Twitter, and their business model

Steven | twitter | Saturday, 10 July 2010

Rumor has it Twitter is gonna communicate some information about how they’ll be making money in the future. Till today, Twitter is still 100% funded with VC. In a best practices way of looking at things this probably is the worst possible situation to be in, but Twitter can pull it off for some reasons. Main reason: Twitter being hot, any VC wants to throw in some money, because they know at best they’ll get a huge validation, at worst they can tell the market they backed Twitter, which is a unlikely but even then acceptable outcome.

In any case, because they have this position they can play it very clever. Keep the VC’s at some distant, and call the shots. In this case: don’t rush it, let the platform grow. That’s why they became so successful in the first place (again, Twitter being the exception here, a “normal” company probably couldn’t pull this off).

Here’s a recent CNBC interview on the subject with ao Gary Vaynerchuk who nails it very good imho

I wrote about the search of a business model for Twitter over a year ago, and my post still seems to stand. Duh I forgot about an IPO, but on the other hand this isn’t a lasting way of making money.
I’d like some stock though ;)

My main easy success / tactical / takeaway proposition was offer a payed option of $5 per month to access your stats (which is very easy to integrate since they already use Google Analytics), this would generate some steady easy money for them. Guess what, I’d pay for it. (Mailed it to them, never got any answer though).

Anyway, the speculations are on. Pretty curious to see what’s about to happen.

Hi, I’m Steven, and I’m an addict ..

A social media addict that is. That probably why I don’t blog that much lately. Not that I don’t want too .. and I do have as many bad ideas as before .. but I just waste all my free time on twitter and facebook.

Luckily I’m not alone. If I was, it would be very lonely online, and it never is :-)
Recently, some guy named Jerry started a self help group. If your even close to using social media, I recommend viewing this video of a meeting. It is truly inspiring, and .. yes, recognizable.


So, what exactly is twitter

Steven | twitter | Wednesday, 25 March 2009

To answer that question we have the great Common Craft video that’s been out quite long (but still very relevant).

But now Current has a shot with their own funny video.

It’s funny because it’s true :)

Hat tip: nodesktophero.

Twitter premium use – the search for a business model

Steven | multimedia,twitter | Tuesday, 24 March 2009

As long as I know Twitter (I joined the service over 2 years ago) people are talking about the business model behind it. Till this point, there is none!
Twitter is build with Venture Capital, $55M at the moment as you can see on their crunchbase profile.

Twitter So there is no business model yet. This means the service is not making money on its own, not as far as we know that it. At first, when twitter was largely unstable, users would like to pay for a stable version. But that passed by when Twitter grow more mature.

There’s 4 ways for Twitter to make money.

1th is by acquisition. If, let’s say, Google would buy the company, that’s all what it takes. This would be a company that typically is interested in the data, the relations, .. and thus can use Twitter as a research base. Google would definitely fit this description. They can learn from it. An other type of company could be on that has an idea to monetize it, but this is, in my mind, less likely. If Twitter turns into a money making machine, I see Obvious (the company behind Twitter) doing this themselves.

A second way would be by advertising. If banners, adwords, .. are placed on the site they would generate a decent amount of cache. There’s just that many users, so loads x small CPM is still good. However, a lot of users ever see the website since they’re using different clients (like twhirl, tweetdeck, ..) which is possible thanks to Twitters’s great API. Of course it would be possible to insert commercial tweets in the stream, but I think this might be something some people consider a bridge too far. For me personally, I guess I could live with it, but I prefer without.

The 3th way is just turn it into a commercial service. Let users pay for the use, or let them pay if they want to go over a certain threshold like following xx people or posting xx tweets per month. Let’s avoid this scenario shall we :) – But it IS a possibility.

The 4th way, and in my mind most possible way, is by adding commercial features. Sure, the small feature set definitely helped the service grow, but there are some things that would be interested and in my mind. I read this post the other day, and it started me thinking (that was about time :) ). Obviously it’s a fake post! Random followers, having celebs to follow you .. I’m sue people would pay for it, but it’s just not what Twitter has become and is love about.

What I do think is a great commercial feature is opening up the analytics of Twitter. It completely fits in the context of this time. Everybody is obsessed by numbers, and with reason. At this moment twitter is monitored by Google Analytics, and in GA it is pretty simple to log data on multiple accounts. So a model could be: you pay for example $5 each month, and you can add your own tracking ID so your stats become visible in your own GA account.

I would pay for that, and for me $5 each month would be acceptable. I used to pay for feedburner before it was acquired by Google as well.

