What, Me Worry Over Making Money?

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-06-27 Print this article Print

For now, Twitter remains comfortable with its darling status among consumers and digital fanboys. Eventually, because it exists in a competitive business world, it will have to make more money. Twitter's co-founders, Stone, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey, have said that advertising is one of the more boring ways they can think of making money with Twitter.

There may be a way for Twitter to trade on its real-time magic in the e-commerce world. Computer maker Dell said it earned $3 million in revenue through Twitter since 2007 by posting coupons and product advisories on Twitter.

Stone fueled this fire by telling Bloomberg.com that Twitter could capitalize on its viral promotional strengths by verifying Twitter accounts so that users following Coca-Cola and other brands would know it was really Whole Foods or Coca-Cola Co. sending tweets. Twitter could also offer analytics to businesses detailing how effective their tweets are.

So Twitter may find itself reaping some respectable revenues this year from the businesses that piggy-back on it. Another option might be for Twitter to create secure Twitter accounts for enterprises that are walled off from users in the consumer sector. Salesforce.com, for example, uses Twitter as a support communications tool for its Service cloud computing solution.

Many enterprise software providers, including IBM and startups such as Socialtext, Yammer and Socialcast, incorporate their own Twitter-like status updates in their collaboration suites.

But Li cautioned that Twitter's history of going down frequently could be a red flag for prospective enterprises considering Twitter for departmental or even companywide use.

Greg Sterling, analyst for Sterling Market Intelligence, said Twitter's real-time nature could create problems for marketers or enterprises that rely too heavily on it. For example, if concert tickets were going to go on sale and people were going to be notified through Twitter, a disruption would cause problems. But Sterling said there probably aren't a lot of circumstances where a disruption would cause irreparable harm. 

For now, the Iranian election tweet storm remains a flashpoint of citizen journalism for Twitter, a rampant hype cycle of traffic sparked by political unrest. Sterling said the Twitter outpouring over the Iranian election may set a precedent for other organizers or citizens but doubts we'll see something of its scale again anytime soon.

"People see Twitter as a communications tool that they want to utilize in some kind of heat-of-the-moment protest or whatever, but I think it's unlikely that we'll see something quite at this level," Sterling said. "This is a historical event. I don't think you would see the kind of pressure they got from users and Washington happening with any regularity unless it was of comparable importance." 

Indeed, to this point Twitter is better known for celebrity tweets and shenanigans, one that resulted in a lawsuit by Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. Major news happenings both serious and silly continue to propel Twitter on the Web.

The tragic deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett June 25 sparked massive traffic loads to popular social networks, Twitter included.



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