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Twitter Talks the Revenue Talk but Will It Walk the Revenue Walk?


twitter-logoWith Facebook talking about reaching their lofty revenue goals for 2009 you would have to suspect that Twitter has to address the issue as well. Bloomberg reports today that Twitter is planning to show revenue in 2009 from clients like Dell, Whole Foods and Starbucks. This is coming from Biz Stone himself but when it comes to the details, well, let’s just say they fall well short of the 140 character limit.

“The idea is if they are getting value out of Twitter then we could add more value to what they are doing and we could get some revenue,” Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said in an interview today. “We think we’ll get to something this year, however simple, that shows we’re making some money.” He declined to give sales estimates for this year.

Not exactly the kind of words that you hang your hat on so to speak. Twitter is as much a lesson in hype as it is a lesson in the next level of social media. Sounds negative? Well, what do you believe anymore? If any other company did this “We’ll have revenue maybe, kinda, sorta” dance they would be pushed to the curb. Twitter gets a pass on these things because there isn’t much else to talk about apparently.

Stone himself realizes that the window of opportunity could go away at just about any time.

When asked how long the hype around Twitter could last, Stone said he’s realistic about Internet trends.

“This kind of stuff doesn’t last forever and you have to have a healthy attitude toward it. Far be it from me to say when it would end, that would be a total guess.”

Predicting Internet trends and the “time to live” on Twitter’s ability to capitalize on revenue opportunities apparently fall into the same category of being a total guess. His descriptions of how the Twitter bird would line it’s nest in San Francisco with cash is just as open ended.

The San Francisco-based service could make money by verifying Twitter accounts, said Stone, so users “following” brands would know it was really Whole Foods or Coca-Cola Co. sending Tweets, or instant messages that can be 140 characters long. Twitter could also offer statistics to businesses detailing how effective their Tweets are and offer multiple accounts to large businesses with many branches, he said.

I think people are ready to hear something a little more definitive than Twitter ‘could’ do this or that to make money. There is no denying that many are using the service as part of their marketing mix but how much does a company invest in putting together programs with a company’s service that is not making any money and appears to have no real plan to get there?

In addition, Stone sounded resolute in the area of acquisitions. The direct quote is that “We’re not having those acquisition discussions, we’re not engaging in them.” OK, that one seems pretty plain and direct. So if that is the case where is the money going to come from to continue growth or to just make sure that the infrastructure doesn’t break under the weight of the new users coming on board?

Ok, so let’s take off the gloves. What is the best way to monetize Twitter? Is real time search a real time possibility? Unless it was left out of the original article there was no mention from Stone about the thing that many feel could make Twitter a juggernaut. Are they able to deliver on that or are they just trying to redirect attention to other options because search isn’t quite there yet? Will companies pay for enhanced services? Is this all just chasing after the latest and greatest rumored ‘can’t miss’ Internet service? Do tell.

  • Adam

    The only way the founders of Twitter can make real money is to sell it to Microsoft or Google. I just can’t imagine any type of revenue stream that can rival the $500 million they are being offered.

    Adam
    http://www.twitterbacklash.com

  • http://www.implantingideas.com Implantingideas

    Web 2 has revolutionised the marketing, we have seen many companies jump on the bandwagon of web 2, but too many are creating the same platform, one platform looks identical to other, if teh trend continues we may soon see social media losing its character for which it was created.

    Implantingideas’s last blog post..Mobile E-mail marketing. The next big thing, have you got on the bandwagon yet?

  • http://www.writeawriting.com/ write a writing

    twitter is a revenue stream for small businesses since it provides the opportunity to discover hidden nuggets. As far as the big wigs are considered, the share of twitter in building brand affect would not be revolutionary.

    write a writing’s last blog post..Why did Eric Clapton Write “Tears in Heaven”?

  • http://netbiz.com cory huff

    This question has been debated by a lot of people. I don’t know if Twitter can monetize by providing stats. As a marketing director I just use url shorteners like bit.ly that allow for stat tracking, and then Twitter Search allows you to see how well you’re being retweeted.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the occasional ad show up in my Twitter stream. They can make it a Cost per Action ad, and see if that monetizes. I think they tried that once before, but they have a lot more users now.

    What do you guys think? Would mid stream ads kill the user base?

  • Pingback: Another race to the bottom? | AccMan

  • http://tweamr.com Aaron

    It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Twitter and its potential. Even without the sale of their previous company, the potential acquisition figures have to be tempting since there is so much hype surrounding Twitter today. Assuming they stick to their guns and ride things out, a pretty significant business model has to develop soon – next 12 months?

    There are lot’s of potential methods and they’ll probably test and refine many ideas – monitoring user behavior very closely with each one.

    One that seems fairly harmless would be to charge businesses and/or individuals who want to be suggested to new (or existing?) users. Regardless of what some have written, there will always be those that want as many followers as possible and would be willing to pay for that. It doesn’t affect the user experience too much, so why not take their money?

    Splashing ads on Twitter.com isn’t totally out of the question. Here, my vote would be for selective ad placement(s) when users are simply viewing the streams of users they follow and a more gratuitous use of highly relevant contextual ads on search results pages. They need to make it easier and more obvious to search too. The same could apply for topic pages, etc.

    There is a huge opportunity for CPA, but this is risky. Mining the data transmitted on Twitter could yield some incredibly targeted users but the wrong implementation would come across as stalking and users would disappear in droves. Maybe there’s a way to make it an opt-in where the users are aware and get some benefit (i.e. discounts, etc.) could work.

    One thing that often goes unmentioned whether it’s talking about traffic or monetization is the fact that so many people send and receive information from Twitter without ever touching twitter.com. Third party tools like TweetDeck, iPhone apps like Tweetie or Twitterific, SMS messages, etc. have to account for a massive amount of Twitter usage. (Has anyone seen the stats? I’m curious but haven’t seen anything.) Monetizing some or all of the data that’s transferred through the Twitter API has to be a consideration. Even if it’s not a ‘per tweet’ fee, it could be an annual license fee per user? Free versions and premium versions? There are lot’s of options here too.

    - Aaron

    Aaron’s last blog post..Twitter Marketing Updates for 2009-06-20

  • http://www.zerofrictionmarketings.com Zero Friction Marketing

    “Cost Per Action” or CPA marketing is one of the simplest methods for beginner Internet marketers to begin making money online and get paid for the “actions” taken by the traffic you steer to advertisers

    Zero Friction Marketing’s last blog post..CPA Marketing Is A Copy And Paste System