While Twitter struggles to prove it can be profitable, Dell is showing that even if the social media site can't cash in, companies that use Twitter certainly can. Dell is reporting that it pulled in more than $3 million over the past two years from its 600,000 Twitter followers who clicked through its posts and purchased products.
For Dell, $3 million is a drop in a multibillion-dollar bucket. But Dell's success in driving traffic through Tweets to its Web site, coupled with the purchasing follow-through of customers, hints at the marketing potential Twitter possesses. While Twitter does not collect on profits companies make through its service, it hasn't ruled out doing so in the future. Twitter is building special add-on tools for businesses and professionals, and therein may lie the formula for balance sheet success that has previously eluded the social media magnet.
Dell posts to its DellOutlets account between six and 10 times per week, and most of those posts include some kind of coupon or special offer, half of which are exclusive to Twitter. That exclusivity has propelled Dell up the most-followed list, where it comfortably rests as one of the top 100 most popular accounts on Twitter. Dell's in good corporate company; Whole Foods, JetBlue and Zappos.com (one of Fast Company's Fast 50) also reside in the Top 100.
If Twitter can create the right kind of tools, businesses might be willing to pay for the kind of customer data Twitter could offer. At 600,000 users for Dell alone, a buck per follower per year might not be such a bad deal, for marketers or for Twitter. Henry Blodget breaks it down on Silicon Alley Insider: Assuming Dell hits 1 million followers soon, and the rest of the Fortune 500 follows suit, Twitter could be sitting on some very real revenue. And unlike other social media players—Facebook and Digg come to mind—that's the kind of cash you can actually put in the bank.