Easy Money! If we consider a usebase of 8 million people (this is an estimate based on Compete, might be higher because of the API, might be lower, only twitter has the answer) and suppose only 5% of the users would pay for this, this would result in a turnover of 24 million dollar! Even if only 1%, so 80.000 users would pay for this, which seems likely to me, this would still generate about 5 million dollar a year. And then you can start tweaking the numbers based on research: what would be the perfect amount of money to ask for a user to generate the most income? You could even identify these users as “pro” users, if you see the status this brings on for example Flickr .. it might work.

I started a little poll to find out how people feel about this, feel free to participate (no registration whatsoever needed). If you think $5/month is too much let me know what you would pay for it.

I would like to turn this into a movement, so if you think this is a good idea embed the #5dollarGA hastag in your tweets. This is something Stenito came up with. Or just tweet a link to the poll or to this post.

Thanks! You can follow me on twitter under @minorissues.

Twitter for PR

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,twitter | Monday, 16 March 2009

Quite interesting presentation on using twitter for PR purposes.

Quite interested I said because the examples aren’t exactly new (but that’s ok) and if you don’t know the cases it might be hard to understand without explanation. Example: “arrested”, or Zuck on SXSW. But if presented, they’re strong cases!

Hat tip Futurelab.

The @Bogusky challenge

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,twitter | Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Alex Bogusky was on twitter. It just wasn’t something for him, so he quit

prematurely. Read my previous post for some background information.

Since he left his mail address, in his last post, I decided to mail him (he agreed on posting this BTW).

Hi Alex,

I was very pleased to see you on twitter. Too bad it didn’t work out :(

I would love to see you reconsider. It might be something that isn’t in your routine yet, or even something you yourself get little value out. But just know you reach a global audience pretty instant. You can talk to them, listen to them or even just let them know where your working on or what your thoughts are on specific topics.

Apart from that it’s a great way to do PR for CP+B .. I know you probably don’t need it, but isn’t it cool if you can inspire lots of people and engage with them?

Anyway, I wrote a blogpost about it, you can find it here:

So hope to see you back online, and if not: keep up the good work!



Steven Verbruggen
Interactive Strategy Maven
Nascom (Belgium) –
+32 478 88 10 64

And yes, I got a response from the man himself!

image Steven,

Great post.

You’re right on all fronts. For me it’s more about pure time.

Don’t have what it deserves. But who knows. I might be back. I don’t mind reversing my own decisions.

Wishy washy is how I roll. I want people to feel they have access. That was important to me. And that is why in the end I dropped my e-mail. If I had a following of 3000 or something I would figure out a way to manage some sort of version where I don’t feel so compelled to interact. That’s the hardest thing for me. I’m a communicator and if somebody tries to communicate it’s nearly impossible for me to resist.


This message was created with six fingers.

First of all: I like his style. He’s responsive, and the way he’s formulating is just poetry to me!

But second, and most important, he’s giving us a challenge! "If I had a following of 3000 or something I would figure out a way to manage some sort of version where I don’t feel so compelled to interact"

So all, head over to his twitter page, and start following him right away! I’m curious to see what he’ll come up with, aren’t you? 1700+ followers ATM, that’s +200 since last week.

Why I think it’s important to have guys as Alex on twitter (or something else) and not just on email? 1/ it’s a great way to see what they are up to, what work they’re working on, what people they interact with, and 2/ interaction! Sure, you can email them, but tools like twitter just have a far lower threshold! If you decided to mail someone you don’t know, an authority, .. you just think 10 times before you send. You make sure your email is perfect, and perhaps, along the way, you missed your moment or decided to not mail them after all. On twitter you just share your thoughts. If it isn’t picked up, no bad. But if it is picked up you know the guy is really interested and listening and the conversation just kicks in.

On the other hand, if somebody I might want to interact with publicizes his/her email address,  I’m always tempted to actually mail some stuff, and start the interaction that way. It’s harder, takes a lot more time, but if you indeed got a response you know it’s no bullshit guy/girl and you might learn something. Remember my mail to Steve Balmer? I always try to ask some valuable questions, not just kiss ass and tell them how great they are. They know :)

I try to live by the same principles myself. And sure I know I’m no authority (yes! lol) if you send me some questions or remarks, by email, or by twitter, I always take the time to answer and share my thought.


Alex Bogusky was on twitter

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,twitter | Thursday, 05 March 2009

One of the great things about twitter is you can get really close to great people around the globe. If you’re lucky, you’ll even able to interact with them. One of these people definitely is Alex Bogusky. He’s chief creative officer at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, considered as one of the best creative agencies out there. You probably noticed his name in the company name, and that says it all I guess. He’s just one of the most famed advertising execs. Very clever and creative guy.

Alex Bogusky was on twitter. I only discovered him a few days ago, but today I saw his last tweet were he announced he would quit: “Signing off twitter. Just not for me. I really enjoyed the time and it was fun to follow and be followed by such a lively group. Love, Alex”. This is just bad news! How great is it to be able to peak in the brain of one of the most creative people in the world!

