Major social networking companies such as Facebook and Twitter have long struggled to develop significant revenue models. Still, Facebook managed to enter the green earlier this year and Twitter announced today that they will be launching paid business accounts in 2010. But, want I want to focus on is how Twitter users can and are turning this micro social network into a pretty nice business.
Brad Stone’s article in the new York Times this weekend examined how individuals are now sending out paid tweets – a new form of advertising. Users with high numbers of quality followers and significant influence are being paid – often quite well – to write 140 characters about a particular product or service and press enter. John Chow, a blogger and Internet entrepreneur in Vancouver says that he makes $3,000 in the month of October alone just from paid tweeting.
The downside here is that Chow’s followers could start to feel like they are being mislead – or spammed. Since following and unfollowing someone is just one click away, making followers feel like customers could alienate a few.
Another revenue model appeared in Mashable this morning, where MSNBC has purchased the Twitter handle @BreakingNews (you may remember that CNN also purchased a Twitter handle a while back, @cnnbrk). The ability for users or organizations to build up a Twitter handle with of high-quality followers and sell it to an organization is fairly new, and pretty smart (I always think, why didn’t I do that!). It really isn’t misleading, and allows individuals to do the tough part of building a successful Twitter account, and selling this mass audience to a larger organization. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this occurred with more specific audiences in the future, similar to how blogs started out at the macro level and then shifted to focus on more specific topics.
These are just two examples of how individuals are able to turn Twitter into their own little revenue stream. However, since they they can be seen as misleading, it is vital that people are upfront and honest about paid tweeting and other disclaimers.