It's interesting that Twitter took such a long time coming to the table with monetization plans. Because now it seems like the company is just coming up with as many strategies as possible to see what sticks.
Today Twitter made a push with two new services — @earlybird and Name Search. But the one that has the most potential for monetization won't be capitalized on by Twitter. At least for now.
Both new services were live before today, but are now fully functional. @earlybird is a Twitter feed that will send followers deals and coupons from different brands on a daily basis. Disney is the first brand to partner with Twitter for this feature. According to Twttter's blog, the @earlybird feed is a way that brands can get access to Twitterers that don't follow them:
"We’re just getting started-- we’ve got an amazing lineup of deals to share in the coming days and weeks with people following @earlybird. Several times a week, @earlybird will help consumers discover Twitter-exclusive deals in entertainment, fashion, technology, beauty, travel and more."
For brands trying to grow their influence on Twitter, the @earlybird feed could be a great way to reach new customers. But offering specials on Twitter is something that many companies caught onto before Twitter did (as Twitter's blog post today notes):
More interesting will be the offerings that Twitter can implement above and beyond normal Twitter features. It will be interesting to see if Promoted Tweets becoming a winning strategy for brands. Meanwhile, the company's new name search opens up some monetization possibilities as well. Not that Twitter is doing anything about that.
Now when Twitterers use the site's search function, they will see links to Twitter user profiles that are similar to the search terms.
As you may notice, the position and content relationship are similar to something Google uses for the bulk of its revenue: search ads, which seem like an easy ad implementation for Twitter. Name search already promotes some responses to features spots above the most recent results. Just as easily, Twitter could sell ads related to the search results it returns
As ReadWriteWeb points out:
"Talk about direct e-commerce possibilities. If search communicates intent - won't the sales people line up to be introduced as the face to follow regarding popular goods and services? The ROI will be easy to calculate, too."
But Twitter isn't admitting that name search will develop into monetized usage. Twitter’s Communications Director Sean Garrett tells TechCrunch:
“This simple feature is meant to make Twitter easier to use. There are no current plans to monetize it...but one should never say never.”
Hopefully, Twitter will work on both its search functionality and ad options there. Twitter has spent a lot of time and energy trying to come up with new ways to monetize that are consistent with the use case of microblogging. But some of those, like the concept of Promoted Tweets, could end up blurring the line between advertising and content in a way that causes users to react negatively. Search advertising, on the other hand, seems like a no brainer. Web surfers are accustomed to it, and especially in a space like social media, where the search results are so flawed, if the advertising is relevant, it could be amazingly effective. Just ask Google.
For now, Twitter is still in the testing stage.
As Garrett tells MediaMemo:
“We will eventually have full suites of both promoted and commercial products. All the components of these two buckets of product have yet to be determined. Some are currently being tested publicly now. Some will be tested soon. Some are just ideas that we are broaching externally for feedback.”