Okay, here’s a great way to launch a social commerce app.

  1. Develop a service that works across social media sites
  2. Do something controversial that gets you banned/shut down on one site
  3. Reap the rewards of free PR, increased coverage, awareness and interest

That’s essentially what San Francisco social commerce startup Ribbon did last week.  Ribbon, like Soldsie and Chirpify enables shoppers and sellers to transact on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without leaving the site and – and also without the hurdle of obliging shoppers set up an account.  It’s basically a smart URL shortener with an integrated checkout  – sellers create a link on ribbon.co (with price and product details) and post it to a social media account, where it can be clicked to reveal a form for  entering their payment card details.  Ribbon takes 2.9% and 30c per transaction.

So last week, Ribbon ran what turned out to be a very effective PR stunt, by tweaking its service to run in-stream payments on Twitter – using Twitter’s updated cards feature.  For 84 minutes, an expanded tweet could include a buy button and a credit card entry field.  Then Twitter abruptly turned off Ribbon payments on Twitter, causing a PR storm.  Coverage in TechCrunchGigaom, MashableTheNextWeb, TheDrum, PYMNTS, All Things Digital as well as mainstream press. Not bad way to focus the eyes, ears and wallets of customers and investors – and of course, Ribbon’s payments service continued swimmingly on Facebook and YouTube.

The Ribbon PR stunt came on the back of Twitter’s ‘Chief Revenue Officer’ Adam Bain announcing that payments via Twitter were going to be “huge” for Twitter. So what better way to get some PR than steal Twitter’s thunder and beat Twitter to it with a simple service, and then get banned.

Of course, getting banned is an old trick to driving sales, but it is powerful and perennial – as witnessed this week in rise this week to the number 1 spot in the iTunes charts of the newly banned 1939 Wizard of Oz song Ding, Dong! The Witch is Dead (to ‘celebrate’ the death of ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher).

Now, how could you get yourself banned to boost sales?