I was at a client today talking about Twitter and the group asked about how it was making money. Twitter’s nervous shuffling of feet when asked this question is well documented, but it looks like it’s dipping its toes in the water with some ads on users’ profile pages. Commercial services for businesses are also just around the corner.
Like many users I’ve noticed a little ad-like box on my profile page showing dictionary style definitions of Twitter Search, Exec Tweets (a third party directory) and Tweetie (an iPhone Twitter ap). It looks suspiciously like an ad.
Fortunately, SiteProNews, has done the leg work and already checked it out and verified that’s what Twitter’s up to:
“ExecTweets collects Tweets from various business executives, collates and republishes them. According to Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim, Twitter is reportedly receiving an undisclosed payment for giving the site its stamp of approval and for promoting the site on Twitter itself. Federated says it plans on launching similar programs on Twitter with other clients.”
I don’t think anyone can complain if Twitter goes a bit further down this line (it is a worrying thin business model). The only problem that I can see is the proliferation of applications such as Tweet Deck that enable users to side-step updates via the main Twitter website, and therefore avoid the ads.
Meanwhile, while Twitter tests the ads, it has announced that it will offering companies the opportunty to pay for premium accounts. It looks like it is still working out the details, as founder Biz Stone seemed to have more questions than answers when he spoke to Silicon Valley Insider yesterday. The Times reports:
“Our question is, how can we help? What can Twitter offer for a fee that will improve the experience? Will it be account verification? Will it be lightweight analytics? Will there be opportunities for introducing customers to businesses on Twitter?”
It seems reasonably good sense and at least Twitter has verified that it won’t force companies to pay; they’ll only have to do so to get the extra functionality. Let’s see if it makes some money before it gets gobbled up by Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn or Facebook…