Ping Opens Up to Twitter to Make Music Buying Social

When Apple (s aapl) first launched Ping — a music-based social network within iTunes — it was widely criticized for not being connected to any external networks such as Facebook or Twitter. That “walled garden” approach changed today, with an announcement from Twitter that users of Ping can now connect their accounts on both networks and share links to songs from within iTunes. So Apple gets to piggyback on Twitter’s network of 175 million users — but what does Twitter get out of the deal? At the very least, they get to increase engagement with users, boost traffic to the Twitter site and maybe get to share in some of that Apple halo effect.

As Darrell has described in his post, Ping users can now add links on Twitter to songs they have purchased, and anyone looking at their tweet at the new Twitter website will see — in the site’s right-hand “media pane” — the cover art for the song, as well as an audio-preview button that plays the standard 30-second clip.

The benefits this deal has for Apple are obvious: the Ping network was so walled off from the rest of the web before that it had little hope of growing virally beyond a group of already devoted iTunes users. And while partnering with Twitter doesn’t give Apple the same boost as a deal with Facebook’s 500 million users would (Steve Jobs said there were discussions about such an arrangement, but Facebook’s terms were “too onerous”) it is still better than nothing. It gives iTunes much more reach outside the Apple community, and sharing links that go directly to iTunes is smart, although not everyone sees this as a good idea.

And what does Twitter get? The best-case scenario would be a revenue share with Apple on any songs purchased from those links passed to the network, but it’s not clear whether that is part of the deal, or might become part of it in the future (a Twitter spokesman said that the company doesn’t comment on the financial details of its partnerships). In any case, one thing that Twitter could get from this arrangement is more traffic to its newly relaunched website, since the media pane with cover art and song previews will only be available there (at least until third-party developers find a way of adding that functionality to their apps). And that traffic could be monetized through ads in that media pane.

Om said after the initial launch of Ping that he saw the Apple-based social network as the “future of social commerce,” because it not only allows music lovers to connect and share their recommendations, but is also hosted within the iTunes e-commerce platform, and therefore ties those recommendations directly to purchasing behavior in a way that few other social networks do. Twitter now gives Apple the ability to take that idea and run with it throughout the expanding Twitter universe, which could be very powerful indeed. In fact, it might actually get me to start buying more things through iTunes, which I hardly ever do.

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