Will Twitter become a commercial success?

Microblogging service Twitter has just secured $35m in fresh funding, but can it transform its rapidly increasing popularity into substantial commercial income?

YES - Alan King, digital group account director, Universal McCann
In early 2002, similar questions were being asked of Google, asking whether it had the scale to capture a viable share of the search market.

I'm not suggesting Twitter will become as big as Google, but it can make money through contextual ads, market research, sponsored tweets and so on.

The key is to strike a balance - social media is difficult to monetise because it feels so personal to users who won't hang around if advertising isn't relevant or is too intrusive.

The answer may lie in the Twitter ecosystem: 2,000+ programmes fuelled by everything from geographical searches and mobile updates to plotting trends and sharing photos - all different functions that could incorporate diverse advertising models Twitter could share in.

It will figure out how to capitalise on its success, but not overnight.

YES - Ann Longley, digital strategy director, MEC Interaction
Being a fan and active user, I have to say yes, but there are a few caveats to overcome before it becomes solvent and, indeed, profitable.

The first is of a legal and ethical nature. Twitter has recently been linked with messages promoting questionable and, in some cases, illegal activity such as prostitution, cannabis seed shops and bigoted material.

Twitter needs to respond proactively to these concerns and find a way to grow its popularity while limiting these kinds of activities.

Once all illegal and undesirable Twitter behaviour has been weeded out, it must attract and sustain the critical masses and/or niche audiences required to attract revenue from an appropriate advertising solution or subscriptions, in particular from business users.

It could also, of course, be bought out by a bigger social media player for a handsome fee.

YES - Dan Clays, managing director, BLM Quantum
Twitter is following the same path as other social media by building an audience and then looking for revenue to follow.

It has multiple income streams, but needs to apply Google-like commercial rigour to monetise traffic and consumer dialogue without alienating its user base with misplaced advertising.

Charging commercial brands such as The Guardian for traffic generated, offering contextually targeted branded tweets or offers to users who have opted in or serving ads around the site like Facebook, are three ways it could generate revenue.

Twitter isn't for everyone, but shouldn't be classified as just another fad. It will emerge into the consumer mainstream quickly, with mobile taking it beyond what RSS feeds can offer. But it needs to be wisely managed to ensure users aren't disenfranchised and the best brand ideas aren't done in isolation without Twitter reaping commercial benefit.

NO - Claire Valoti, head of display and mobile, Mindshare
If Twitter is to generate significant commercial revenue, it must move fast and capitalise on the publicity surrounding it.

Its challenge is to stay true to the essence of the site while creating exciting commercial opportunities for advertisers. If Twitter gets this right, it has the potential to generate revenue.

It could offer advertising solutions that support branded areas, such as a Twitter environment updating audiences on what the brand has been up to and using advertising to drive awareness of the activity to the Twitter audience.

A more distinctive approach would be to create vertical communities, such as mums, and let advertisers engage with them.

Whichever route it decides to take, it has the potential to generate commercial revenue - it's just a question of how significant it will be.

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