I caught up with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone today on video at the AllThingsD conference to ask him what business models might emerge for the company. In the video above, he talks about different things Twitter can do to help marketers connect with consumers, such as selling verified accounts (something he mentioned onstage last night). But there is is a broader approach which he also hinted at last night:
There’s a way to make introductions to people, to tell them that things and people are available on Twitter, and there’s certainly money in that.
Making introductions is one way to put it. Selling followers is another.
But how could Twitter sell followers in a socially acceptable way? Here is one idea: Twitter already has a spot where it is testing what amounts to house ads for third-party Twitter apps and services.
What if it started using those spots instead to promote corporate accounts? It could get paid for every user who decides to follow a certain company’s Twitter account on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis. The action, in this case, would be following the account. Twitter would get paid for each follower it delivers. I put this suggestion to Stone towards the end of the video. Stone doesn’t dismiss it offhand. He says that it is an “interesting” idea and that the company is leaving the door open to approaches like that. The key would be to present sponsored accounts that a person has a greater chance of actually being interested in, perhaps based on an analysis of topics a person tweets about, links they retweet, or the interest of the people they follow.
In the second part of the interview (below) we talk about how to manage the endless stream of information that Twitter throws at its users. He says that real-time might be over-rated and that new ways of filtering Twitter are needed. I also ask him about the growth of microsyntax and how Twitter decides to incorporate things like @replies as features. He says that retweets and hashtags might be the next conventions to become baked into Twitter proper somehow.