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Business, Featured - Written by on Friday, August 14, 2009 6:56 - 4 Comments

Laura M.  Carrillo
Monetizing Twitter – Will other companies beat Twitter at its own game?

Given all of the press about monetizing Web 2.0 tools like micro-blogging site Twitter, I thought it would be interesting to investigate a couple companies that are using Twitter’s own platform to develop businesses with models in place to monetize their offerings and possibly turn a profit before Twitter itself does. When is Twitter going to figure this out? Per the “about us” section of the Twitter site: “Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now…While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we make” I understand taking the time to develop a great service and customer experience, but at some point you need to implement a model for making money. We are a society built on Capitalism, right? Below are two examples of companies based off the Twitter platform and structured to bring in real revenue.

CoTweet is a platform designed specifically to help businesses use Twitter. It lets multiple individuals at one company send tweets on up to six corporate Twitter accounts and keeps the messages in sync across all of the accounts. Per its website, CoTweet is “How Business Does Twitter”. I spoke with the Co-Founder and CEO of CoTweet, Jesse Engle, @jesseengle earlier this week. Per Engle, “CoTweet’s underlying value proposition is to help companies engage in authentic two-way communication and to focus on that engagement.” Illustrating that point, CoTweet offers the ability to view conversation histories allowing you to view your team’s responses in context so you can see which tweets have been responded to and know who’s said what to whom. Engle feels that this is one of the most useful features and is part of what makes CoTweet unique. I personally like the assignment feature which allows you to delegate a task/tweet to someone on your team for follow-up. There are too many other features to include here, but the model is intriguing and already creating a buzz among enterprise customers including @Ford, @Pepsi, @JetBlue and @MSWindows, yep, that’s the Microsoft Windows team. The Twitter API team, @twitterapi even uses CoTweet to manage user requests, and uses CoTweet’s CoTags, a convention for using signatures when tweeting from a company’s brand account.

Still a free service, how will they make money? CoTweet is planning to implement a SaaS model where subscribers pay per month to use the service. Pricing levels and timing are still up in the air, though it’s been reported that this model could be implemented by the end of the year. Also reported in The Wall Street Journal, “Scott Monty, Ford’s digital and multimedia communications manager says that he and a team of nearly a dozen others use CoTweet to manage Ford’s multiple Twitter accounts and would pay for the service when asked to.” A pretty nice endorsement that I’m sure the 6 CoTweet investors liked seeing. Did I mention that CoTweet secured $1.1M in funding last month? Not bad for a company that just launched its public beta site on July 9th.

Another company I came across is StockTwits. This company provides an idea and information sharing service for investors. It’s a very simple concept, you follow @StockTwits and watch or participate in real-time conversations about stocks. The service allows users to see trading activities, conversations about certain stocks as well as view activity about a particular company in one stream. Users tag tweets about specific companies with a $ and the stock sticker symbol. Tweets not about specific companies are tagged with $$. Yesterday I caught up with Co-Founder and CEO of StockTwits, Soren Macbeth, @sorenmacbeth. He mentioned that they have received many testimonials from users who value the opportunity to trade alongside thousands of other traders vs. trading alone. Macbeth believes, “The community is the real value. It’s like a global virtual trading floor for traders.”Given the clout of some of the active traders on StockTwits, companies have started to take notice. Bloomberg now takes some of StockTwit’s tweets and posts them in the Bloomberg Terminal. On August 3rd, StockTwits announced an initiative with NASDAQ called Data Junkies, @datajunkies. NASDAQ now posts real-time stock prices to specific streams on StockTwits, and will host StockTwits virtual lunches with inside tips to help traders take advantage of the different tools. StockTwits will also host StockCamp at the NASDAQ MarketSite, a physical gathering for traders to meet, exchange ideas, tips and generally collaborate. Just yesterday NASDAQ and Stocktwits announced a contest where 30 lucky Data Junkies will be picked to ring the NASDAQ closing bell on August 25th alongside the StockTwits team.

