NEW YORK: Twitter, the microblogging platform, is testing new ways to help brand owners engage consumers with offers and promotions.

American Express, the financial services group, has just launched a scheme via which cardholders can "sync" their cards with Twitter through a special microsite, and then receive rewards for posting tweets containing specific hashtags.

When customers make posts containing the hashtags, the resultant reward is automatically loaded onto their card, and will be credited to their next statement if they redeem it in stores.

Best Buy, the electronics giant, Zappos, the online retailer, FedEx, the delivery specialist, Dell, the IT group, H&M, the fashion chain, and Virgin America, the airline, are also all taking part in similar initiatives.

"This is just the beginning," Adam Bain, Twitter's head of global revenue, told Fast Company. "You're going to see a tonne of creative examples of people building on this platform - this is not just about giving people a deal or discount."

More specifically, Bain suggested the potential for popular campaigns to gain viral traction would help Twitter stand out from platforms like Foursquare, which also offer rewards for certain actions.

While traditional financial incentives will have a role to play in this type of strategy, he also argued that brands could use Twitter's hashtag tool for diverse reasons.

"In general, a lot of the [previous ad campaigns] have been focused on traditional percentage-off deals, but what's exciting about this opportunity is actually to bring access to content and other things to the platform," he said.

"Certainly deals, offers, and discounts will be a part of it, but we think the idea around access or other opportunities will be huge."

Indeed, Bain said that while services such as Foursquare seek to encourage people to visit stores rather than actually make purchases, partnerships such as that with American Express had a more direct approach.

"Buying directly from tweets will be huge," he argued, because it can provide "interesting transactions between consumers and merchants."

Moreover, Twitter should provide ways for marketers to directly measure the return on investment of such activity, a real incentive at a time when budgets remain under pressure.

"Ultimately, it allows a merchant to track the ROI from tweets, and allows them to better understand how Twitter drives visitors and commerce for their business," said Bain.

Data sourced from Fast Company; additional content by Warc staff