Following expectations that it would eventually offer services for businesses, Twitter has confirmed that it's taking steps in that direction. The San Francisco-based company, which offers users real-time streams of 140 characters to which others can subscribe, is preparing to offer commercial accounts.
Twitter cofounder Biz Stone told news media that the new services could help businesses get "even more value out of Twitter and, if so, the companies may be willing to pay for them."
Add-Ons To Be Announced
Stone said a product manager has been hired to create the add-ons that such a business-targeted service would offer, although the exact nature of the add-ons hasn't been announced. He indicated the service might be released later this year.
Twitter has grown by leaps and bounds since its founding three years ago, with 1,400 percent growth in unique visitors between Nielsen Online's measurement in February this year and February 2008. But the more than seven million users, and Twitter's high visibility among politicians and celebrities, hasn't helped the company turn a profit.
Other businesses have begun to enter Twitter's space, including advertisers such as Germany-based Magpie & Friends, which shares revenue with users who allow ads in their message streams.
Early this week, marketing company Federated Media announced it was working with Microsoft on the release of an ExecTweets site that tracks messages from executives. Twitter will reportedly participate in the resulting revenue.
Other ventures are also beginning to emerge, such as TwitterJobSearch, a service that scours the messages from Twitter for relevant job information.
Keeping the Balance
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, said the good news in Twitter's plans is that it intends to follow Facebook's example, rather than Yammer's. Yammer is a business-to-business microblogging service that asks "what are you working on?" rather than Twitter's "what are you doing?"
Facebook has begun to venture into businesses, but will do so while retaining its main identity as a public-facing service. Shimmin sees this as the best route for Twitter's business plans, since it builds on its strength.
He expects some add-ons could include verification that users who say they are from your company are actually from your company, which Shimmin said some businesses might be willing to pay for. The danger, he said, is if this feature begins to require intrusive amounts of information from users when they set up an account.
Other possible add-ons, he said, could include more granular user measurements, or even customized interfaces that companies could easily develop for interacting with their customers.
Andrew Frank, research director at Gartner, agreed that there are many possibilities for advertising and marketing by companies who want to reach Twitter's growing audience. But like the balance between privacy and user validation that Shimmin mentioned, Frank said a balance will need to be maintained between marketing that works and marketing that is too intrusive.