Twitter is looking to businesses as a way to possibly kick-start an elusive revenue stream by offering paid commercial accounts to users
Twitter is planning to introduce commercial accounts with expanded features, for an added fee, which would allow the site to generate revenue, which could help the site grow and compete against other social networking sites such as Facebook.
The news that Twitter was looking to expand its revenue streams started on 26 March.
Twitter allows its users to “microblog,” or post 140-character “Tweets” to their individual pages. Although primarily a social tool, Twitter has been finding increased traction in the enterprise as businesses discover how to utilize its capabilities in an official context, such as having executives post internal messages.
In addition to Twitter, Facebook and other social-networking sites are also being integrated into enterprise functions – however, questions about their applicability to such use still remain. Social networking sites have also been trying to figure out ways to generate enough revenue to live up, from an investor perspective, to their enormous hype.
No price was announced for these enhanced commercial accounts, which would roll out sometime in 2009. Details on what would constitute “enhanced” weren’t forthcoming, either.
Facebook attempted to purchase Twitter in 2008 but was turned down, despite the $500 million (£346m) offer on the table. In what could be perceived as a challenge to Google, Twitter also integrated a search feature, which allows users to sift through the site’s conversational traffic after topics, into its main page.
“Despite the fact that Twitter is primarily aimed at individual users in the consumer market, many of those individuals work for companies and ‘tweet’ about business issues, leading businesses to explore how they could best use it,” Jeffrey Mann, an analyst at Gartner, said in a research note. “If organizations have not defined a public Web participation policy, they should do so as quickly as possible.”
By 2011, Gartner predicts, some 80 percent of social software platforms will include enterprise microblogging as a standard feature. In addition to Twitter, other microblogging platforms include Plurk and Jaiku.
The research firm suggests that enterprise usage of Twitter falls into four categories:
- Direct, or when the company uses Twitter “as a marketing or public-relations channel.
- Indirect, in which company employees use “Tweets” raise public awareness of themselves and their organization; the Microsoft-sponsored site ExecTweets, which launched on March 23 and represents one of the first possible models for Twitter revenue-generation, is an example of individuals using Twitter to boost both their own personal brand and that of the companies they run.
- Internal, in which employees and executives use the social-networking tool to communicate internally over projects or other issues; Yammer and other solutions also provide a similar functionality with a more corporate mindset.
- Inbound Signaling, or searching Twitter for conversation threads about a particular company or product, and then using that information for problem-solving and feedback. The integration of Twitter into Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud is an example of this use.