It seems, these days, anyone of consequence needs a Twitter presence.
Businesses are doing it. Media outlets are hooked. Even members of Congress have been known to rattle out tweets on their BlackBerries throughout a somber presidential address. But underneath all that hype is there a business model?
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone thinks so, telling InternetNews.com that the company is planning to roll out its first commercial product later this year, offering a premium tier of accounts to enterprises already using the free service.
“The basic idea is that we have all sorts of commercial entities getting value out of Twitter — from local pie shops to global airlines,” Stone said in an e-mail. “We think we can come up with some set of services which will deliver even more value to these organizations and that this is something they may want to pay for.”
Twitter is trying to solve the same riddle that every social media phenom runs into: how do you make money off of a wildly popular service that people have come to equate with free? Social networking giant Facebook is working through the same dilemma as it tinkers with different advertising models and novelties like micropayments for virtual gifts.
But in pursuing corporate accounts, Twitter is going a different route.
Earlier this week, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Federated Media rolled out Exec Tweets, a collaboration built on Twitter’s API that they describe as “a curation of top business execs on Twitter.”
The same day, Saleforce.com unveiled an enterprise service built on the Twitter platform.
Stone said that Twitter has brought on an employee to focus on the company’s commercial prospects, but emphasized that it is only beginning to grapple with the revenue issue.
“We’re very much in an explore phase right now,” Stone said. “We have one person coming up with some ideas for what this might look like but nothing concrete yet.”