So what about the money? StockTwits has received $1.6M in total funding and is already producing revenue via 3 subscription-based, premium content blogs launched this spring – alphatrends.net, upsidetrader.com, and investingwithoptions.com. Per Macbeth, “Micro-blogging is great for real-time posts during the business day, but longer form content is needed for deeper research.” Macbeth also knows, “This is not new. Subscriptions to financial content has been around for a long time, we are just presenting it in a unique way.” And that unique way is what should help drive revenue for this popular start-up.

I also got the scoop on another revenue channel that StockTwits is planning to introduce this fall. On September 1st the company will launch a desktop application along with its own micro-blogging platform. Features will includes things that are currently not feasible on Twitter like vertical specific services, groups i.e. an option trader group, as well as watch lists so you can see posts related only to specific stocks you are interested in. The application and platform will remain free with premium subscription-based services eventually rolled out on top of the platform.

So where does this leave Twitter? There are many other Twitter-based tools out there doing lots of interesting things. Will Twitter end up acquiring some of these companies or are they already developing more unique capabilities in-house? There is even speculation that an online giant like Google should acquire Twitter.

Two things we know for sure – 1. Twitter’s ecosystem is huge and highly dependent on the platform’s success which should buy them ample time to figure out and implement a feasible revenue model 2. Twitter-based tools like CoTweet and StockTwits are for real, have real funding and are set up for real revenue. There are many options for Twitter and its ecosystem. What do you think Twitter should do? I’d love to hear from you here or of course, on Twitter, @lcarrillo.



4 Comments

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Porter
Aug 16, 2009 23:00

I think the guys over at Strawpoll (http://strawpollnow.com/) are on to something as well. Could and should enable brands with followers to actually make Twitter a 1-to-many and back to 1 conversation of sorts, and cheaply enable useful research, even if of a limited or particular value.

Laura Carrillo
Aug 17, 2009 10:25

Thank you Porter. Yes, there are many companies structured to take advantage of the Twitter platform. The ecosystem has gotten quite large which gives Twitter itself a lot of options for different revenue models, partnerships and/or acquisitions.

brazil oil stocks
Sep 29, 2009 13:13

This Twitter stuff may work in the ad business, but as far as my real estate PR world, it is an absolute ridiculous proposition! The day a big real estate client tells me he has purchased a building or sold a shopping center via Twitter is when I decide I no longer want to be in the marketing/public relations upscale imaging side of real estate.

I for one consider some of these new social media propositions like Twitter, Face book and Bogs just what they are — bs! Have you seen the commercial with the young people on the porch with their dad and mom talking about something while dad is sitting down and “twitting” a message “he is now sitting on the porch?” Complete bs, that’s all the majority of this stuff is. Good luck with Twitting in the ad business. I am flexible and may someday change my mind, but for now, no way!

Denis Hancock
Sep 29, 2009 14:44

brazil oil stocks,

I would agree that it’s unlikely a shopping center will be purchase via Twitter, per se. However, many top investors have openly discussed how, for example, watching what their teenage kids were doing are how they learn about good new investment opportunities. What if you scaled that up to monitoring the behaviors and interests of thousands upon thousands of people that might be customers at one of those shopping centers. Might knowledge of their changing interests lead to better commercial real estate decisions?

I would think it would. Maybe a tool could evolve that would take all that chatter on Twitter from a particular city, and turn it into an indicator of where the next “hot” neighborhood is emerging. Maybe growing discontent about a particular retailers products would provide valuable insight into whether they’re a worthy tenant. Maybe… lots of things.

They say that knowledge is power. You get knowledge from information. So while there may not be a day anytime soon where someone in the commercial real estate business buys a building on Twitter, there may soon be a day where a commercial real estate investor does much better than their competition by turning all that information on Twitter into knowledge.

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