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Twitter Partners: Pointing the Way to Monetisation?

New Media Age today reports on the imminent launch of Twitter Partners – a new consultancy aiming to "help brands, media companies, and celebrities harness the power of the Twitter ecosystem".

Set up by angel investor and serial entrepreneur Peter Read, and backed by a stellar cast of advisors, the company intends to first offer consultancy services to brands, before rolling out a product set designed to analyse Twitter buzz and help companies engage in conversations.

Twitter Partners is already boasting a roster of big name launch clients, including several major labels and studios, quadplay provider Virgin Media, the Knitting Factory music venue chain, and virtual pop band Gorillaz.

While plenty of PR, marketing and social media agencies are already offering consultancy services to brands wishing to dabble with Twitter, the most important element of the Twitter Partners launch is that Twitter itself has endorsed the company by taking an equity stake.

Indeed, Read tells New Media Age that Twitter is more than happy to refer brands on to his new venture, as the majority of its 30-strong staff is engineering and unable to cope with the current volume of commercial interest.

This endorsement must also give us a hint at Twitter’s future business model. Much speculation so far has pointed to monetisation through banner ads or premium accounts for corporate users, but Twitter Partners suggests that selling metrics and analytics around the service is a much more compelling offering.

As my colleague Ross Levanto pointed out last month, many Twitter users are sceptical about following corporate accounts, so their value to brands is minimal. By learning lessons from much-hyped predecessors Second Life and Facebook, where user experience was quickly compromised by brand saturation, Twitter must realise that quietly tapping into the word-of-mouth aspects of the service will be the key to commercialisation, not thrusting logos upon happy users.

If Twitter Partners can, as it promises, offer the first service to comprehensively monitor Twitter chatter and enable brands to use the service as a viable tool for CRM, focus groups or audience profiling, then it may well be the first to turn a profit from the microblogging explosion.

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