Twitter-watchers have been expecting the company to make some move toward corporate microblogging capabilities for months now. This is one of the two directions that the social media platform has on its agenda for generating revenue, and it is likely the one with the greater potential. The other, serving ads on Twitter.com, is currently constrained by the fact that nearly 70% of Twitter use occurs away from the company's website.
While all talk of corporate accounts is still shrouded in speculation, the obvious plan would be for corporate users to have more robust analytics and other marketing tools for which a premium would be paid. Among the tools being rolled out ostensibly in advance of this business model is a multi-user account model, in which several "Contributors," as Twitter is calling them, can tweet under the same umbrella.
The way it works, according to Twitter's blog, is that @BloggingStocks (to pick a self-serving example) would continue to be a Twitter account. But it could invite me, @tjohansmeyer, to tweet on its behalf. Each of my tweets via @Bloggingstocks would list me as the contributor.
The tool is "not ready for prime time" yet, according to the company blog, but it's in the pipeline, along with several other enhancements.
As with Twitter's other new features rolled out (at least to beta) this year, the objective is straightforward: Enhance the product to generate revenue. It seems as though both options -- ads and corporate accounts -- are being kept open. That isn't much of a surprise, since the company's investors are expecting a performance that reflects the $1 billion valuation they bought into.
For a while, it looked as though Twitter would be able to license its data to search engines as a way to bring in some revenue, as it did with Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT). But, Yahoo! (YHOO) followed these companies into the world of real-time search by pulling Twitter data using free tools, which jeopardizes the revenue stream going forward.
Twitter has said it plans to start generating revenue in 2010 and is even kicking around making a few acquisitions, probably from the robust community of third-party Twitter application developers that are active in the space, siphoning eyeballs away from Twitter.com and serving ads as a way to generate revenue (Ubertwitter, for example, is doing this).