The strength of Twitter lies in its ability to cut through online clutter -- to position itself as a new service that can gain tremendous traction, PR and buzz value due to its radically refreshing nature. Each day we see more examples of how people are adapting to -- and evolving -- this medium.
So why is there so much negativity about Twitter's potential to create, develop and sustain a monetization model? There are several viable monetization options available for Twitter to capitalize on the phenomenal buzz it has been creating. A few are obvious, and almost all have been discussed across the Web.
Social listening - monetizing the Twitter way
Social listening is one more tool in the insights toolbox. It is highly effective in revealing emerging trends and problems with products and identifying potential targets, but it should be complemented with additional research to validate and extend the findings. On the other side, Twitter's key strength is keywords. Given its succinct 140-word format, every word can be a keyword gold mine.
If Twitter were to compile a list of users who tweeted about your brand and offered this to you, you could then:
1. Pay Twitter to make mentions of your brand (product/service/trademark) with auto links to your Web presence, and
2. Send targeted messages to the user base, thereby expanding reach and engagement with your brand. Being already involved with your brand in some fashion, these users should be interested in following your brand and hearing more from you. Thus, you can enlist a self-selected legion of brand followers.
Hook mobile wallet with Twitter
More than 100 million U.S. mobile subscribers used smartphones in Q1 2012, according to comScore's MobiLens service. As mobile usage increases, and smartphone adoption continues on its charted growth path, more users will access social networking sites via mobile phones. Only one thing is required to capitalize on this unmatched reach -- integration with a payment gateway. The concept is not new. Several mobile payment platforms already exist; all Twitter needs to do is integrate a mobile wallet application to enable online purchases.
The other option is to provide users with the ability to add credit card details to their Twitter account and use a set of predefined instructions to process payments -- like voting for reality shows. For example: @[brandname] #[Product Code] [Quantity]
A third option is the possibility of making Twitter a mobile version of something like PayPal. Prepaid currency in set limits can be accessed to purchase products offered through Twitter channels.
Groupon is doing very well with local deals. Twitter -- after having reached critical mass and gaining a dedicated follower base of users and local stores' tweet handles -- could interest companies/brands by enabling some form of display advertising or referral commission. Easier still to implement would be exclusive Twitter discounts to followers of the @twitterhandle updates.
A news channel by users for users
Twitter has an excellent opportunity to become a genre-specific news channel where users share news/information that interests them, rather than the conventional approach. The revenue potential is huge, with companies sponsoring particular genres/channels.
There are several more conventional ways in which Twitter can be monetized. These include the usual suspects, like Sponsored or pay-per-click advertising, affiliate marketing, and paid testimonials/reviews. However, all these channels do little to capitalize on the out-of-the-box nature of the medium. Instead, they seek to bring the fascinating medium back into the box of conventional online marketing. It is high time for Twitter to be a role model and use one of the unconventional approaches outlined here to generate revenue.