How to monetize Twitter and save the U.S.

Matt Bowman · September 29, 2009 · Short URL:

The last thing the we need is more impulse buying, but Twitter could boost productivity if...

 Twitter is valued at $1 billion in part because so much of an advertisement's effectiveness depends on the moment-to-moment changes in a consumer's situation. Knowing what everyone's doing at every moment will be a gold mine, once Twitter gets its AdSense.

But isn't this model is based on impulse consumer buying. Didn't the world's economic leaders just decide to wean us from American consumerism? Aren't we undergoing a profound economic shift that calls on the U.S. to direct our dollars to investments of greater value, which presumably take time to think through?

Yes, but there are objective real-time factors for smart value investing, too. Small-business entrepreneurs are constantly making quick decisions to maximize a company's revenue; natural disasters create big demand on the spur of the moment; the ideal customer is online right now doing his daily leisurely news read...

One of the most over-looked opportunities for U.S. growth lies in our massive demographic shift: baby-boomers are retiring, creating an army of the wise at home. Trafficking in wisdom is one of the biggest opportunities in the next decade, according to Steve Jurvetson. Small businesses need guidance. If we can turn our aging boomers into a class of business consultants, the U.S. economy may be able to tap into the real growth, both domestically and abroad.

A young restaurant-chain CEO in Kashmir needs an expansion strategy for this week's board meeting. He tweets his concern and is served an ad offering to connect him to a successful retired restauranteur with a five-star rating in Minneapolis who is online and available for the next 30 minutes for a consultation.

Given the push to decrease global dependence on U.S. consumption, the long view for real-time ad serving needs to shift away from consumer impulse-buying toward small business needs. This may require a deeper shift that takes the term "consumer" out of our economic vocabulary and replaces it, systematically, with "independent entrepreneur."


image credit: Halfway Nerdy

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.