I hope he just didn’t discover the true beauty of twitter yet, and reconsider the service. It seems I’m not alone, lots of people on twitter hate to see him go!

Maybe if we all show we would love to see him stick, he might give it another go? Let’s just all start following him. Here’s his profile: Follower counter is about 1500 ATM, if we can increase this drastically, he hopefully see tons of people are truly interested in what he has to say.

I’m really not into glorification, and I’m not in this case as well. But having people on twitter who are on top of an industry is just inspiring. Other than that: what other way is there for us to tell them if he comes up with something sucky ;)

You’ll find a good interview with Bogusky at On Creativity.

Just remember Alex: we won’t stop until you’re back! :)

You can follow me on twitter at

Twitter rankings – sense and sensibility

Steven | Random Thoughts,twitter | Sunday, 01 March 2009

Everybody loves ratings, especially if you’re in there. Most of the time you know it’s crap, but it’s a vanity thing I guess :)

Twitterholic is doing an automated hitlist, and you can filter by location. Here is the top 100 for Belgium. It’s bogus to start with because it only filters out these people who have “Belgium” as a location in twitter. People using like a city are left out.

What always bother me is that it’s just a rating by followers. Sure, this means something, big time. But it’s not the only thing that matters. If Stephen Fry is followed by almost 250k people, that’s big!  Same goes for a lot of other people as you can see on the overall top 100 on Twitterholic.

What I think has some value as well is the following/followers ratio. And there’s 2 ways to look at. 1/ you can start following back people who start following you (polite) or 2/ just start following lots and lots of people and hope they’ll start following you back (or at least a decent chunk).


Don’t get me wrong, you obviously can follow as many people as you like, and there is absolutely no judgment. And I know there are people out there we live by it, and want the biggest possible gap between followers and following. Live and let live, but I don’t play these games. If somebody follows be I usually check that person shortly. If it’s somewhat interesting (for me) I might follow back. But I’m kind of picky because I simply can’t focus following too many people at once. Other than that, if I meet people, or I see them speech or something, and they have a twitter account, big chance I’ll follow them. I guess this is more or less how most people do it.

Because of this, I do think the ratio has some kind of value. I did some kind of experiment with it, and used the twitterholic numbers to calculate a different list.

1/ followers – following
Just a simple subtraction. Theory is to take only the number of people into account that are following you on top of the people you’re following yourselves. Here’s the new top 10 (Belgium)


who site followers following difference


Veerle Pieters Blog 7313 192 7121


Paddy Donnelly Blog 1231 182 1049


Bart De Waele  Blog 1447 403 1044


Robin Wauters Plugg 2717 1748 969


Serge Jespers Blog 1040 166 874


Kris Hoet Blog 1009 206 803


Clo Willaerts Blog 1198 722 476


Steffest 765 373 392


Imke Dielen Blog 648 285 363


Security4all Blog 615 253 362

Since this is dynamic I pasted the numbers in here as well. So this is a snapshot, and it will change for sure.

2/ followers/following ratio
Divide the numbers of followers by people that person is following, and you get a number indicating that for every people he/she follows, he’s followed back by x people. I left out the accounts that aren’t following anyone (this is just push, no conversation) and as well the radioo accounts (again, push).


who site followers following ratio


Veerle Pieters Blog 7313 192 38,09


Jan Van Boghout Macrabbit 160 9 17,78


Paddy Donnelly Blog 1231 182 6,76


Serge Jespers Blog 1040 166 6,27


De Standaard Online  Standaard (newspaper) 180 35 5,14


Steven Pauwels Blog 394 79 4,99


Kris Hoet Blog 1009 206 4,9


Bart De Waele  Blog 1447 403 3,59


Appelogen Blog 242 70 3,46


Juan Pablo Domain reactivator 353 121 2,92

(I left out Christophe Logiste as well. Although in the Belgian list he seems to be French)

I think this worked out quite well. It’s not perfect though. How do you think this “algorithm” can be improved. Must be something with standard deviation I guess, because there are a few results that are kind of twisted.
It’s hard to determine, but there is like a number we have to take into acount. For example if you go over 500 followers this must mean something. On the other hand, following over 500 (even less) people can’t be efficient. Again: no judgment! But it is my believe that if you are following over 500 people it’s more to get your message out, over communication. Sure you can use tweetdeck or something else to structure the people you’re following, but this kind of just proves the point.

It’s just an open question: how can we optimize?

In any case, we can be pretty sure the most influential Belgian twitterer is Veerle Pieters. Totally deserved, she made herself count in the global design world.
I’m also pretty pleased I know more than a few of the people listed above quite good and in person. They’re people that definitely move things forward, and I praise them for that!

