I’ve previously written about Twitter Pro, the long-awaited premium version of Twitter for users that want more powerful features. Yet it remains out of sight, despite the noises made from the company that suggests they are working on something along these lines.

Twitter Pro is long overdue

On my original wishlist for Twitter Pro I included a bunch of things that would help businesses to determine the value of Twitter. Measurement, management and communication tools were at the top of the list.

In March 2009 Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told the Wall Street Journal that Pro accounts were on the horizon, and that the firm had hired a product manager to make things happen. The following August 2009 Stone told VentureBeat that it was “in the first phase of rolling out commercial accounts that will entice business users to pay for premium services”

But it is now May 2010 and we’re still waiting for firmer details on what’s going to be available. And there’s still no sign of Twitter Pro. 

I’m not sure why there’s been such a delay. Certainly I’d have prioritised Pro accounts over Promoted Tweets, as far as a launch schedule goes (though I guess Pro is a much more difficult beast to develop and roll out).

In any event, the time is right for Pro. And Twitter needs to grasp the opportunity while it is still buzzing, and to make the most of its upwards-at-45-degrees growth rate.

I especially want to see measurement tools introduced. Last night I was looking into some way of adding Google Analytics to a Twitter page, but it’s impossible as you cannot embed HTML (unlike on Facebook pages, where there are workarounds). 

It’s important for business users to be able to close the circle. We know that Twitter sends us a bunch of traffic, but we don’t know the detail on how our followers found us in the first place, whether that’s via an influencer (who?) or Google (what keywords were used?) or some other discovery tool (which one?). Twitter knows which of our tweets are the most popular, and it could tell us when might be the best time of day to tweet. And so on… but it doesn’t. Detailed analytics is a must have. Jim Sterne often says “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”, and Jim is not one of life’s wrong people. 

But what about non-business users, who might not immediately care about measurement? 

Well, I think a good number of people would pay simply to be able to customise their pages. Twitter could do a Typepad, for example, by allowing users to upgrade to be able to personalise their pages. I recognise that only a quarter of all Twitter activity takes place on Twitter.com (third party clients account for most of the action), but I still think introducing the ability to customise Twitter pages will be a real winner.

The maths works too. If Twitter builds the right kind of tools to lure micro-subscriptions from the masses then the revenue from Pro would underpin its business (and could generate a lot more than it does from advertising and data combined). 

The company now has more than 100m users, with 300,000 new users joining everyday. If it can convert just 1% of its user base to Pro accounts at just $5 a month then it would generate $60m in annual revenue. Not to be sniffed at.

One of the key differences between Twitter and Facebook is that a very real economy has developed around the latter. We call it ‘f-commerce’. Facebook takes no commission on the sale of physical goods, but does earn 30% of all virtual goods sold via the site (around $5bn a year, according to some estimates). As a platform, Facebook is an enabler of commerce, marketing and communications. 

By contrast Twitter has primarily developed a third party application economy, which has been great for users and encouraging usage, but which may remain limited in scope until users are able to do more with their Twitter pages. If that’s true then the lack of Twitter Pro is stifling (revenue) growth, and the firm could be leaving millions on the table. As such I hope that Pro is a high priority at Twitter HQ. 

Do you think we’ll see a Twitter Pro with mass appeal released by the end of the year, and what do you think it might look like?

[Image by the lovely marcelodonati via Flickr. Various rights reserved.]