Twitter Gets Ready to Cash In With Commercial Accounts

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Micro-blogging service Twitter certainly isn’t new on the Web 2.0 scene, but it’s been gathering more notice as an growing number of real-world celebrities, executives, politicians and major corporations turn to the service as a way to engage audiences and customers—the service’s short text-message-friendly 140 character "tweets" don’t really offer enough space to change the world, but they are proving a popular way to let users keep up with people and organizations they care about. But Twitter has always faced a problem: the service is free, and famously doesn’t run any advertisements. (Although some Twitter clients do carry ads.) Now, the company is looking for ways to begin earning revenue from all its users and momentum—and its first step down that path looks like it will be expanded services for commercial clients.

Although Twitter has not announced any specific plans for commercial offerings or what features it would roll out for paying clients, the company has hired a project manager to oversee the development of commercial services. Industry reports have Twitter eyeing the commercial services as "add-ons" to basic accounts: businesses would still be able to set up Twitter accounts for free, but Twitter would offer paid services that would enable businesses to better leverage their customers, perhaps by enabling them to direct tweets to Twitter users in specific geographic areas, offering analytics services (so companies can get an idea how their tweets flitter around), or offering a verification service so Twitter users can have assurance companies are really who they say they are. (Twitter is awash with "fake" accounts, often in celebrity names: some are blatantly humorous and make no attempt to pass themselves off as the "real deal," while others are more controversial.)

Whether the initiative succeeds may play a major role in determining Twitter’s future. The company has yet to make any money, and turned down a reported $500 million takeover offer from Facebook last year…a move which no doubt left some of its investors scratching their heads. Internet giant Google also reportedly has its eyes on Twitter as a possible acquisition target.