The challenges of Twitter’s plans for premium services for brands

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Reports today suggest that Twitter is planning to roll-out a range of new premium features that it hopes will appeal to a corporate market. We’ve written before about how brands can use Twitter, and there are many examples of brands who are seeing quantifiable benefits from their use of Twitter. Dell’s $3m in revenue from one Twitter account is just one example. Twitter is an integral part of brand social media strategies and businesses, organisations and even celebrity brands are benefiting from it. Among the chatter about how Twitter might monetise, one option has always stood out - to offer additional, premium services to corporate accounts. This week’s announcements are a step towards this.

In an interview reported in the LA Times, Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder, talked about future developments for the social media tool, specifically potential premium features. As the LA Times reports:

[Stone] said the company will introduce commercial accounts for businesses by year end that will “make them better Twitterers.” Stone emphasized that Twitter would remain free for all users, including businesses. But corporate users will have the option of paying for extra features such as analytics, which help businesses measure their online popularity and monitor traffic.

Any move to offer such premium services would obviously have to add real value to those businesses who are using Twitter. The real excitement of Twitter is that different people (and different businesses) are using it for different reasons. From a business and brand perspective, they might be using it for research, word-of-mouth, customer service, new customer acquisition, advertising. The list is endless. Twitter is in an experimental stage at the moment and the number of different uses and applications of the tool is probably as large as the number of businesses using the tool in total.

So any attempt to monetise the site by offering premium services will need to t dechink carefully about how people are currently using the service and, perhaps more importantly, how it will develop and brand use of it will develop.

A good analytics tool is certainly of interest, especially if it offers comprehensive buzz monitoring - helping brands to understand what people are saying about them on Twitter, then to identify these people and connect with them. Providing a tool that will enable brands to engage with people directly through an analytics and engagement tool. However, for any premium service to be of real use I suspect it would need to offer more than this. The clients that we work with at FreshNetworks, for example, would need more pay Twitter for additional services. Each of them would probably want different things, but one that would be common to all of them is access to users. A service that allowed them to identify and then contact Twitter users talking about their brand, market or organisation would have real value. Of course, any distribution of contact details like this would break Twitter’s own terms of service with its users and no doubt alienate them as well.

Premium services for brands on Twitter have the possibility of being of real value. But what these services could be needs some real thinking about…

Facebook becomes more like Twitter with @ mentions

One theory about evolution of the "at&quo...
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People often describe Twitter as “Facebook reduced only to the status update”. I always found this a poor description, as there was always a significant difference between my Twitter updates and Facebook statuses. With Facebook I can only tell people about me; with Twitter, I can include other people and other topics in the conversation. This is what @ replies do on Twitter - they let me include other people in my updates and associate it with them as much as it is associated with me.

Using @ replies in Twitter is a way to share and connect through content. I can write, for example, about my colleague @cosmond, and include him in the post. That post will then appear on my wall and on Charlie’s. People who follow me or who follow Charlie will then see that I wrote about him.

This is a small but important piece of functionality. It changes my updates from being informational and for my friends and connections only, to being connectors. They organise information based on the people mentioned and connect me with the people I include (and them with me). We move from a situation where I connect with friends and distribute my content, to one where I connect with people through my content. This has a significant impact on the dynamics of the social network; elevating content over just personal connections and allowing you to distribute it further and more easily.

This week, Facebook did become more like Twitter. They have launched their own version of @ replies (called @ mentions), which allow you to include your friends, groups and pages in your status updates and posts on Facebook. You also post your update to your friend’s wall, and link to them. You are starting to connect people to content and to organise what you write. As Facebook say in their blog post explaining the new development:

People often update their status to reflect their thoughts and feelings, or to mention things they feel like sharing. Sometimes that includes referencing friends, groups or even events they are attending — for instance, posting “Grabbing lunch with Meredith Chin” or “I’m heading to Starbucks Coffee Company — anyone want some coffee?”

So, Facebook has taken a step closer to Twitter. Social networks are moving from just connecting people based on friendship to organising and linking people based on content.

  • Facebook copies Twitter, adds @replies (inquisitr.com)
  • Facebook Is Going for Some Twitter Sensibility (nytimes.com)
  • BREAKING: Facebook Introduces @Mentions in Status Updates (mashable.com)
  • Facebook adopts Twitterspeak for tagging friends in updates (venturebeat.com)