Twitter: The Business of Community

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Twitter continues to explore and appraise long-term revenue models. For the time being, Twitter’s primary focus is to build and nurture a thriving and indispensable community.  Equally critical is the company’s ability to steer engineering and marketing efforts towards developers to empower them to extend, evolve, and enhance the overall Twitter experience for the vast landscape of discerning users as well as those new members who have yet to realize its potential.

In July 2009, we were introduced to Twitter’s new monetization strategy. The company veered its attention and resources towards businesses, initially releasing a series of documents and use cases to help companies, large and small, embrace the capacity and techniques for connecting with customers, prospects, and peers directly in Twitter. Then in August, Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone revealed that the company’s initial revenue would funnel from businesses seeking a more meaningful return tied to performance metrics. Its developers would soon follow, creating dashboards and sCRM (or SRM) systems to scale engagement and monitor key performance indicators.

Now, we are starting to see the plan and the development come into focus. On December 14th, Twitter announced that it was testing features designed for businesses, starting with a service designed to humanize brands and organize team-driven conversations. The company also rededicated its commitment towards building features as well as new APIs and frameworks specifically for business engagement and metrics.

“Contributors” is indeed a step in the right direction. For example, my good friends running the @GMBlogs account can now save precious characters by removing their IDs directly from the tweets – focusing on valuable content instead. The same is true for any number of brands in virtually any industry. Contributors connects people to the people behind brands, facilitating human connections and setting the foundation for invaluable relations and relationships.

According to the Twitter post announcing the project:

The feature we are beta testing is called ‘Contributors’ – it enables users to engage in more authentic conversations with businesses by allowing those organizations to manage multiple contributors to their account. The feature appends the contributor’s username to the tweet byline, making the business to consumer communication more personal; e.g. if @Twitter invites @Biz to tweet on its behalf, then a tweet from @Twitter would include @Biz in the byline so that users know more about the real people behind organizations.

The functionality of contributors will be fully supported by the API and is designed to enhance Twitter business apps, such as CoTweet and HootSuite. It is expected to roll out on a limited basis in BETA to targeted partners and business users to “kick the tires” and provide feedback to improve the service and expedite a formal release. This feature is one of several in development according to the company.

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  • Stuart Foster

    This is really, really cool.

    Solves a number of problems that currently exist for brands.

  • http://@DaraghBell darabell

    This is bound to happen as Twitter relises Tweeps are business Tweeps too. The market is being kind to Twitter it just makes sense, perhaps growing up from where they began at MOMA.

  • @caretv

    I think the contributor angle also has many benefits for nonprofits who rely on many volunteers to donate some of their free time.

    Furthermore, it provides an incentive for the volunteers who want to donate their time, but also want to be recognised for the hard work they put in on behalf of charities

    • briansolis

      Yes, absolutely. The benefits are expansive…

  • amandamagee

    So simple and yet all too often not executed effectively— “a kicking the tires period.” Let's hope others are listening.

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  • CatherineVentura

    This is an exciting development, although it does make a Tweet look a bit more like email 😉

  • secretsushi

    Twitter has not been as fast and furious over the last year as Facebook, but we are finally seeing them navigate in a more productive direction than previously. Folks can see where the ship is headed. Facebook is gunnin' for them so they need to set the stage for users and then execute.

  • Sarge

    I think this is great for businesses. I've seen examples before this came out where businesses would change their bio settings in twitter to display the person that was currently at the twitter service desk – which I thought was a nice touch. They also signed off at the end of each tweet, though losing valuable characters, it was a nice touch :)

    Sarge |

  • Lauren Fisher

    I think it will solve a common issue for brands. One of the first questions companies nearly always ask is how they should write their bio – should they include the staff name, should the Twitter name be the company, or include the person's name as well? This makes it more transparent and removes some of those problems.

    I think it makes sense for multiple users to contribute to a business account, so hopefully this will go some way in encouraging that.

  • Ari Herzog

    Since reading about this the other day, here's my unanswered question: If @XyzCompany takes advantage of this feature and if Sally doesn't have a twitter account, does she need to create @Sally or can she fill in a name when tweeting from @XyzCompany?

    • briansolis

      Hi Ari, that's a great question. I assume it requires a twitter account, although I would like to see it with just a user name function (not requiring an account). As this is also getting an API, I suppose it's up to the developers as well.

  • FeliciaG

    Connection, conversation, relationships. It all requires a continuously conscious mindset change away from the long-held traditional focus on targeting, pitching, and selling. Thank you for perpetuating this beneficial cultural shift in the way we do business and relate just as basic humans.

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  • tunguy3n

    this is taking it up a notch, leave it to twitter to revolutionize and improve on every scale possible, looking forward to how this community will grown in 2010 !!

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  • HeatherO

    This is great news! Hoping this will generate more companies willing to engage in this space vs. hiring ghost tweeters. More authenticity and greater ability to really connect w/people vs just an automated channel, which is what so many companies and even small businesses are doing, or wanting to do because they 'don't have the time' to do it solo.
    Look forward to watching it play out.

  • alejandrorecio

    This is a great way to support people that work in social media relations and management, they are no longer ghosts they have a name and may even develop an important following. It also helps fans and clients know whom they are really talking to, it makes it transparent and truthful.

  • alejandrorecio

    This is a great way to support people that work in social media relations and management, they are no longer ghosts they have a name and may even develop an important following. It also helps fans and clients know whom they are really talking to, it makes it transparent and truthful.

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  • PaintingDenver

    Great news! Twitter getting better and better!

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  • Dara Bell

    I think the value of twitter was bound to become for apparent. I think they have consistent strategy for growth based on offering you more in the promise of returns and more in the future. Something of the sucess is the Apps, the functionality which is simplicity itself.

    Also if you look at Eve he is at TED, he is at not-for-profits events, he is at events his brand and Twitter is just a success story waiting to happen.

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Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. More so, he humanizes technology’s causal effect to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. He is an award-winning author and avid keynote speaker who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation and innovation.

Brian has authored several best-selling books including What’s the Future of Business (WTF), Engage! and The End of Business as Usual. His blog,, is ranked as a leading resource for insights into the future of business, new technology and marketing.

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