Twitter Dec. 14 said it has begun beta testing a new feature that lets business members tweet from a business account and list their Twitter handles to credit them.
Called Contributors, the utility appends the contributor's username to the tweet byline. In Twitter's example, if @Twitter invites @Biz to tweet on its behalf, then a tweet from @Twitter would include @Biz in the byline.
The idea is that users can see the members and participants contributing on behalf of their organizations, essentially enabling them to personalize their business accounts. Twitter product team member Anamitra Banerji explained why the company created the feature in a blog post:
"For some time now, businesses of all sizes have been using Twitter to deepen their engagement with customers. The simple features that Twitter has offered to all users have worked for business users as well. As Twitter becomes more integral to businesses, they will need more business-specific features from Twitter-both on the Web and API. We have been working on some of these features and are ready to start a limited beta test of one that's further along in development."
Banerji also said the Contributors feature will be released to a limited subset of folks so the company can get an idea of how the features work.
He also hopes to get basic feedback from business users and ecosystem partners about Contributors, one of many such business-oriented tools. Twitter will eventually launch Contributors to all business users and ecosystem partners.
Twitter also said Contributors will be fully supported by the Twitter API and will enhance the many Twitter business apps, such as CoTweet and HootSuite.
CoTweet, which offers a similar service using Twitter's API that is used by Ford, Microsoft, Salesforce.com and Twitter, defended its viability after the Contributors announcement.
CoTweet co-founder and CEO Jess Engle said CoTweet is working closely with the Twitter API team to incorporate the new Contributor API, which he claimed will enhance CoTweet's current multi-author functionality.
"We knew from the outset that the approach of incorporating cotags, the 'people behind the brand,' into the Twitter background was a little kludgy and that one day there would be a more elegant solution," Engle wrote. "Fortunately, that time is approaching."
Engle also claimed to know more about Twitter's plans for commercial accounts, noting, "We aren't at liberty to discuss the details of Twitter's commercial offerings." He said it's clear businesses will need collaboration tools to help cross-functional teams communicate through one or more brand accounts.
Twitter is expected to roll out commercial accounts by year's end, giving it roughly two more weeks to meet its own deadline.
These accounts would be subscription services with some form of analytics baked in to help Dell, Pepsi and other businesses better leverage Twitter to reach out to consumers.