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January 03, 2008

The Twitter Business Model Meme (why I love Twitter)

  Source: Twitter

Yesterday Techmeme covered the Twitter Business Model meme and being an avid AVC blog reader, I immediately knew we (the technology blogosphere, Twitter fans, etc.) needed Fred’s input, for two separate reasons:

1) He has great insight about the web and the business worlds

2) He’s an investor in Twitter

And this is why I love Twitter. I twittered the idea above, wondering what Fred would think, and then sent him a quick "@fredwilson" tweet (see Dave Winer’s recent podcast explaining the power of @ symbol on Twitter). Now Fred’s a busy guy and on vacation presently but he’s a hardcore blogger (part of the reason I respect him and always read his posts). That means he’ll respond and get engaged in this conversation even if he’s half-way across the world (which he is).

So why do I love Twitter?

1) For this simple yet powerful example above. I can post a message, tag it to a particular conversation and to a particular person, and instantly know that someone like Fred, who, granted is super-connected, will see the link/gesture, whatever you want to call it, and join the conversation.

Email could have done the same thing but it would have been overkill and antithetical to the basics of this entire Twitter conversation.

Email occurs in a private silo while engaging people in this discussion should be a public and linkable event. Not only will Fred see the tweet but all of my Twitter followers (no, there aren’t many) but Twitter goes to my blog, to Jaiku in case you find me there, to my Tumblr page, and could go to my Google Reader or Facebook page too if I wanted.

I can’t link to an email I send Fred and that email wouldn’t become a part of the conversation. The beauty of Twitter here is precisely that the message I send Fred regarding Twitter used the platform itself to demonstrate it’s own power. Quick, efficient, linkable, and public so that everyone can see the conversation develop. Email can’t do that.

2) Listening to the Dave Winer podcast, he referenced one of his Twitter followers, NewMediaJim, who happens to be involved in new media and is based in DC, as I am too. I would never have been introduced to Jim otherwise and now I’m following him on Twitter.

  Originally uploaded by cherbert.

Part of Chris Anderson’s Long Tail idea is premised on the fact the internet becomes a better discovery engine, that in a world of infinite choices we need better tools to help us discover relevant content, news, people, etc. Twitter does just that.

Serendipity perhaps, but I discovered a new contact thanks to Twitter (and Dave Winer) and I’m now following NewMediaJim because he has an interesting blog, Twitters often, and is a local person.

Why Twitter’s focus on size and scale, rather than on revenue or an explicit business model, isn’t New Economy BS?

I work with corporate America so when I’ve talked with work colleagues about Twitter, invariably they ask what’s the business model, how do they make money? That’s not a wrong question to ask, it’s quite logical coming from our type of work. Follow the money, what are the incentives, etc.

Twitter is a young company in an entirely new field (I wouldn’t call it a business) of communication and as Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder will admit (use BugMeNot's free password to bypass the registration), they don’t know yet how to make money. Being innovative implies some ambiguity by definition and with any new platform, whether it be the telegraph, the telephone, TV, email, or blogging, there will doubt in the beginning.

It’s a real phenomenon, with staying power too (for the two reasons explained above), so the business model and revenue questions aren’t irrelevant but it part of Twitter’s future success comes down to being a first-mover in this burgeoning field of micro-blogging, or however you classify or describe it. That’s good old fashioned MBA lexicon there.

There are other services out there but Twitter could be the leader and the platform that everybody drifts towards as the non-tech blogsphere catches on to the power of this kind of communication.

If you want to know how to monetize Twitter’s users, read Jason, Dave, and of course Fred’s post. But more importantly, join the service and start exploring. Then you’ll understand that Twitter’s future is bright, even if they don’t have a business model right now. It may take some time getting used to but give it time (I'm 8-9 months in on Twitter and still learning things). You'll thank me, I promise.

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