Twitter ads are apparently almost here. After what seems like years and years of speculation, Twitter says that a roll-out of an ad-driven business model is “imminent“.

The revelation came during a panel discussion at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting 2010. One of the panel members, Anamitra Banerji, is Twitter’s head of product management and monetization. In response to a question about timing, Banerji seemed to indicate that Twitter could begin a launch of some sort within the next month.

Obviously, it’s probably not a good idea to hold your breath given how long it has taken Twitter to monetize. And even if the company does roll out an ad service, it may be limited in scope and highly experimental. But that doesn’t mean that marketers and entrepreneurs can’t start thinking about the opportunities that Twitter ads may inform them.

While Twitter ads will certainly receive a lot of attention, it is likely that the early days will offer the typical Gold Rush opportunities for those who are savvy. Here are three possible areas of opportunity that I see.

  • SEM providers/resellers. There’s already a market for individuals and companies who manage client Twitter accounts, so it seems natural that some SEM providers and resellers may want to look at adding Twitter ad management to their product offering for certain kinds of clients.
  • Affiliate programs. While it’s unclear how Twitter ads will work, they might be worth a look for affiliate marketers. If the costs are low enough, nimble affiliates may be able to take advantage of hot topics to hawk relevant (and semi-relevant) wares.
  • Arbitrage. The million-dollar question with Twitter ads is how well they’ll convert. Personally, I think there are reasons to be skeptical. But Twitter ads may be a nice new tool for arbitrageurs who use Twitter ads to drive traffic to pages that serve higher-paying ads.

Needless to say, Twitter ad opportunities will depend in large part on how Twitter structures its offering. Details are scant right now. At a minimum, Twitter’s Banerji stated that it will be “explicitly clear” which ads are sponsored, which is to be expected. A more interesting thing to watch is whether Twitter ads will be limited to users accessing Twitter through the website, or whether Twitter will come up with a product that ensures ads are delivered through the desktop and mobile Twitter clients that are heavily used by the service’s most hardcore members.

Photo credit: carrotcreative via Flickr.