How am I doing?
In the original twitterholic list I’m number 44
Using the first tweak brings me to place 39
The second tweak puts me at 35

Going in the right direction, but still some work to do :)
You can follow me on twitter at

Bloggers Anonymous

Steven | Random Thoughts,twitter | Thursday, 19 February 2009

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately .. to say the least :)


Was/am quite busy. At Nascom, my new job, but personally as well. I moved together with my GF in our brand new beautiful house we bought some time ago, and there was and still is loads of work to do. Add to that the fact I still don’t have decent internet at home (I help myself with a GPRS/UMTS stick with pretty bad connection) and you might understand why it is so quite out here. But I promised myself I would blog more, or better, this year, and this is a promise I want to keep. Good stuff coming up!

As for now, you can always follow me on twitter. I’m not extremely active there (should you?) but you can follow my updates on a regular basis.

I figured out, because it’s my birthday today, I at least could post something short here, and so I did! :)

2 more short things:
1/ Very pleased Paddy Donnelly joined us at the recently born Tactics Squad (TaSQ) at Nascom. I met Paddy about half a year ago with the big word project, and having him here now is just a proof how important it is to jump on opportunities. Paddy is an Irishman living in Belgium now, and he’s absolutely great!
2/ We just launched a European Style contest for the Sony VAIO P-series (great equipment!). It still need some tweaks, but it’s great thing. Check it out here, as well as the showcase we did just before. Great work from Nascom, pleased to be here!


More to come, soon!


Steven | Random Thoughts,twitter | Saturday, 06 December 2008

When Paddy asked to give him some advice (anything goes) I had to think for a moment.

I could advice him how to gain 45 pounds in 1 year time, how to piss of your girlfriend, how to get speeding tickets, how to get in jail, how to cook quite nicely .. because I master all of these skills, but It’s quite boring and evil right?
I couldn’t advice him how to improve drinking because he’s Irish .. too bad, that would be interesting.
I can advice him which Belgian beers rule (exclude all non Belgian beers, they can’t compete) but I already did that. In fact that’s the only subject we ever talk about.

Then there’s of course the open doors. Always be yourself. Live every day as if it’s your last. Treat people the way you want to be treated. 
It’s all true. Only, hardly anybody lives by it. In fact that’s quite sad, it would make a difference for sure.

Wear sunscreen is a good place to start as well.

But here’s some real advice. Hope somebody finds it valuable.

1. It seems it was Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers who first said “A funny thing about regret is that it’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t.”. Of course some of us know it from the Orbital song Satan as well, which is really a great song imho. I fancy this advice, I think it’s so true! Too bad I’m too much of a coward to live by it, but I try!!

2. This advice has kind of something to do with the previous advice, but it’s actually mine. “Go beyond your authority”. I know for some this sounds absurd, but I believe this is the way to make progress in live, business, .. Bottom line should be good intentions of course. What it actually means is that if you spot something, you know you can solve or improve, you should just do it. Nobody is ever going to blame you for solving problems or improving things, and if they do you know you have to run! I know this advice can be abused, so don’t. You know when you do!

3. Be pragmatic. I know there’s a good way for everything, but there is a straight line between A and B. Sometimes it pays to take the detour, but you need to know (or find out) when to go straight. I think a lot of time and energy is wasted by following procedures or methods that doesn’t makes sense. Try to avoid that!

4. Try not to compromise on things that matter. Life is a compromise, I know that, but sometimes you have to stand up and be satisfied with only the best.

5. Be pro active. I think it follows 2 and 3, but is slightly different. Being pro active means your doing things nobody told you to do. It means be critical and do something with the things you discovered being like that.

6. Be critical. See 5.

7. Read as much as you can. Explore. You should always try to learn new stuff. If you stop learning, move on.

8. Drink. But not always. Drink enough to make your live better, but not that much to make it worse.

9. Don’t be like me. I’m a guy with a million ideas but it’s rare if I get them to practice. You need to be effective. If I could improve myself a little I would be more effective. Also, I’m someone who won’t be satisfied for a long time. I’m a searcher, can’t settle with a situation. I envy the people who can but I know it’s my drive and I’m not sure if I would trade it for happiness.

10. Use twitter. It’s just great!

11. Don’t waste your time on ego management. It can only be held against you and basically would make you a dick and nobody loves you. In stead spend your time trying to do great stuff, help people, walk the extra mile, .. if you do this consistent you don’t need ego management. Other people’s opinion is the best PR.

So that’s it for me. Any bloggers who have any (any!) advice as well: have your shot. Would be great to submit it to Paddy as well. Not sure what he’s going to do with it but it will be great! (psst, don’t tell anyone, but he’s effective .. )

update: here’s all advice in one post at Paddy’s!