising partners. The partners could then work with Twitter to quickly deploy deals based around trending conversations and emerging demand. As long as this doesn’t spark a tsunami of Justin Bieber-related goods, I’m in.

“We’re trying to say look there’s a ton of organic conversation on Twitter that is often about expressing want articulated or inarticulated…In the sense of saying “Hey, I’m hear and I really like this,” or “I’d love if there was a deal for this product because then I could afford it.” What we’d really like to do is start having our retail and advertising partners ask that question directly to the people who follow them and then take that input back and craft basically a great deal for them. So we’re trying to couple this demand and supply thing, it’s not just about a discount.

What we’re doing is working with these people to say particularly for the flight of a deal but more broadly, are you listening to that can you listen to that every hour and see what’s happening? The second piece which is something we haven’t done but we’re interested in exploring is how can we publish these trends to people so they can keep an eye on it and then respond actively as a trend hits their space.”

For example, Rajaraman says, if a celebrity wears a new outfit and that style starts trending, Twitter could tip a fashion retailer, who might offer a special deal on a similar outfit. If Twitter can efficiently mine the conversation, this could create a powerful and dynamic advertising/distribution model, with retailers tapping into the slippery vein of real-time demand.

For more on how Twitter is using EarlyBird as a test lab and its monetization strategy (Twitter is trying out various models, including revenue-share and a one time media fee for product launches), see the video with Rajaraman above.