Twitter: please monetize your site

I’ll be up front about my age: I’m 24, and some of my most formidable childhood memories surround technology. I clearly remember crafting my first AOL screen name in 4th grade and finding ways to manipulate new technologies to my advantage before people really understood their repercussions (Napster, anyone?). I’m what they like to call a “digital native”– binary is mixed evenly with my DNA, and I thrive on new technology. 

Perhaps that’s why I’m so perplexed by Twitter and it’s counterintuitive ways. 

Sure, I’ve blogged about it before. Who hasn’t? It’s all the rage, and hey, who wouldn’t be– it’s quickly becoming more “mainstream”– it’s being mentioned more and more often by celebrities, major news sources, and even TV shows, so it’s no surprise that sooner or later a larger portion of the technically savvy population will jump on the Twitter bandwagon. As of 01/01/09, there’s an average of 1:4 stories on Google News about Twitter: Facebook. That’s a fair amount of “hype.”  And oh, hey, look at that– at the bottom of a Twitter news search on Google, Facebook comes up as a related search term. Ironic.

Hopefully all the “hype” will help the Twitter team develop a feasible business model that is sustainable and provides a non-invasive way of making money of their audience– BEFORE they truly become “mainstream.” Because let’s be honest– no one wants to stay a “start-up” for forever. Case in point? Tonight/yesterday/the past day’s “hash-tag” chat session on Twitter. 

Twitter trendingIt’s my understanding that it all started with a simple post by Warren Whitlock on his blog, where he encouraged users/readers to “Subscribe to this blog, follow me on Twitter and watch my twitter stream and the hash tag #Happy09for more on the Happy New Year Gift giveaway.” Seems simple enough. Hash tags (#happy09) are common trending tools on Twitter, and are a great way to see what’s going on within the Twitterverse. A quick visit to shows you a sidebar with the current trends to the right. 

If you’re bored, or interested, you can follow one of the trending topics by clicking on the hyperlink and watching the conversation within the search window. Or, if you’re a more avid trender, you can use a tool like TweetGrid or TweetChat— both of which will track and refresh the conversations/trends you’re interested in. 

As to be expected, most conversations move at a relatively slow to moderate pace. However, this wasn’t the case with the #happy09 hash tag– instead, the conversation moved at a lightning fast pace, reminiscent of old AOL or Yahoo! chat rooms–  long before the bots invaded them, and before people truly understood the technology and talked aimlessly at random people. 

The ambiguous hash tag had an incredible viral propensity– users quickly followed one another,and shared their wishes for the new year. In turn, their followers inquired about the #happy09 tag, and started using it themselves, and the conversation grew to exponential proportions. 


I read the #happy09 messages for quite a while– participating some of the time, but most of the time, noticing trends. There were a lot of moms tweeting, a lot of moms who homeschool their kids, and quite a few people using Twitter to creatively network. I saw one woman using it to find potential employees, another woman using it to help another person find a job (she’s a recruiter, the other person was looking for a new position), a networking event, and several people promoting their own skills/trades/abilities to a broad audience. I even saw “rival” trending tag (they were #4 at one point in the day/night), #tcot using the #happy09 tag to promote their interests. (By the way, all of this made me ecstatic– I love seeing technology being used to connect people in meaningful ways). 

Oh, what a viable marketing opportunity this would have been for Twitter, TweetGrid or TweetChat. The number of impressions on the #happy09 tag is clearly quite high, and any advertiser would have probably had a pretty successful click-through conversion rate on any number of ads within any of the platforms. And to think, if Twitter were to take it a step further and would index/register each Twitter user’s tweets with Google for crawling, the amount of page returns/searches based on each tweet and potential ad could be phenomenal. 

There are plenty of instances where hastags don’t take off the way that #happy09 did, but it doesn’t mean that Twitter couldn’t find a way to monetize them. Companies like Coke, Pepsi, etc could pay to “own” these hash tags, and configure a “boomerang” type tweet that is enabled any time a user mentions these brands or uses the hashtag or the product name in conjunction with a few other key “buzzwords”– this would set off an automatic ad “retweet” or the “boomerang” effect, where the user would then see an ad within their interface pertaining to that specific product. With the right algorithm, that’s targeted, contextual marketing at its best.  


Until Twitter comes up with a clear monetization strategy, they’re going to continue to miss out on opportunities like tonight, and they run the risk of growing too large and running too “clean” (aka ad free) of a site before they make the change, and will end up just like Napster and AOL. A has been.


4 comments so far

  1. […] Twitter: please monetize your site « Ideas on community … […]

  2. Warren Whitlock on

    Everything you say here is good infomation, but I have to take exception to the idea that Twitter is missing out.

    At 24, you probably don’t recall what it used to take to build a brand like Twitter. Years of investment to build circulation (the eyeball count in any media that you can sell).

    The “missing monetization” is an investment in growth. People use it more because it’s uncluttered and open.

    Think Google in the early days.

    The mastermind behind Twitter started Blogger in much the same way and sold it for a bundle to Google

    Let see… what brands have become verbs in the last 10 years?


    Hmm.. maybe they know something you don’t 🙂

  3. Melissa on

    One flaw with your list of examples… twitter was a verb before it was a website. Word origin dates back to early 1600 Dutch vocabulary. 🙂

    Only ‘Google’ and ‘Blogger’ are made-up words in that list.

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