Mashable has confirmed that Twitter is launching new features exclusively for businesses and that the company has sent invitations for certain organizations to start testing the "Twitter Business Center" while it's still in beta. Adding special business features is something Twitter has hinted at for a while now, but it's still unclear whether said users will be charged for these features.
And if there is a fee attached, it remains to be seen how many business users would be willing to pay.
So far, the new features seem basic. For starters, once a business activates its account, that account will become "verified." Up until this point, Twitter had only verified accounts for people -- not brands or organizations. If you recall, "Verified Accounts" came about shortly after rapper Kanye West had a meltdown about someone impersonating him on Twitter. While he was the most vocal, West was just one of many "big names" to have his identity successfully usurped on the site. For a while, many people also thought they were following the Dalai Lama.
In addition to getting a Verified Account, businesses will be able to add multiple users to their accounts via a feature called "Contributors" that Twitter started testing in December. This feature enables many people to Tweet from the same account, and to have their names show up to identify who the True Tweeter is.
Finally, businesses will have the option to accept Direct Messages from users they aren't following, something ordinary, lowly, non-business Tweeters cannot do.
And... at least based on the screen shots of the tools that Mashable has acquired... that's about it, kids.
Maybe it's just me, but so far this sounds un-enthralling and unlike something companies would or should be willing to pay for. And if these aren't going to be fee-based tools, then Twitter's Business Center will just be another missed revenue opportunity. (But, who cares? We have advertising now!)
Verified accounts are important; the ability to direct-message with a consumer is, I guess -- uh -- useful, although much more can be conveyed in an email. But so far, this set of tools seems lacking.
Further, it's unclear that Twitter's features will provide more than what's being offered by third-party platforms like coTweet, a platform for enterprise users, which offers the ability for businesses to manage multiple users, save conversations, and monitor searches for a company's name or products, among other things. At the moment, coTweet is free, but the site hints that there will be a fee in the future: "We'll give you plenty of notice before we start charging for the service, and the cost will be reasonable."
So far, Twitter's Alleged Business Center doesn't seem to have much to offer, but it's still in beta. As Twitter made clear recently, it has every intention of building features that have been handled by third-party platforms into its own architecture.
Whether Twitter can do this better than third-party developers, though, is the question. Based on what we know about these business tools so far, platforms like coTweet may have little to worry about.
(As of press time, Twitter and coTweet had both ignored my request for further comment. #Rude.)
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution