May 5, 2014 · 2 minutes

Can a hashtag change the way people shop? Amazon is about to find out.

The company just announced a service allowing its customers to add items to their shopping carts with the #AmazonCart hashtag. Furthermore, it might just help Twitter demonstrate its network's potential in the process.

The tool is simple: if someone sees a tweet with an Amazon product link embedded within its 140 characters, all they need to do is reply with #AmazonCart to add the item to their account. The service requires that consumers connect their Amazon and Twitter accounts, but beyond that the tool makes shopping as easy as making a joke or condemning "The Colbert Report."

It's unclear how replying to a tweet is more convenient than tapping the link and adding the item to a shopping cart with another tap -- or how many people will be comfortable with having their shopping history available with a simple hashtag search. Amazon's reliance on Twitter seems to be little more than a test to see if "social shopping" will ever become a reality.

But the tool does demonstrate Twitter's vast potential. The service isn't just about enabling user communication -- it also allows its users to communicate with machines. Or it can even cut the carbon-based middleman out entirely and allow two machines to communicate with each other. Twitter delivers information, and it doesn't matter who's sending or receiving that data.

That's why the service is so popular with the Internet of Things. Tinkerers can use the service to create a free and simple data delivery tool allowing them to make a light bulb shine or make a cuckoo clock dance around. Sending a tweet to a machine-monitored account is easier than building a delivery system, and that makes Twitter an easy fit for those itty-bitty experiments.

The trick is showing that the service can be used to serve those functions on a grander scale. One person might be willing to tweet at a specific account to make their home experiment do something, but that doesn't mean that more users will use their tweets for a similar purpose.

But if this service catches on, it could help Twitter show that its service is about more than social outrage or tech journalists snarking out about some product or another. It could also help Amazon find another way to funnel consumers to its storefronts, making its marketplaces more ubiquitous than they already are. That's a lot of weight resting on a single hashtag.

[Image Credit: Mike Cogh]