Each month, a few additional details about Twitter’s plans to make money trickle out, although so far nothing has come from any of them. The latest possibility: Twitter board member Todd Chaffee tells the NYT that the company could make money from e-commerce. He notes that many people are already using Twitter to get product recommendations and companies are using the service to promote their products so it would follow that people might want to buy items straight from the site.
The connection makes lots of sense, considering that businesses have proven that it is possible to sell products via their Twitter accounts. For instance, Dell announced last week that $3 million of its product sales could be directly attributed to its Twitter account.
But Chaffee’s comments show that the company is not really getting any closer to figuring out how to make money. Over the last year, representatives have thrown out various possibilities but they then seem to either not bring them up again or contradict them. At our own EconSM conference a month ago, for instance, Twitter director of business development Kevin Thau said that the company was looking at a three-pronged revenue stream. He said the company would monetize its search traffic, make money from phone carriers, and also share ad revenue with some content companies. Notably, there was no mention of e-commerce.
In the past, executives have also hinted that they might charge corporate users to use Twitter. But last month Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said Twitter would remain free for both consumers and businesses. He also told Reuters that the company was not considering advertising as a revenue stream, but a day later insisted on the company blog that Twitter was not in fact “philosophically opposed to any and all advertising.” All of this could of course indicate that the company is planning to introduce a wide range of revenue streams — but it also makes the company appear to be rather lost.