You guessed it: advertising! Twitter plans to insert "promoted tweets" into the stream of tweets, based on user searches and key words. The company had been experimenting with ways to make money. Someone must see value in it, because Facebook made an offer to buy the company with stock. As of April 2009 Twitter had no revenue, but its financial backers were content to let the user base grow as they figured out how to monetize it (the Google approach).
Ad Age suggests that search advertising could also provide a revenue stream, noting that Twitter has a sophisticated search engine. (3/25/09) Some businesses are putting display ads on Twitter. In September 09 there were reports of Twitter charging business customers for some value-added services, such as analysis of their followers.
In September 2009 Twitter was valued at 1 billion by a new round of investors.
How to Use Twitter
Using Twitter in Marketing
According to Josh Bernoff in Advertising Age (March 11, 2009), Twitter is the "Five-Tool Player" of the social web. Marketers can use it to:
- Do research (monitor what people are saying about your brand)
- Talk to people (and offer something useful)
- Dell "has sold more than a million dollars worth of overstock computers through @DellOutlet Twitter feed"
- Energize your brand advocates
- Support your customers
- Embrace customer feedback
A New York Times article describes how Twitter can be used to send out promotions, track customer sentiment and provide visitor information to tourists.
How Twitter got Started
The genesis of the business is explained in an April 2009 WSJ article on Twitter's founders.