Making Money on Twitter

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Twitter is now a phenomenon.  Not just an app, not just a new social network, but something that is being mentioned anywhere and everywhere.  The Twitter hysteria is going to die down, but if you’re interested in getting on the ground floor of a major movement, now is the time to do it.  A lot of followers on Twitter is in the 15,000 range – which is nothing compared to the friends lists on Myspace for popular people/sites/bands.  Some people have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers (@wilw), but they’re usually celebrities.  Generally, the number of followers is pretty low.

On the one hand you might think this means the place is not worth your time, as it has a fewer number of users.  But that means that your Twitter page won’t get lost in the sea of new pages, as it does in a network like Myspace, where people are blindly adding friends and rarely paying attention.  What makes Twitter stand apart right now – and why it is becoming such a phenomenon – is that people are very much paying attention to people’s pages.  And so Wil Wheaton or Matt Cutts or other luminati will actually deign to respond to those with only a few friends.

Granted, I’ve written here that Twitter isn’t great for SEO, as all links on Twitter or nofollow and/or Tiny URL’s.  But this isn’t about optimization, but monetization.  When the capitalists take over, it could be the thing to kill the Twitter excitement, but that’s not going to stop anyone from trying.  Already, you are finding spam-esque follows by people with 1000 follows and 2 followers trying to hock an ebook.  This is done by successful marketers – Sugar Rae and Andy Beal to take two examples – but truth be told this is kind of irritating and acts counter to the spirit of Twitter, which is supposed to be interactive, not hocking a product.

That said, we’re at the point in Twitter where people actually check their messages to see just who it was who followed you.  The same cannot be necessarily said of other networks.  For this reason the 1000 follows/2 followers model can actually work (even if it’s annoying) for marketing because a large percentage of those 1000 follows will actually check to see who the follower is.  The trouble is a fewer percentage will actually click a link if all that exists is one update with a sales pitch.  Please will sniff this out quickly and click exit. So staying authentically active on the site is key for people to take your monetization link seriously.

A company called Magpie is offering to pay Tweeters to advertise within their Twitter domain.  Much like for-pay blog content, an advertisement has more resonance if it appears to occur within a person’s natural content – rather than a business just posting over and over again about how great their product is.  As Twitter is now ad-free, users will tend to be resistant to ad-crazy content, so if it occurs within the Tweets of a regular user, it may be more trusted.  People have also been known to auction their Twitter page background and profile picture, with mixed results (read: not great).

The most obvious way to make money off of Twitter is via affiliate marketing.  There are services like Twitterfeed.com that will automatically take your data feed from RSS and add it to Twitter – useful for blog entry links, but can also be used for data entry feeds for affiliate links.  Will this make you a killing?  If you’ve got 300 followers, not likely.  The trick is to then diversify and open up a number of different accounts that all link to your affiliate links separately.

The problem?  This is spam.  Nevermind the fact that people are not going to follow you – because to the spammer this doesn’t matter – but the fact that it’s just bad form.  Plus you’re going to have to deal with suspensions and adding accounts from different IPs.  Unfortunately, that’s probably one of the more effective ways to make money on Twitter, as the traditional route – one account, a thousand or so followers – is not going to make you a killing.  And it takes a lot of time to stay active on the site, which can be a time drain.  It’s possible to monetize, but don’t expect a goldmine.

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