A new Twitter business model – a comprehensive hashtag strategy

PKitano
Patrick Kitano Managing Director, Brand into Media

Posted on January 5th 2011

Following up on my previous post A New Local Business Model for Twitter, I extend the idea of Twitter potentially employing a new hashtag for geographies to other categories.

To recap the geographical strategy:

1) Twitter first creates a series of geographical Twitter accounts with a new Twitter name coding system that uses, say *, instead of @. For example, *Berkeley_CA or *Boston_MA. Start with metro areas and expand into smaller cities: *Waltham_MA and neighborhoods: *BackBay_Boston.

2) Each *Twitter account curates the best Twitter feeds within the geography, and is automatically set to retweet local feeds with the type of local information that communities want to see: News, Things to Do, and Deals. Curation is best done manually on-the-ground by a local; this person could be recruited as a volunteer who wants to serve their community in the same way About.com populated their experts. The *Twitter feed would look something like this:

3) The third step is the key departure to Twitter’s general strategy – building a Twitter based application (note Evan Williams doesn’t mention anything like this in his October “What’s next for Twitter” interview). Twitter should build hyperlocal websites similar to Patch.com for each *Geography, and create an automated overlay similar to http://paper.li/breakingsfnews/community-news or FlipBoard:

4) The final ingredient is monetization. Just like Patch, Twitter can now build a national network of hyperlocal websites without the HR expense of hiring editors. They can now leverage their local media presence to deliver Deals and coupon based advertising. By using deal syndication networks, Twitter won’t even need to hire a massive local sales force.

A new Twitter business branding model

Now extend this hashtag concept to business. One of the commenters on the mirror article on Social Media Today, Timo Platt states:

To truly differentiate its capabilities in the Local market, Twitter must offer new communications capabilities to reach targeted audiences, and to expand Twitter’s leadership in the micro-blogging B2B space to the broader C2C and P2P sectors, which marketers covet.

New messaging capabilities would thus help Twitter extend its user base and offer a more attractive audience to marketers.  When coupled with messaging that enables brands to engage in continuous conversations with consumers via targeted messaging that is tightly integrated with their diverse and varying on-the-go daily lifestyles and activities, Twitter would gain a competitive advantage vs. Facebook, FourSquare, Groupon, Where, Yelp, etc.

What Timo is proposing for b2b, retail and other business focused Twitter agendas can potentially be collated within a second hashtag, namely $, as in $walmart or $goldenstatewarriors or $cisco (note, Twitter will need to extend their character limits for both businesses and geographies). The revenue opportunity here is obvious, collect recurring fees for the subscription of $ hashtags.

What’s the difference between @ and $ for a business? Twitter can provide new features (all of course for additional fees) including:

1) Enterprise privacy – only qualified vendors can follow $walmart or $cisco. This could be a simpler enterprise solution to Yammer.

2) Loyalty programs and coupon distribution. Registered followers of $officedepot can redeem coupons or check out using a QR code off their mobile Twitter feed.

3) Leverage Twitter lists to curate $business feeds into directories. For example, The geographical hashtag *SOMA_San Francisco can develop lists of $businesses by category: companies, restaurants, things to do, etc. To make it easy $businesses would be able to include themselves on these kinds of lists (included in the fee arrangement) via an online self service page. Granular local curation is powerful, CRM systems can be overlaid across curated data.

There’s more

Twitter can continue to create categorical extensions with hashtags. For example, Twitter might develop a Quora.com alternative of their Q&A framework by having the Twitter community ask questions to Twitter created feeds that mirror Quora topics like ?obama, ?socialmedia, ?Twitter, ?Twitter(company), ?dailydeals, all preceded by the “?”.

Now Twitter can develop a comprehensive hashtag strategy:

* = geographies, places

$ = business

? = topics where Twitterers can ask questions  along the same lines as Quora

It would be best to limit the number of hashtags that Twitter employs simply due to confusion, but the hashtags for the three categories above are intuitive.

Related: A New Local Business Model for Twitter

PKitano

Patrick Kitano

Managing Director, Brand into Media

Pat administers a global hyperlocal media network devoted to community service, a kind of "PBS" for social media sourced news. The Breaking News Network curates and aggregates the most interesting media feeds from local publications and blogs in over 300 cities. With over 400,000 followers at the local level, The BNN is being developed as one of the first brand advocate networks supporting good causes and arts organizations nationwide.

See Full Profile >

Comments

Posted on January 13th 2011 at 12:08PM

I like your idea and the comprehensive nature of it! Something like this is important to help Twitter break into new user groups (well, that and the expansion of smartphones and tablets).

One thing I'm not sure about though is the necessity for Twitter to build the community pages. Rather, an open API (especially if the hashtags you suggest come into play) that provides varied access to the data could enable a wide variety of players to build those pages. For this to scale for Twitter, they would have to use a template, and the kind of page that works in New York (or even for BackBay) might not work in Dubuque. Sure, Twitter would give up the ad revenue by not building the pages themself, but more pages would be more successful if they were built by community members.

In fact, anyone could build one of those pages, either based on geography, questions, business, or whatever. A much wider potential distribution than Twitter could ever manage on their own. The real money is in being the platform, not building the app itself.

Posted on January 13th 2011 at 1:22PM

Really useful analysis thanks Patrick. I look forward to seeing if Twitter or other apps take up some of these initaitives for GEO located services and improving the international reach of Twitter 

PKitano
Posted on January 18th 2011 at 2:59AM

Thanks Natalie, Jason,

I've wondered about Twitter's problem with monetizing their platform. I see the Twitter platform more as a utility, like a radio signal, that can't charge access fees and outrage its user base. One of the main ideas I want to explore with this article is whether Twitter could build business models that layer over its platform, and then charge fees, either microfees or subscriptions, to access these business layers, whether they are $businesses or advertising based on *locations.