There's a general consensus that Twitter will eventually implement some business model that involves the companies using Twitter for commercial purposes. But the road to monetization has been a long one for the popular microblogging company, largely by choice.
But in a definitive sign that Twitter has corporate users on its mind, the company yesterday launched a 'special guide' for businesses called Twitter 101.
The guide provides an overview of Twitter written specifically for companies. It describes what Twitter is, how companies can get started, the Twitter lingo, best practices and a handful of case studies.
As the name suggests, Twitter 101 is very basic and most of the information is common knowledge to companies already using Twitter. For instance, the guide defines basic terminology, like 'tweet' and 'DM'. It also gives some guidance about using Twitter appropriately (eg. don't spam, be friendly, etc.).
Brands highlighted in the Twitter 101 case studies are Dell, JetBlue, Teusner Wines, Current, Tasti D-lite, CoffeeGroundz, Etsy, NAKEDpizza, American Apparel and Pepsi. Why'd I list them all? Because of all the information offered in Twitter 101, far more is arguably presented in the case studies section than anywhere else.
Which, to me, sends a message that isn't explicitly written in the Twitter 101 text: Twitter wants your business. And probably both literally and figuratively.
While Twitter could potentially make a play with premium services targeting individual users, companies represent the most logical target when it pulls the trigger. There are fewer of them and they have more money. In theory, that would make scaling the business model quickly and meaningfully an easier proposition with business users.
There's just one potential problem in my opinion: Twitter may be putting the cart before the horse by trying to start shaping its message to prospective business users.
If Twitter implements paid services for companies that infringe upon areas of the service that are currently free, it risks alienating corporations that became use to Twitter's awesome 'free-ness'. Dell's VP of Communities and Conversations, Bob Pearson, is on record stating that "if [Twitter] becomes complicated and costly, our instinct would be to move elsewhere".
If Twitter implements value-added services that extend additional functionality and services to business users, it may have to battle independent third party developers who have beat it to the punch. Like BuddyMedia, which just launched a Twitter Management System for brands. Something Twitter should be offering.
From my perspective, before Twitter tried to make itself appealing to new business blood, it might be wiser to focus on figuring out how to make money from the commercial activities of the Dells and JetBlues of the Twittersphere. The bottom line is that Twitter already has an enviable list of business users.
On the Twitter Blog, Biz Stone writes:
Many are seeing a wide variety of businesses using Twitter in interesting ways to create value for customers and consumers. As a result, we're often invited by businesses and organizations to talk about Twitter and how it can be used to better engage with customers. Twitter is still a small team so it made more sense to do some research and make it widely available rather than personally visit businesses big and small.
Now call me dumb but if business and organizations want to "talk" about Twitter and "how it can be used to better engage with customers", that smells like a perfect opportunity for Twitter. To make money. Somehow that's not a part of Twitter 101 but I'm pretty sure it's a part of Business 101.
Photo credit: 7son75 via Flickr.