Yahoo may be slow to the social game, but the portal is frantically trying to catch up. Yahoo integrated Facebook functionality into its sites at the end of 2009. And this week comes the announcement of a similar deal with Twitter.
But there is one big (and important) difference for Twitter. Yahoo will be paying the microblogging company for its services. For a hotshot upstart like Twitter, that is exactly what it needs right now: reach and revenue.
All the talk of Twitter's soon to be announced advertising model is well and good, but the microblogging company needs to ensure that its functionality is not usurped by other digital players. And deals like this are the key to keeping Twitter on the top of the real-time data pile.
Twitter functionality will soon be a part of Yahoo's major properties, from Yahoo Mail to Sports, News, Finance and Search.
Yahoo sees this as a key part of its "social strategy," which is part of a greater plan to work with successful digital brands instead of competing against them. In adition to the Facebook and Twitter partnerships, Yahoo is reportedly working to broker deals with MySpace and LinkedIn in a strategy that BoomTown has identified as "Project Rushmore."
Hilary Schneider, Yahoo's EVP of Americas, said as much last week at paidContent 2010. When asked about Yahoo's approach to local content, she replied that Yahoo "won’t generate its own local content and will instead rely on partners."
Yahoo is hoping that integrating enough functionality on its sites will help get users to start and organize their digital interactions with the company.
Jim Stoneham, Yahoo's vice president of communities, tells AdAge:
"We've spent a couple years building up social on Yahoo so anything you do on Yahoo can be shared out. It's aggregating a network of networks to increase reach for Yahoo properties."
For Yahoo, Twitter is one piece of that puzzle. But for Twitter, becoming a part of a network like Yahoo's brings exposure, the potential for new users, and much needed cash.
Founder Biz Stone writes on the Twitter blog:
"As the Twitter information network grows and expands, it becomes more valuable for everyone who participates. Our open approach helps us get closer to providing universal connectivity to a global network of immediate information."
If Twitter wants to get beyond the barrier of tech nerds into the daily habits of the general populace, it needs to put itself front and center where people access the internet every day. Yahoo, Google and Bing are great entry points for that.
And if Twitter can get Yahoo to pay for access to its users, all the better.