How to Make Money via Twitter

Last Updated May 2, 2009 10:16 PM EDT

The rap from cynics throughout the Web 2.0 period is much like that during Web 1.0 -- "where's the business model?"
And it remains true that Digg, Facebook, and YouTube, in particular, have failed so far to convince skeptics that they will ever be able to become profitable, although nobody I know has yet stopped using them, which may be a point to reflect upon.

Along comes Twitter. If the other leaders of Web 2.0 could be called shooting stars, Twitter is, quite simply, a meteor. Of all of the viral features that have come before it, nothing can compete with the rise of Twitter.

Over the next week or so, we will begin to get the numbers from April, but even before they arrive, I am anticipating that Twitter had a monster month and that the metrics, when they arrive, will blow our collective mind.

All of which raises that most salient of questions: How can you make money on Twitter?

Anyone paying attention knows that whenever a new media channel emerges, profits accrue to early adopters. There are many who exploited Google's rise, for example, to offer new business services such as SEO to a willing new market.

Nowadays we have SMO, social media optimization, and trust me, the usual suspects are all there. (I prefer to call them "snake oil salesmen.")

Still, all of this is simply a prelude to my desire to promote an article posted by Stephen DiMarco, who is an exec for one of my favorite metrics services, Compete.com. DiMarco analyses how several companies are creatively exploiting the most "followed" Tweeters to market their products.

"My personal favorite example," he says, "comes from American Express, specifically its OPEN Forum...(which) combines professional editorial, consumer-generated content and product marketing. To tap Twitter, American Express co-opted the popularity of its guest bloggers like ... Guy Kawasaki.
"Analyzing the traffic patterns of the OPEN Forum Web site reveals some great data, " DiMarco continues. "Every time Kawasaki posts a blog to the site, traffic doubles...(Thus, AmEx) relies on Kawasaki's existing Twitter celebrity, knowing that his tweets reach over 100,000 followers, who will then retweet the post to their followers. All of this activity drives traffic to (its) site, where American Express can convert them into the right card product.

"One of the most telling statistics," he concludes, "is that Twitter is now the top-ranked traffic source for OPEN Forum - 11.7% of traffic to the site comes from Twitter versus 9.1% from Google and 4.5% from Guy's personal blog... The data show that American Express is cracking the code on getting hard ROI from Twitter."
  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.

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