The value of Twitter is in the shared links

I wasn’t at the 140 Character Conference so I’m going to have to take TechCrunch’s summary of Fred Wilson speech as gospel. Apparently, Fred argued that Twitter’s value is in the shared links, the recommendations between users, that, in some instances, have a commercial value attached to them. A book recommendation, a flight, or a hotel for instance. Twitter needs to work out how it can “inject a paid model” into its service understanding this.

I think this is a half baked idea, here’s the other half.

I agree with the central proposition Fred makes, it’s the exchange of links that is where Twitter can create value, the idea that this can be done through sponsorship is farcical. It isn’t going to work if Twitter allows sponsored tweets to appear in the stream, the power these shared links have disappears at that point, because their power is drawn from the personal vetting process that has gone on by the people you follow.

Understanding all this Twitter needs to monetise, just in the away a normal affiliate publisher would, by tracking links behind the scenes and grabbing a commission where it can.

For example, I recommend one of the people I follow an LCD album over at Amazon. Twitter parses the link and drops in the necessary affiliate tracking. If my follow ends up buying the TV, Twitter takes a cut.

There are definitely some issues to figure out, Skimlinks a British startup has handled a lot of them, but another issue will be how commonplace using URL shorteners is on Twitter. Equally, there could be a massive revolt against this kind of move.

All things considered I still think it is the best option they have. What do you think?

Daniel Bower

Blogging about platform regulation: algorithms, interoperability, kill zones as well as other bits and bobs. Read about my research, or read more about me.