Microblogging behemoth Twitter has seen a massive increase in popularity lately – partially due to the much-ballyhoed Ashton Kutcher vs. Lewis King and CNN contest to be the first to one million users, partly due to The oprah show the Queen of all things making her first appearance, and partly because more and more people are realizing that Twitter is awesome and fun. They’re also seeing that, certainly, they do care what you had for lunch break while you were on vacation in Omaha. Underneath all of these press microscopes, the elephant in the room is impossible to miss – how can Twitter go ahead and become nearly as good at making money as it is at making trivial yet interesting conversations? lu la roe twitter
Looking again at the outset of Twitter, it was a tool made popular by the edgy, hip South by Southwest audience. Following taking after the actions of those who went before – Bebo, Facebook, and the whole lot – it was a little while until a while before the hipsters were joined by businesses selling to them. All of a sudden, in past times year or two, Twitter has become the favored golden child of the Interwebs, replacing Fb, who replaced MySpace (and thus MySpace begat Virb, and Virb begat Friendster, and i also begat an aspirin and a lie-down).
The question now becomes, does Twitter have a chance to take all this success and all these millions of users and turn them into what every business venture truly needs: revenue? Popular wisdom says that, when it comes to monetizing boatloads of users online, you have two choices: charge people to use the service, or drop a bunch of advertisings on the site. Both of these strategies scare the heck out of me personally in regards to Tweets, and either could mean the beginning of the end of the website’s relevance if done incorrect.
Consider pay-to-use. There isn’t a way Twitter could ever fee regular users without completely decimating their user-base, especially if fifty new “Free Twitter” services would be ready, flush with endeavor capital funding, ready to aggressively steal most of Twitter’s disenfranchised Tweeples. Celebrities would also fly the house (more bird references, har); the main Twittering celebrities are arguably more valuable to Twitter than Twitter is to them, so why would they pay for the privilege of financing their name, credibility, and fame to something that is charging them?
The thought of having businesses pay to work with Twitter has recently been bandied about before. This kind of, i believe, is the best possible way of getting pay-to-play to the Twittersphere. Businesses small and large have begun making outstanding use of Twitter – glance at the success of Zappos, Mimobot and JetBlue (two biggies, one smaller company, all making creative and successful use of Twitter). Given Twitter’s astronomical expansion and influence, would these and other companies be willing to pay regular monthly cost in order to have access to this large, trendsetting audience? Definitely.
The other monetization method, almost as old as graphical web browsers, is internet marketing. Sure, it makes sense to those individuals who serve advertising online for a living – why wouldn’t we want a 30 or 60 or however many , 000, 000 user pool to advertise to? But again, the pressing question is how one does it. A lot of say (and I, for one, agree) that the demise of MySpace as a network worthy of being taken seriously can be directly tied to its transformation from reputable social network to substantial conglomeration of advertisings with name and birthday in the middle of them. Facebook, too, has desperately tarnished its reputation using its attempts to serve advertisings to its users – just look at testimonies from late 2007 and the revolt against their “social advertising” attempts.